I'm surprised and embarrassed that I have already reverted from post-defense joy to grad-student-style self-loathing and shame. I know this is ultimately my own responsibility, and that I need to just get a grip. But I would like to blame a little of this on a lovely colleague, Supersmart.
I've known Supersmart since the very first day I set foot in DOU-Town, and zi has always impressed me. Or, to be precise, zi has impressed me ever since I first read an article zi had written. Supersmart is, well, look at the pseudonym! Gorgeous prose, fantastic elucidation of ideas, amazing grasp of theory: zi has it all.
In a questionable move for my emotional well-being, I attended Supersmart's dissertation defense on Friday. This set up a comparison that, in hindsight, perhaps I didn't want. Dr. Awesome is on both of our committees, and the difference was stunning. Awesome gave me some valid and strong critiques of my thinking, and offered a few small compliments on my methodology. Four days later, Awesome said to Supersmart, "I learn something new every time I read your work. You really have to publish this book!"
*cue sound of Koshary committing seppuku with a butter knife*
My friends have told me that I simply can't compare myself to Supersmart, that zi is just one of those prodigies who make others feel bad about themselves for not being geniuses. They're probably right, but it hurts me all the same that I now feel like my committee passed me partly out of pity, while Supersmart's committee glowed about hir work, and begged hir to put the work out there for public consumption. It's hard to tell in these situations if I'm good and Supersmart is great, or if Supersmart is actually good and I'm actually crap.
All the tendencies of self-doubt and self-hatred that grad school (and my entire life prior to that) has taught me are feeding on this now. Am I really going to make a go of it in academia? Is all of my hard work received as a superficial appetizer for meatier work? Is this primarily the result of bad advising -- which, everyone in the department knows, is my cross to bear -- that I can/will overcome in the future, or am I just not that bright as academics go? And for heaven's sake, how many encounters like this will I have, where I feel like I've turned into Salieri encountering Mozart?
Somebody slap me and tell me it will be okay. I think I need both interventions right now.
2 years ago