It’s an unexpectedly lonely journey, that of the PhD student. Surrounded by busyness, by fellow students, by mentors, by books. Joined by colleagues both here and there, now and then and yet to come. However, despite and along with the camaraderie and friendship, the pursuit is one of isolation.
The path converges until there is little room for any other. Even fellowship has transformed. Conversation, assuming the role of succor, often fails to complete its mission as oftentimes I hear myself speaking inattentive words. The mind emancipated, the mouth saying what is necessary to complete the task. I am absent though I stand and smile before you. Those closest to me can tell and my fear is that they will find me aloof or, worse, obtuse. It’s not that I do not care or that I don’t want to be in the moment with you. I am simply in a constant state of planning, organizing thoughts, mentally scanning through articles I’ve read for patterns or gaps, or worrying about, well, everything. Your presence, either in person or on the phone, is a comfort to me, though. The shared space offers a temporary distribution of weight and a much needed connection to the person I am outside of this.
But, I know that soon I’ll be tossed out of the other side of this experience and right back into normal life. I hope.