As far back as I can remember I’ve been a logical, depressed introvert. I had outlets for my sadness like poetry and music, but as I began high school I started shunning my emotions in favor of self-control. I was phenomenal at dissecting, quantifying, and structuring my every thought. I became so logical that I learned to entirely repress my emotions simply by being mindful of them (observing, labeling, and controlling my reaction).
When I was 15 I began to worry my parents with a lack of motivation and low grades. Therapy and counseling sessions named my problem ‘boredom.’ So with the help of my extremely supportive parents I dropped out of high school to be my own teacher and pursued the knowledge that interested me. This worked surprisingly well and I quickly went from spending my days sleeping in to signing up for classes at the local university.
I sprinted as hard as I could through my first undergraduate degree using CLEP tests (no, not a diagnostic for venereal disease). These exams are designed to test your knowledge of a core curriculum for a variety of subjects. Simply passing the test with a certain score will provide you with 3-6 college credits and my local university offered ~40 credit hours that could be achieved through CLEP. Along with 18 credits/semester I had a B.S. degree in Psychology by my 18th birthday.
I chose Psychology because I loved digging into the idea of consciousness. Human behavior (and behavior in general) seemed like the perfect way to approach the question of subjectivity. I realized quickly that I had no desire to work with people, since my extremely logical nature left me introverted and apathetic to social interaction. So instead of finding a job I went back to school to start learning something else.
By tugging on the dangling thread of behavior I found that there was no logical reason to draw the boundary of consciousness at humans. I started doing Neuroscience research in order to prepare myself for some kind of career outside of perpetual student life. It was the logical progression inward from Psychology to the mechanisms that underlie the outward behavior. Research suited my style of thought and despite my anti-sociality I was quite good at presenting my work.
This led me to the one goal that I had set up for myself at the peak of my depression: to get a PhD. I only really wanted one because I was told I would never get one (when they looked at me my high school teachers only saw laziness and a refusal to do homework). I had no idea what the acronym PhD stood for or what the degree meant. I certainly had no clue what it takes to get one or what I would do with it when I was done.
Since I’m now in a PhD program I know what the acronym stands for and what it takes to get one. Unfortunately, I’m still not sure what the degree itself means or what I will do with it when I’m done. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I recently discovered my purpose in life and it doesn’t require a PhD. So what do you do when your actions don’t align with your motivations?