Life’s frustrations!

Actual representation of me every morning, thanks PhD Comics.

One of the most frustrating aspects of doing a PhD is that more often than not, no one else really knows what you are doing. So if you are not quite sure what you are doing, then there really is no one else who can clarify that for you. Your supervisors can only be of so much help (and I am very lucky to have a lot of support from mine!) – but the bottom line is that you are the one facing all the behind-the-scenes frustrations that don’t even make it into the conversation during supervisor meetings. It can be so isolating.

Take data, for example. Data is great. Data is what makes up every single scientific study. But, when it comes in a format which requires hours of coding in order to make it nice and workable, it becomes the bane of your life. Even if I might have all the desired data I need for the current piece of work, my (still developing) coding skills are such a hinderance that I will spend hours, if not days, writing code to do the analysis on the data that I want to do. And it frustrates me, because every so often I am stuck on something that I can’t really ask anyone for help with, because it will take extra time for me to try and find the right words to explain what I am trying to achieve, and when I am working to a deadline (e.g. trying to make a particular plot for a seminar I am giving) – then hey ho every minute is precious. And yet here I am, writing and venting out my frustrations at my inadequacy in handling code.

What makes it worse is that I certainly could ask for help – supervisors, colleagues in my office, etc. But here comes the stupid part. I have this mental block of not considering myself being worthy of receiving help with work. It is absolutely idiotic, but I can’t seem to get past it. But I would hate anyone to waste their time trying to help me with something I am sure I can work out on my own, given enough time – but I’m wasting enough of my own time as it is, going round and round in circles about the axis of the problem at hand.

A PhD is all ups and downs, of course. Right now, it is making me want to sleep away all these frustrations and wake up to find all my code wrote itself overnight so that I can get on with doing some ACTUAL SCIENCE! (and get some actual sleep whilst I’m at it).


One thought on “Life’s frustrations!

  1. James Shaw says:

    I sometimes encourage people to post their own coding questions to Stack Overflow. Questions are often answered within minutes and you don’t feel like you’re wasting anyone’s time. Also, framing sensible questions is a skill in itself, so practising it isn’t a waste of time 🙂

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