Feeling Like an Accident and Other Problems with Inferiority

Being in grad school is really weird.

For one, many of the people I graduated high school and undergrad with are moving on with their lives, getting Real Adult Jobs and starting families, while I’m still in school, running on an academic schedule, and trying to find a job that lets me go sit in the stats lab for hours at a time trying to get a handle on the math class I didn’t actually want to take.

But mostly, it’s because my entire academic career so far has felt like an accident. Like I ended up in this amazing PhD program because someone put my name in the wrong pile and now I’m just muddling along trying to trick people into thinking that I actually am smart. It might be because my cohort is very talented, and of them, I am the only one not funded by the university. I’m isolated from them except for when we’re in class, and I miss out on the collaboration and discussion they have that comes from sitting in the same office all day. So when we do get to class, they’re all on the same page, and I’m a chapter behind. When we discuss things in class I approach it from one angle and that angle is wrong because everyone else has decided on it before they even got to class.

Part of it might be because I took different classes from them last semester. I did my master’s degree at this same university so some of the core classes at the PhD level, I had already finished, and needed to substitute different ones. So they had an entire extra semester to get to know each other. They got an extra five months to discuss ideas and study together, while I was working off campus, a full twenty-five miles away. So even if they tell me about an impromptu study session now (they don’t), I can’t make it because by the time I get there, they’ve moved on. They can spend their entire day on campus focusing on school, while I need to have a job and schedule my day around commuting.

I spend most of my time on campus wandering around looking for a place to study. I don’t have access to the office, so I need to find an abandoned corner somewhere in the library to get my work done, which has left me feeling like I’m not actually part of the program, like I don’t actually belong there. And that’s a terrible feeling, the last time I felt this way I was kicked out of law school and just lost for six months.

I am tired. I’m tired of feeling like I don’t belong, like I have to smile and go along with things because everyone else came to a decision without me, and I’m tired of pretending I’m having fun.

But it’s not going to stop me, because I’m pretty damn smart, so fuck that shit, I have work to do.