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Worried about academic lifestyle, how do you feel about it?

  1. Jun 6, 2014 #1
    Hi, How do you people manage an academic lifestyle? I have this problem that my minds want’s to know everything, and I often feel drained when I constantly read books, especially when I start doubting if I should be doing something else with my life, and thinking about all the experiences in life I'm missing out on. I was studying biology and now I’m going to study nutritional science (bachelor) instead.

    Here are some problems I’m facing: Perhaps a bit of a pessimistic mind. Can anyone relate to this? Do you have some suggestions for me?

    1. Constantly reading books to understand everything: My mind thinks, I got to get good at math, chemistry and physics to understand nutrition, but understanding chemistry completely is impossible since Bonding and orbital theories are visual interpretations of statistical and mathematical data, It’s a way to visualize that which we can’t see, so we actually don’t know how it looks but put faith in textbook theories such as explaining chemical changes through electron mechanisms and bonding theories. However I never get to see how the experiments behind these theories were performed and what led the people to conclude why we interpret chemical theories the way we do.
    2. Textbooks constantly tell you how things are, but don’t tell you in detail exactly how the experimental setups leading to this conclusion works, so I feel dumb just memorizing theories without understanding why it works. On the other hand If I were to understand every experimental detail 100% it would take a lifetime to understand anyway, so I can’t know for sure
    3. Disliking the idea of being tied to a job 40Hours/week: I don’t like the idea of doing the same thing every day for years, but on the other side I do want a job where I can let completely go of everything for at least 8 hours every day and spend time with my family or having my focus on things I like. When I work a full time job I feel drained when I get home, so I don’t have the energy, freedom and creative mind to say “Hey let’s go travel for a week now” or persuing hobbies like fishing, especially since there are so many other things to take care of in life.
    4. I feel I am wasting my time constantly reading books: Some people seem to plan how to make a living early in their life and then they just persue it. I feel as if my only goal is to soak in information from books such that I can be good at understanding how the body works, and how food interacts with it. But I feel like this is taking up so much of my time that I forget social life, mostly because there more I read the more I need to know. Also I often feel depressed and drained after reading 8 hours a day, so I wonder if my mind is just not made for this thing and if I should be doing something more practical instead, something which would earn me some money.
    5. Wanting to be able to focus on one thing and getting good at it: If I studied physiotherapy I could become really good at managing clients (social skills) and understanding the musculoskeletal system visually and in practice which sounds quite nice. I could focus my energy 100% on these 2 things. In academic life, I feel like I have to focus on 100 different things such as lab techniques, keeping algebra skills in check, a ton of different chemical pathways and chemical interactions in the body which constantly change with time, so constantly having to read scientific papers and change my model of the world.

    The way I’m thinking makes me kind of pessimistic and depressed – yet I’m still curious about learning about nutrition and how nutrients interact with the body, I just keep worrying aobut what kind of a job I’d get, and feel distracted since I don’t have a clear goal in mind.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 6, 2014 #2
    You seem to be very perfectionist. You have to understand the math, physics and chemistry perfectly and you need to have perfect knowledge of this and this. I understand how this might get you down because it is impossible to have perfect knowledge of anything, certainly at an undergrad level (which I assume you are at).

    Don't get me wrong, trying to gain a lot of knowledge to understand things well enough is a good thing. But it can get you depressed easily because it involved a lot of work and is nearly impossible to do.

    An undergrad education is meant to expose you to a lot of different areas and it is meant to give you a basic knowledge of them. You are not meant to understand things perfectly in every single detail. That is something for grad school (and even then, you will likely focus on a very small area that you will understand perfectly).

    Now, I'm a mathematician, so I understand perfectly that you dislike to take things "on faith". In fact, a large part of me like mathematics so much because you prove everything. So you know perfectly where things come from and why they're there. In chemistry, this is a lot harder. A lot of chemistry will need things like quantum mechanics (for example) for a complete explanation. It is simply too much to learn QM as well, so you will need to take the chemistry on faith now and then.

    I think you shouldn't push yourself so much to gain a perfect understand of everything. If you understand what the textbooks tell you and if you can do the problems, then that's good enough for now. Deeper knowledge will come later once you're ready. Don't drive yourself insane with understanding all the details behind everything. Nobody has that kind of knowledge.
  4. Jun 7, 2014 #3
    If you don't like 40h a week, how about 60h-70h a week? :D 40h a week feels like a week off to me.
    Understand this - you don't always get to choose what you want to do, exactly. You should focus most of your energy on the present. What happens tomorrow is of no consequence, if you fail to make do today. Don't waste energy on regret either.

    Knowing everything is perhaps too ambitious - before you know everything, how about knowing something for starters and make your way from there?

    Finding one's place in life can be a b***h to deal with, I know. I thought I was gonna end up in a maintenance garage fixing cars, which I do on occasion, but I don't like doing it ALL the bloody (oily and tarry, actually) time. The last thing I expected was to become a chef, yet I am one.

    School was easy to me, I got through with As left and right without much of a hassle, many of the professors thought I was going to be quite the academic...some of the buggers came to me to pester me about it, but what did I do? I am just "some chef" (quoting some of the very ignorant academic-centric professors, especially the mechanical drawing professor...oh he is quite the annoyance, he RELUCTANTLY gave me an A for my last project, when he knew I wasn't going to pursue an academic life, because of that talk I had with him earlier - I hate hate hate such bias).
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2014
  5. Jun 8, 2014 #4
    I was a perfectionist in my first year, but as the proofs got more complex and the curriculum larger, I turned pragmatic and just went over the material in the most exams-relevant way.

    I think you should do this too. Adapt or die.

    Honestly, extremely few perfectly understand and remember everything in the curriculum, and those who do have wasted their time because it's a useless obsession. Who cares if you remember all the derivations? Or know, in detail, about fields irrelevant to your career?

    Focus on getting a degree with good results.

    Those are my two cents, anyway.

    Lendav_Rott: 60-70 hours a week :surprised ? Did you switch water for redbull?
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