- You will never feel right, correct, vindicated, or satisfied with your ideas or scholarly writing. Existing in a program that involves both tangible, living, breathing humans at the same time as theoretical understandings causes intense insecurity. You will probably spend hours writing a paper, trying to make sure you include both the practical and abstract, the interconnections of race, class, gender, and sexuality, only to find in the end that you have either completely belittled or pigeon-holed some population, or that you have 65 pages of crappy, unmitigated blabbering. Your only choice is to seek solace in formatting the paper – imputing the standardized rules and regulations (I prefer APA) into your work-of-worthlessness. Only then, when placing the author, comma, date inside those delicate, beautiful parenthesis, will you feel you have done something right.
- Even though you exist in a program that may base its mission and its sense of self off being conscious of discrimination, racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, or any other –ism, you will nonetheless find your program, the faculty in it, and the students supporting it in continual violation of this mission. For example, you will witness a constant rewarding of those who continue to participate in such a violent system and a shunning those who speak out. Which you will find weird, because you would think that’s what people in programs like these were suppose to do: speak out about injustice or wrongdoing in the world. Well, you are wrong. For the most part, you will find it is about pretending to care, no actual rightful actions necessary.
- This point follows a similar suit to the above sentiment. In programs seeking to end the –isms you will most certainly have people in your program who have no clue as to what privilege and oppression entail. This is either due to a total ignorance (blissful perhaps, and one I sometimes admittedly envy), or they like to make it look like they are out to help people and the world because that makes them cool, hip, hipster-ish, or down-to-earth. For those that apply and are in the correct racial category, the notion of the “white savior” never crosses their mind. That would require the party to first understand colonialism, privilege, and racial inequality – a bit too much for some, regardless of the program, actually.
- You will rarely, if ever, be able to talk to your family about your work or areas of interest (be sure to recognize the class or educational privilege you have obtained in some sense by being in a Ph.D. program, however). If you do, there will either be a temporary feigned interest, followed by questions of when you’re getting married or having children, or an instantaneous refusal to acknowledge that they ever received any privileges. The phrase “I earned my shit,” or some variation of it may be declared. Either way, you look or feel like an asshole.
- Often, you can recognize just as easily when someone is not acknowledging their privileges as when they are using them (or lack their of) to get what they want. Be it respect or “street cred,” individuals will continue to abuse their power or oppression, and if you don’t want to look like a total jerk, you have to be quiet about it…and then write a paper describing it later that rips their shit up.
- You’ll attend party after party where you will either continually be called an “elitist” regardless if you have even spoken, or encounter the eye-rolling and all-presumptuous sigh, followed by an “ooohhh a Dr. huh??”
- Lastly, you will have the great joy of sitting in your advisor or professor’s office, doe-eyed and full of wonder, only to have them say, “you’re never going to get a job.” Essentially, the program you pay for, the agony you deal with to get through it, and the passion you may have is for…well not much. Which really makes reading the list probably even more unbearable. For some, though, this may not be a big deal, as they decided to enter their program to transform society or the world and make it a “better”…thing. However, it is a FUCKING PRIVILEGE to be able to feel that way, since many graduate students have thousands of dollars worth of school loans, bills, and a life to support, therefore requiring a job in order to survive. I want to transform society to y’all, I just want to be able to have some sort of a platform that allows me to be financially free enough to do so.
So there you have it. A few tidbits that will either provide relatable content, so you know you‘re not alone in this crazy graduate world, or a semi-serious warning for those not in a program like this just yet – I tried to include the things they don’t tell you about in the handbooks or promotional flyers. Nonetheless, whether you are about to start a program like this, or are already in one, I know that these tips will not deter you. Because if one thing is for certain, anyone getting/wanting a PhD is a masochist, and a list like the one above can only makes a pleasure-seeker moan, “oohh yeahhh, hurts soooo good…a little to the left.”