Dear 25-Year-Old-Chloe, Calm. The Fuck. Down.
I know what you’re thinking. “Yeh, whatever, it’s all very well for you, sitting on your pile of data, streamlined protocols and scientific reading. What about me down here, with all these new challenges to face, documents to write and troubleshooting to do?!”
Well, I’ve got news for you, kid. Those challenges I faced and overcame this year which LEAD to the pile of data and streamlined protocols and scientific reading: they were new and terrifying for me too.
Please remember that every challenge you face it just that: a challenge. Please remember to just have FAITH that it’s all going to come together eventually. It will take a lot of work, granted. And you need to have a very open mind when it comes to the question of what “everything having come together” is going to look like. In the very WORST case scenario, “everything having come together” is going to look like an abandoned protocol that just wouldn’t work out for you. It’s going to look like negative data which isn’t quite good enough to publish. It’s going to look like some self-important big-wig criticizing your work in front of a room full of people. None of these things are worthy of the levels of anxiety you are most likely devoting to them already; despite the fact that none of them have actually happened.
While every new challenge is a new challenge, the concept of a new challenge isn’t actually new. You know how to deal with it (i.e. just DEAL WITH IT), and you know what you expect (i.e. the unexpected). Don’t worry about not knowing where to start, because wherever you start is a great place to start. The point is: you’ve started. Don’t worry about wasting time by starting in the wrong place because…don’t you realise how ridiculous that sounds? You’re LEARNING: everything is new: everything is a starting point.
If you’ve just read those past four paragraphs and still feel like climbing into a time machine and strangling me for being a patronising wanker who could NEVER understand this pain, then you need to GO OUTSIDE. Failing that: watch a movie, have a nap, read a book, call your Mum, go for a pint, look at pictures of cats on the internet. There is no point in trying to be productive right now.
I’m pretty sure you can get through this PhD, and so does your supervisor, and so do your colleagues, and so does your family. I know you could argue with all these people to the ends of the Earth right now about how wrong they all are, and how stupid and incapable and overemotional and inadequate you are. But, before you do, please:
Calm. The Fuck. Down.