I came to the realization this past spring that I am a commitment-phobe. I was in class when my professor announced that she wanted to make sure that everyone was on track in their program, so she asked that everyone who still needed to find a thesis supervisor should stand up and join her for a discussion at another table. Since that was my cue, I stood up and made my way over the table. Wait, was I the only one? The temperature rose in my cheeks and I was sure that I was red with embarrassment. Sure enough, I was the only one left in my class of 18 who hadn’t popped that big question: “Will you be my supervisor?”
You see, all year I had the impression that choosing a supervisor was like getting married. It was a big commitment and one must choose wisely, because if one does not choose with careful consideration it could be a disastrous partnership. So I held off and waited (and waited) until a concerned professor told me to take the leap.
But it wasn’t really that experience that led me to confirm my commitment phobia. It was the big decision to choose and commit to a research topic for my thesis. Choosing one specific area of focus is like having a baby or getting a tattoo. It will become a part of you. It will always be there. When you finish your program and go on with your life and career, people will ask you, “What did you research?” You’ll want to respond with pride, and for all of your hard work to be adored.
There is a lot of pressure on us grad students as soon as we begin our programs. At least, it felt that way for me. Within the first week of classes we were asked to finish this research statement: “My study aims to…” Really? I am supposed to pick now? But I just got here. I haven’t even learned anything yet. How am I supposed to know what it is that I want to research? But it makes sense. I could see why my professor wanted us to put pen to paper and begin making decisions. She wanted us to begin our process. We all have one. There were many moments of panic when all around me there were fellow grad students who were well on their way to writing their research proposals, securing their committee, and planning their colloquiums. However, I now see that, in hindsight, there was no need to panic. Like I mentioned, we all have a process. Some people progress faster than others but that is okay.
Perhaps my fear of commitment was a blessing in disguise. It kept me from delving into a topic that I am not terribly passionate about. I held off and waited for that “Ah Ha!” moment when I knew for certain that I had found “the one”. It has taken me 10 months to get to the point where I am now. I haven’t decided 100% on what it is that I will focus on but I know that I’m on my way, because what I have learned is to trust the process. I know that brilliant ideas won’t come overnight. I will continue to just take in as much as I can, throw away what doesn’t excite me, and to keep what I feel is “me”. Surely, if I commit to that mentality I won’t have any regrets in the future.
Does anyone out there have advice on making the “big decision”?
What are your experiences?