Thankfully, I nipped this cycle in the bud. I had no choice–I was becoming an incredibly cranky person who even I started to resent.
One of my favorite grade school teacher told me that discipline is the key to success. She taught me that I should never, ever, use my limitations as an excuse for laziness (I’m heard-of-hearing, in case I never mentioned it before. I don’t think I did). I kept her wise advice to heart, working multiple jobs, keeping on top of my schoolwork, and engaging in various social activities. Freetime? I didn’t even know the meaning of the word.
This disciplined life lasted until…last year. The year of my specialist exam. Horror, deep-set fear, and an overwhelming sense of failure dominated my days and sleepless nights. I cancelled nearly all social engagements, ignored my partner (who put up with all my crap and crabbiness), and heavily abused caffeine in all of its glorious forms. Like every grad student sooner or later, I succumbed into the vicious cycle. People told me not to worry, that I was over-preparing for my exam. I give them the stink eye. Whatever confidence I had in me was thrown out in the trash along with multiple copies of my presentation proposal.
Yes, grad students often over-think things and after a certain period of time, realize their fears were ridiculous. But you know what? THE PRESSURE WAS TOO MUCH. ANYONE WOULD CAVE. Oh, even I did–the mostly disciplined life I carried for so long to secure my success was gone in a matter of weeks. I admit that my specialist wasn’t as bad as I hoped. Actually, that’s a lie. I still think it was bad. I bombed on the first question, which immediately led to a panic attack, followed by a bunch of rambling sentences that led to nowhere. After 5 minutes of rambling–and not answering the question–my prof interrupted me and answered the question himself. I totally lost my composure after the first question.
But I passed. All is right in the world and now I’m slowly building my disciplined daily schedule to get the most work out of very little grad time.