I have recently come out of the other side of undertaking a Master degree. . . in the UK. I mention that it was in the UK because while other countries schedule the usually demanding process over the course of two years, in the UK it is usually scheduled over one. For the most part this seems to work well for those, like me, who want a master’s but do not want to spend two years as a full-time post graduate student.
The price to pay for this seems to be the intensity of work which has to be completed over the course of the year. For those, like me, who would like to level up and suffer a seemingly more sadomasochistic experience, some courses, like mine, offer an option to undertake the program from January to January rather than the conventional September to September. Innocent though this may seem, it is in fact hellish. Why? Mainly because the period which is usually given exclusively to dissertation research for September starters (usually from about May – Sept) simply does not exist for January starters.
What this translates to is four months of very little sleep during which students are expected to complete their 15,000 word dissertation research project while undertaking a full semester of other modules, including class time, assignments, weekly readings and end of semester assessments. It was during this period of continuous 12 hour days at university and very little sleep that I was inadvertently given a frightening explanation of what true adulthood seems to be all about.
I was sat with my dissertation supervisor, who in carrying out his pastoral care duties was obliged to ask how I was coping with all the stress. I explained that while I was doing my best to cope with the situation I seemed to be having some trouble sleeping. This was mainly due to the unwillingness of my brain to shut off as I laid in bed, exhausted. It would instead choose to run through all I had done in the day – had I read enough, had I answered that question correctly in class, had I done all I could have done? And all I had to do in the coming day – was I prepared enough, will I have enough time. And all I had to do in the weeks and months to come – would I hand in on time, would I pass, would I be employable once I was done?
And that was when it happened, my supervisor, without missing a beat, replied “it never goes away, you simply have to figure out how to trick your brain into switching off”.
I stared at him horrified, noticing the near exhaustion in his own eyes. There was the realisation, this is what true adulthood seems to be all about. Working to the point of exhaustion, and having to trick our tired brains to escape the endless thoughts of insecurities about the efforts and decisions made and those yet to be made.
It never goes away. . .