These days I tell people that grad school is a soul-destroying exercise.

I spent—oh, two years?—hiding from my advisors for fear that if they saw me, they would tell me I might as well just give up and quit grad school because I didn’t belong there.

I didn’t realize this until I finally went to see them, broke down in tears, got home, and felt incredibly relieved they hadn’t kicked me out. Meltdown Day can be a good thing.

I’d like to thank Tiya Miles for writing about her fears in an incongruous forum, Top Young Historians. It’s a great relief to know that even the “stars” of the profession are subject to anxieties.


A student I was discussing grad school with asked what took 6-8 years, if all the classes were done in 3 years. I said, “Well, you have to allow time for assorted nervous breakdowns and psychological fears.”


Update: I am done and defended and employed and all. This is just a memory, and the book process hasn’t—yet!—provoked the same depth of tension. But to be honest, it probably took me at least two years past finishing before I could even admit that fear to people.