11 Months ago, I posted a reflection on my first year as a PhD student (here). Another school year completed, and it's a little jarring both how quickly, and how slowly, time has passed by. In the past year I've finished the majority of my coursework, passed my Comprehensive Exam, and turned in my Qualifying paper. When I look back at everything I've completed, I feel like I've made great progress and very proud. When I look ahead at everything I still have to do to earn a PhD, I feel like I have a long way to go.
My first year in the program, mostly just my first semester, was a large transition. My first semester was about changing my definitions of success and validation, from predominantly external to more internal measures. Since then, I feel like my growth has been to more slowly think of myself as a researcher, and of research as something I enjoyed and could contribute meaningfully to. This spring semester I completed my 4th statistics course, and signed up to take a 5th. I had previously thought of statistics as something I would need, but not something I would actually enjoy and volunteer to do more of. In moments that make me question my sanity, I've even considered getting a graduate certificate in statistics (or even another masters degree) but then I wake up and think, "No, I'm good!"
The biggest single change I've experienced over the past year has been physical, rather than emotional or intellectual. After years of struggling with my weight, I was able to get into a more healthy exercise routine and modify my diet, so that I was able to get to a much healthier weight for the first time in 7 years. It's been an amazing feeling to be able to fit into clothes that you wore in college and to be able to walk up flights of stairs without getting winded anymore.
As I think about my larger experience, I think it's fairly safe to say that this is a lull in the storm, and that bigger changes are on the horizon. My biggest struggle my first semester was creating a schedule and structure for myself when I had so much freedom. This fall semester will begin to look like that again as all my classes will be on Wednesday, and the majority of my assistantships (Research Assistant and Teaching Assistant) will be on my own time. Going into next spring it will be even more challenging, as I will have no classes, and it will all be up to me to work on my dissertation. This is going to be an exercise in self-discipline.