Yesterday I desperately wanted to get out of the apartment, so we went out to lunch, planning to work after we finished eating. SCL has an important stats exam this Wednesday, and I seem to be getting farther and farther behind in my own work. Before our food got there, he began talking about this test and how he's worried he won't do well. I can understand this to an extent--don't we all get nervous when we have a test coming up?--but SCL getting nervous over a math test? He's off the charts when it comes to his brains and capacity to do well academically. It's hard for me not to just to brush these comments off, so I have to be diligent in understanding what's causing him the worry.
What I'm learning is that being a PhD student is scary as hell. There's a lot on the line--time, money, investment of one's self, delaying one's career 5 or so years. And there's no guarantee that a job will be waiting for you at the end of it. Of course, this leaves me wondering why anyone in his/her right mind would do one, but we're past that point. This is what SCL wants to do, what he knows is the best career move right now, and he's got a long road ahead.
He started explaining the process to me more. Next spring he'll take his first comp exam, the smaller of the two (I'm guessing on less information than the other). If/when he passes, he'll move on to the larger exam in the fall of that year. At the same time he'll be expected to be working on a prospectus, a relatively short (50-60 pages) write up of his research plan. If all goes according to plan, he'll defend this in the spring of 2012. Once he does this, he'll move into research and writing with a goal of finishing sometime in 2014 or 2015. There are many hoops to jump throw between now and then.
It's also scary as hell to be partnered with someone going through this process because all of his fears, his anxieties, his worries, his doubts--they're mine too. This timeline is all theoretical. What about the things in our life that we're putting off now like marriage and a family. When will they fit into the picture? Neither of us has the answers, and there's no sign that it's going to get any less murky anytime soon. He has to take the program one class, one requirement, one step at a time.
At the end of this, I think I'm going to insist on my own diploma, too.