Friends are, well, friends, and we have every right to expect their support and encouragement. Most of the time they are for us, but sometimes, to our shock, they turn in the other direction after we share our academic aspirations, goals, accomplishments, and next projects.
Note: This is the first of two posts on how to handle your friends so you maintain their friendship but hold them off when you need most of your time for your academic project.
The piercing voice of Kathryn’s best friend on the other end of the phone threatened to puncture her eardrum. Penny screamed, “You’re never around anymore! Why is this damn project so important to you anyway? You think you’re too good for me!”
Kathryn mumbled an excuse about the doorbell ringing, hung up, and started to sob. For 18 years, Penny was her best friend, confidante, and supporter.
Whether you’re writing your dissertation or post-dissertation, sweating through the first article from it, a book chapter, or an entire book, at least one person always turns up among your family or friends who shamelessly asks those questions that make you squirm. They’re right up there with the in-your-face “How come you’re still single?” or “When are you going to have kids?”
To help you field the equivalent questions about your academic project, maintain your self-respect, and even jab a little in return, here are several of the most common questions, and variations. I’ve collected these from my academic coaching clients who are agonizing through writing their dissertations, articles, and books.
A motivational truism proclaims that the most dangerous time is when you’ve reached a goal. This is why many doctoral candidates experience Post-Parting Depression (PPD). Consciously and unconsciously you’ve been pushing hard for so very long. Preoccupied with the intensity and innumerable details of the work itself, you may have lost sight of the larger purpose of the dissertation and degree. After graduation, you no longer have to spend every moment you’re not eating or bathing on the dissertation.
You were probably thrilled beyond words (mono- and polysyllabic) when your kids were born and you witnessed the true miracle of those so-young lives. The kids grew older, and you hunkered down into your academic career. Maybe your feelings changed—you don’t love them any less, but you may see the children as distracters and interrupters of your work. After all, we have important completions of all the conference abstracts, articles, books, chapters, dissertations, even the course syllabi. And we need to finish all these projects for advancement.
Granted, children can be annoyances and disrupters. Most of the time, though, barring a fall from the tree house, they are bothering you because they want—no, crave—your attention.
When you’re furrowed-brow deep in your academic project, if your partner suddenly blurts out “I never see you anymore!” it’s time to stop, look, and close your computer. After such outbursts, many of my academic clients with partners in my coaching and editing practice have found ways to manage the complaints and restore a harmonious home. Here are some of the major methods my clients have used as they pursue the (successful) productions of articles, presentations, chapters for a volume, and dissertations.