Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit

Article 10 - Nov16 - IMG - Research.png

As written for Auckland university of technology

November, 2016

 

I recently submitted my Master’s thesis for examination (thank you, Jesus; thank you, chocolate cake) and of all the milestones I crossed in this journey, I am possibly proudest of… constructing a Samoan fale out of MS PowerPoint shapes in under 10 mins with zero prior planning.

Look at that tiny fale in the middle. Although bulbous, so profesh. You might even say ‘proportional’. My supervisor from Spatial Design didn’t cry in shame or despair; it could be that he was just sparing my feelings – and that’s fine with me.

I somewhat foolishly decided to submit for examination, and present my research to an international network of Pasifika scholars via videoteleconference at the same time. I didn’t have to do this, but when the invitation came, I decided I owed it to everyone who had helped me, and to pay it forward for anyone else who could benefit, as I once did. That’s how we do.

Even so. There will be times in life when you suspect you’re setting yourself on fire, but a weirdly quixotic voice that’s grown stronger with every challenge stirs like Henry V and decides, “Once more unto the breach.”

Three minutes before my presentation, I was still completing my slides in MS PowerPoint:

Figure 2. Time management, the story of my life.

I do not share this to brag. This was f*cking painful. The only reason why my heart didn’t implode in my chest was because I’d done this countless times before (writing down to the wire) and trusted in that experience to get me through. Also, the last time I bemoaned to my Dad, “Why am I like this???”, he beamed and patted my knee like I was still seven, saying, “You’re just like Daddy.” What a bonding moment.

I started this Masters journey with advice, and I’m going to end it the same way. So, a few lessons I would like to draw out, that you may learn from my battle scars:

1)      Pray. Meditate. Be consciously grateful and never take for granted whatever humble blessings got you to where you are now: your family, that one person who believed in you, or your stubborn as attitude. Do not underestimate the motivational power of gratitude.

2)      Don’t stop looking after yourself. Walk and choose the healthy meal when you can. You’ll feel like you don’t have the time or the luxury, but it is even more important for your mental and physical health when you’re close to the finishing line.

3)      Always overestimate how much time you’ll need. Always.

4)      If anyone should ever grieve to you about how much sleep they’re losing, work they’re doing, and makes it sound like a war ballad – walk away now. If it’s anything less than a therapeutic venting exercise to get on with the job, they’re wasting precious time that you could be eating, working, sleeping, or attending fa’alavelave (I joke, but really). Sometimes I was so tired, I would hallucinate conversations with my pillow.

PILLOW: “Nobody loves you more than me.”

ME: “Except Jesus.”

PILLOW: “Imagine cuddling down to me and sweet prayers.”

ME: “As I lay me down to sleep, thank you for this pillow I keep. Zzzz….”

5)      Push yourself to push yourself. The first time I ever heard this, it was probably a translation error and I laughed too long, too inconsiderately loud – but truthfully. Push yourself outside your comfort zones, beyond what you think you can handle, toward those challenges that make you sick and nervous. It’s the only way you’ll grow and realise how much you’re capable of.

6)      And always schedule time to recover. Relieved crying, passing out. Taking over childrens’ playgrounds are all acceptable.

7)      At the end of such a drawn-out saga as a degree, you must celebrate or punctuate it in some way so your brain can recognise it is the end of an era. At a subconscious level, this readies yourself for transition. Also, you deserve it. I’m glad I was forewarned by Thesislink of the common depression that can set in after submitting your thesis. I averted it by presenting and then having a celebratory dinner with my family. I go hard, then I go home, and then I sleep for two weeks. I would have preferred more time between submission and presentation, but we work with what we have, so –

8)      Just get it done. Whatever your challenge, it doesn’t need to end perfectly. Just make sure you’ve given your task the best effort you could, and that you learned something. Then you can close that chapter with no regrets, you’ve already earned the lesson, and whatever grade comes back is incidental. The real world doesn’t care about grades, only your attitude, your experience, and your ability – and willingness – to keep improving.

9)      Pay it back. The odds are that you didn’t get here by yourself. Never underestimate the future value or the power of giving back.

10)  Pay it forward. Everyone flailed as you once did. This is not just about making yourself feel good. This is about balance and lightening our collective load. Share what you know. We’ll get more done, and we’ll do it better.

In conclusion / TL;DR, yes, everyone should absolutely do postgraduate studies at some point in their life, because you will regret nothing [1] and the world needs a greater diversity of The Everyone building this thing called Knowledge. Knowledge is not only gained or formed in universities, but what better way to change the traditional notion than from inside the traditional systems? Choose what you love, what terrifies and excites you. Come study it. Upset people (including yourself). Make peace. Struggle. Win.

You’re allowed to feel like giving up sometimes. Let yourself sit within the moment, and then remind yourself of all the reasons why you must get it done instead. There’s only one of you, and the world needs what you’ve got.

 

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,

When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,

When the funds are low and the debts are high,

And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit,

Rest, if you must, but don't you quit…

 

Success is failure turned inside out--

The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell how close you are,

It may be near when it seems so far,

So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit--

It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

-Author unknown

 

[1] except how much sleep you’ll lose and forgetting what your loved ones look like.