As I sit down this week to hammer out the flaws in my final thesis draft in preparation for my oral defence, I have a lot to reflect on from my graduate school experience. I feel that in terms of real knowledge (i.e. number of journal articles read or new technical skills earned), I have not learned a lot during the two plus years that I’ve been a graduate student. My learning experiences have instead been centered around personal growth and development opportunities.
Recently, I have been less content with exclusively basking in my own company for long periods of time. I crave and often seek out opportunities to get out into nature, wander through a public place like a grocery store, or spend time talking to others. For years I was a habitual ‘unfriender’ on Facebook, removing from my sphere of communication those with whom I felt I could not share a significant connection. These days, I’m much more open to casual meetings with people and don’t block people out of my life if they don’t offer an intense, life-long connection.
This is what I refer to in my title as the ‘two-option falsity’. My life has been awash with these strict, black-and-white, true-or-false dichotomies. I have a hard time sitting on the fence or playing my options, even though that is often the best way to keep my options open. Take my historical friend situation as a first example: if someone asked me to sit down over coffee for a chat, my mind would pull up that false dichotomy. I would think, “I am either going to waste two hours in a potentially stimulating conversation or I could read the next three chapters of the assigned reading for class X”.
I always took the option to work over the option of conversation because I feared an embarrassing or dull social encounter. With time, I have slowly realized that I feel happier after sitting down for a conversation with another person, and one way or another it always ends up being stimulating and insightful.
I have also been using the two-option falsity in my job search tactics until very recently. I would think, “I am either going to be a carpenter or an academic, there is no middle ground”. This pressured me to think of extremes in my job search and generated a significant amount of anxiety. Realistically, I can apply to two different things at once and see which option turns out successfully (particularly important in these uncertain employment times).
Consequently, at the moment I’m literally one step away from applying to the MaRS Studio Y program, but have also been recruited to start training with Voyageur Transportation Services as a Non-Emergency Patient Transfer Attendant. I would be thrilled to find myself firmly entrenched in either option a month hence; they both offer lots of opportunity for training and personal development. But I have to overcome the two-option falsity to successfully manage my anxieties that I will end up getting accepted into at least one of these programs.
I hope that everyone struggling with a similar outlook will take comfort in knowing that there are others out there labouring under the same perspective. It shouldn’t be a case of “my way or the highway“, but rather something like “take my way as one option, and then the highway if you like”!