After almost two months of not ranting about graduate school, my advisor, or how hopeless and *pointless* at some level this whole "get a PhD" endeavor seems, I've had a change of heart. Maybe I just woke up a little feisty this morning. The Twins have been squabbling for days too. Maybe there's something in the water. I actually heard myself say out loud this weekend, "There's no fighting in this house!" As if some mandate handed down from above ever succeeded...
This morning I had to write back to an established researcher whose work I admire and whom I'd like to publish with in the near future. I contacted this person last week when I realized that if I didn't do anything, inertia would leave me in the same spot I've been in for YEARS as a graduate student: publicationless.
I'm bright, have a solid scientific mind, can write well, and have no lack of research ideas. So then WHY do I still have ZERO publications after 6 years of graduate school?
I'll have to set aside my strong tendency toward accepting responsibility for my own predicament and my knowledge of how pervasive the self-serving bias is to do exactly that: blame someone else. Who gets it?
My advisor, the department, the institution, the structural inequality that breeds discontent but provides no tools to get ahead.
See, I am a first generation college graduate from a working-class, single parent home. I had the audacity to think that I could make it in academia. I want some kind of affirmative action too. I don't know how to negotiate my way in academia. I attended graduate school with kids of professors who know exactly what to do and when they don't, they have mommy and daddy to steer them. I've gone to graduate school with students whose advisors let them ride their coattails onto the royal road of publications. My advisor publishes textbooks and was already heading toward retirement when I came along. I don't think my advisor has published a research article in 15 years. I was assigned TA position after TA position - never an RA. Why not balance it out a little? Everyone in my program is fully supported by a tuition waiver and a stipend in exchange for serving as a teaching and/or research assistant. If it hadn't been for that, I would never have signed up for it. The least they could do when making assignments is to make sure that everyone gets both TA and RA experience.
I'd better not start on the program that got me to apply there in the first place... I have opinions on that too.
Recently I looked at my bank account, my CV, and my goals. Where am I? Motivated to get that dissertation done so that I can *at least* have those 3 virtually worthless letters behind my name. What do I want to do with my life? Teach the material I love at a small, private selective liberal arts college in a small town with a dry, sunny climate. I don't even need to make a lot of money. I just want to be able to 1) live comfortably, not luxuriously, 2) pay off my student loans from going to just that kind of school, and 3) have enough left over to travel to an exotic place occasionally. Before I get too old to be able to thoroughly enjoy the experience, I want to see mountain gorillas in Rwanda. I don't think I'll be able to do that while pouring coffee like every other PhD who couldn't make it. And I certainly won't be able to look back over my life and feel like I've made a difference.
I am a teacher. It is a calling.
If I want to live up to that, the way I see it, I have to get a publication. I haven't done it by relying solely on myself, my advisor, my department, or my institution so I took a chance and am now trying to get something going with an established researcher.
It's a lot like dating but just different enough that one cannot rely on instinct alone.
I could use some good advice from those who've been down this path and succeeded.