Like threads in a string

Back in vancouver finally. It feels really good to be home but at the same time, I have barely slept since getting here because I am immediately back in the throes of PhD bullshit. I leave for three weeks, notch up the resume with conferences and network connections, see good friends (though not as much as I would have liked), hang out with family, see the Alberta mountains (aaaahhhhhhh) and the prairies (room to breathe!), and yet the moment I step off the plane into the Vancouver airport, the pressure of months previous are on the carousel with my backpacks, waiting to be shouldered.

Vacations are supposed to refresh you and offer new prespective. It's true that while I was away I had a couple, rare moments of inspiration and enthusiasm for the work I should be accomplishing at UBC, but I didn't write them down and they didn't stick. I also had a breakdown/temper tantrum, sobbing self-pityingly because I am convinced I'm not cut out for this kind of work. What kind of work? The environmental fight against sloth, greed, gluttony, etc. This is a fight I wage with myself too, by the way. I believe I'm burnt out. The thought of ditching the PhD and finding something else terrifies me for two reasons: I've never done anything else so I don't think I have any street cred with which to get a non-minimum wage paying job in the sustainability field; I can't stand the thought of quitting something that I have committed myself to.

This is probably another incarnation of what I like to call the Spring Crisis. Every year as I get notice that my scholarship applications have failed and I flounder about for the first months of summer wondering what the hell to aim to accomplish in the unstructured time before September, I freak out and indulge in existential doubt and questioning. This may be the annual freak out except that the Spring Crisis is usually over by mid-May. It's now the end of June. One of these years the Crisis will actually motivate me to try something different, to jump ship, but is it this year?

I know so many of you have had moments like these. Care to share? How did you get over it or what happened to change the situation? C'mon guys, if I can bare my soul on a blog, you can send me virtual hugs and stories of your own.


  1. I had more than a few friends from college who went into higher degree programs because they wanted to work in the enviroment and/or in the field of sustainable development, with no idea of what else to do. One came out with a Masters in Environmental Studies and now works at a lab developing vaccines. Another just finished a Masters in Science Tech and Society and I think she's looking for a nonprofit job.

    With that said, if you really want to build your resume in environment and sustainability, you should really consider working abroad. I'm not talking about Europe, I'm talking about 3rd world like Cambodia, Senegal, or even semi-developed places like China or Thailand. There are numerous opportunities to really make a huge difference along with unmatched opportunities for rapid advancement that I have yet to see in the developed world. You can subscribe to an email list like


    or search for expat websites in countries like Malaysia, which will often have job openings. They may not pay much by North American standards (or in some cases they do) but they will pay enough for you to have a higher standard of living than the middle class.

    If I wasn't married with my husband working on his PhD, I would probably be abroad working at one of these jobs.

    Maybe you just need a change of pace, not just a vacation, but a journey to a different place that will put you in a different mindset. I had similar feelings when I realized that I could never become a lawyer and be happy. I went on a backpacking trip, by myself to SE Asia and, there, on the other side of the world, I found my calling. Not to say that I don't flirt with the idea of getting my PhD, even as I complete my Masters, but I've come to the conclusion that the market for PhD-bearing historians is no better than the one for history majors (and anyways, I'd rather be writing).

    Sorry for the long comment!

  2. And by the way, I forgot to add that I LOVED Vancouver, the brief weekend I visited!

  3. Alau, welcome to the site and thanks for commenting when you do. I'd love to know how you found Liminal Me and what keeps you coming back.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments to me soul-baring post. I have considered doing some sort of volunteer or not-for-profit work abroad but there are things keeping me in Vancouver like a strong relationship that only recently stopped being long-distance. I really need to reconsider why I am where I am and what other options appeal and are available to me. I'll keep everyone posted during this process.

    Thanks again.

  4. Anonymous8:07 p.m.

    Hey big sister. I know this is a really slow response but I don't check my round of blogs as often as I should. Being that I am someone who is, always has been, and probably always will be lost in life, I think it's important to know that it's not such a bad thing. I think that if I ever really do figure out what the hell I'm doing, it will be really scary. So I say embrace your insecurities because without them we would all be pre-programed robots. So sit back, pour yourself a G & T, and contemplate how thankful you are that you're not the guy who has to listen to customer complaints at the phone company. Bye for now, K