Tuesday, November 22, 2005

True perfectionism

Grad school is unique in many ways from the real world. Besides still being a student in your late 20's when all your other friends have real jobs, grad school offers one thing that a real job rarely offers - the opportunity for true perfectionism. Whether good or bad, grad students have the luxury of being able to strive for perfection and as such it is usually expected. Be it a committee report, scholarship application, or an experiment, "good enough" is really not good enough. I've agonized countless times over one sentence that just doesn't sound right. Would spending a half an hour trying to re-word it really make a difference in the long run? No, probably not. Or that experiment that worked but the result doesn't look "pretty" enough so you spend another week tweaking things in the hopes that it results in a prettier figure. Why? Because as grad students we have learned to expect nothing less than perfection in ourselves.

Grad students have this luxury because for the most part we aren't limited by time. Sure we have that elusive five year deadline but even that isn't set in stone. Everything has some leeway in grad school. Therefore we take the time to achieve perfection. Problem is you can never really achieve perfection. Perhaps that is why it is so easy to become dejected as a grad student. As well, in the real world perfection is rarely achieved. Unlike grad school, deadlines in the real world are set in stone. You are paid to meet those deadlines and if you don't then you no longer have a job. Therefore, perfectionism gives way to getting things done as best as you can in the time you have. Maybe if "as best as you can in the time you have" became more of the norm in grad school that elusive five year deadline would be within reach. No more perfectionism for me. I want my degree!

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