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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Battling complacency

The biggest battle a graduate student faces before finishing up his thesis is the war that goes in his mind. His mind is split into two - one craving for the degree and another absolutely uninterested in doing the write-up part which unlike creative writing is laborious and uninteresting. If it is further fueled by some other addictions and distractions, Newton's laws of graduation start applying themselves in full swing and he is debilitated.

I am facing exactly a similar situation. All the work towards my Phd are staring at me to be written in the form of papers. But guess what ? When I see them, I feel they are not mine. Though they are the children that I produced, a sense of disowning has come into me. They are not mine any more. I do not want to make them into readable documents. The reason is that it is simply too laborious. So ? Procrastinate. Coupled with this is the fear of imperfections. What if this paper is not well written ? What if it is not accepted ?

Coming to think of it, I think it is really abysmally bad on my part not to have done it since, this is the only step that is left for me to get a degree. This is the only thing that is preventing me from getting a good job. One that makes me crawl financially while all my friends have been well settled towards life and projecting promising futures.

In this purtsuit of my PhD I have come to understand many of the qualities that have made me till today.

(1) Fear of failure

This is something I am not able to get over with. Be it singing a song, conducting an orchestra or writing an algorithm or giving a presentation - I shudder to think of myself as a failure and this has two diagonally opposite consequences - (2) and (3)

(2) Inactivity and procrastination

The fear of failure makes me popstpone things. This brings inactivity. This brings procrastination. This makes me not do perform those chores which I do not like, with a great efficiency. A good example is when I found that two of the algorithms that I created worked all the way uptil the last point. Even though I persisted with them, I could not make a breakthrough. This very situation usually puts me into inactivity. Not that I do not challenge myself, but because of all the accumulated past exeriences, I get bogged down when the end result does not come the way I expect resulting in inactivity. I donot want to do it since I fear I have failed in it.

(3) Overworking and trying to do justice to the image

I go on a complete overdrive sometime. This always happens with the things that I love the most. Music and mathematics - I go absolutely overboard. In case of music, I spend hours contemplating the styles and notes of the songs. When it comes to performing with the orchestra where I usually don the role of orchestra coordinator, I drill everybody, the most drilled being myself. I have heard people complain that I demand 100 % perfection. Well, true - at the end of the day because of talking and singing I have spat blood sometimes. My thorat goes so sore that I practice silence for atleast 3 days to get my voice back.

Regarding mathematics - yesterday when my friend casually presented me with a series summation problem, I had to do it. I am already known among my friends as a guy keenly interested in mathematics. Now that is some pressure - this problem had been solved with great difficulty over a period of 20 mins by two people. Now that I have been given that problem, I needed to live upto the image - I had to solve it. This occupied my head for the rest of the afternoon and unless I could come up with a clear solution, I could not sit calm. Well, I solved it within probably 45 mins.

What did I prove ? Did I prove to myself that I could do it ? Did I prove it to make my pride swell ? I think I did. I think I calmed my pride. I gratified my ego.

(4) tendency to get distracted

This is the highest when I am working on things I do not like. Committment is that last thing that I have towards anything that I do not like but still have to do. Even with meditation, until I sit I do not want to sit. And once I sit, the calmness is so beautiful that I do not want to come out of it. Thus once I like it, I do not get out of it. And if do not like it, I do not like to get into it and do not like to remain committed to finish it be it even of grave importance.

Presently I like writing this blog than doing my papers and that is why I write this blog. Sometimes I wonder how I could possible rectify myself. I am battling my own self. One part of mine says - man you need to get better - while another part of me which is lackadaisical and lethargic does not pay heed to it. I wish the former wins, for which I think will need a strong committment - the antonym of lethargy.