With all the excitement and busyness that was December, I missed an anniversary: the 10-year anniversary of earning my PhD.
Wow. Was it really 10 *years* ago? Seriously?
It’s funny, because some days I feel as green as a new PhD. It’s sometimes hard to picture myself, or take myself seriously, as someone who Has Experience, who Knows Her Stuff, who is a Real Professional. I sometimes feel like that grad student who doesn’t know anything, who needs guidance, and who’s the least experienced in any group. (Um, impostor syndrome, anyone?) Maybe this is because I went straight from grad school to a post-doc in a different subfield, so not only was I the most junior person by far, I was also the most inexperienced, at least in that subfield. And then I went from there to an academic position, and again to being the most junior and most inexperienced person in my department. Our self-perceptions die hard, apparently.
A lot changed in those 10 years.
When I graduated, I was not very confident in my own abilities. I was a decent researcher, but not very good at publishing, or publicizing, my work. I was good at finding interesting problems, but not very good at figuring out how to narrow those problems down—and I didn’t have a strong clue as to the type of problems I wanted to work on.
Now? I am solo-authoring papers (and if all goes according to plan, I might have a solo-authored journal paper later this year) as well as publishing *with students*, and running *my own lab*. I keep finding interesting and innovative problems to solve. I’m mentoring people. I’m teaching classes in subjects I formerly knew next to nothing about (like Computer Security). I now feel like I Know Stuff (although I also more keenly realize how much I do not know!) and that perhaps I might have accidentally become a Real Professional. And oddly, other people seem to think that I Know Stuff too, and apparently that I know what I’m doing/talking about.
So maybe I’ll celebrate by breaking out the old dissertation and giving it a read-through (hopefully without too much cringing). Or maybe I’ll get in touch with my dissertation advisor and express my appreciation for his guidance (although I’m not sure how much he’ll like being reminded of it—if it’s making me feel old*, it will probably make him feel ancient 🙂 ). But I will enjoy the sense of accomplishment that the last 10 years have ultimately brought.
* Case in point: some of the applicants for our job opening started college *after* I finished my PhD. How’s that for making one feel old?