May it be old habits, old schools or old classmates, I have always been terrible at departing throughout my life. This is a worthy exception as I happily say good bye to a lingering on PhD.
A PhD is a long haul. It is a frighteningly long haul. Don’t romanticize it before you jump into it. In some ways (though not all), higher education is a strategy to delay the entry of people into the job market. It’s a good way to keep people spending money while NOT getting paid. It stretches your resources to the ultimate.
How beautifully put and how amazingly true. The truest part is that like all the profound realities of life, you can never fully apprehend this almost devilish quest until it grows on you, takes over all your precious resources one by one (foremost being time), enshrouds yourself completely and sometimes, as in my case, tries to take you down with it.
Obviously, I am not that dumb to argue that getting higher-education (especially a PhD) is something bad, per se. In fact, I am indirectly trying to make a strong case here to have a go at it; but only when you are ready to pursue it as a passion of your life and not simply for the sake of it, like in my case.
I have been great at multitasking all my life. Since last fourteen years, due to some unavoidable reasons (foremost being my chronic indecisiveness and procrastination), I have been enthusiastically putting up with one of the most demanding yet least productive of the jobs. In all these years, like almost living an alternate life, I have struggled really hard to traverse against the tide for exploring questions that matter a lot to me. Readers of this blog, no matter how meager they are, instantly become aware of multifarious ways in which I continue stammering incessantly in this little space. As if all this was not onerous enough, I earned a part-time graduate degree in computer engineering six years ago. That somehow duped me into believing that I can have a shot at part-time PhD too.
Staggering in search for the right research topic for an year or so, I finally settled on cardiac signal processing considering my previous one-night stands with things biomedical. Since then, I have been studying footprints of human cardiac activity, especially repolarization alternans and their significance in sudden cardiac death. For the last three years, while at job, during travel, in evenings with kids playing around, even during sleep and prayers, the research kept me preoccupied. There have been short lull periods too but I successfully pulled along while carrying on other indulgences as well.
If not for this last week, I might never have recognized the kind of metamorphosis I have gone through in this seemingly short span of just three years. The realization itself is no less than a bliss; however at the same time, as I experience this hypertensive phase visiting hospitals and undergoing tests, and as I study my own ECGs with interest, it is ironically heartbreaking to see how one can become an object of his own research so easily.
I hate to pass the burden of my responsibility to circumstances, but in many ways, my story is typical of the lost generation of Pakistanis which was forced to live the life of the previous one. With apology to the readers who can’t understand Urdu, this funny moment of discombobulation reminds me of Faiz Sahab’s excellent depiction of misconstrued priorities:
Wo log bohat khush qismat thay
Jo ishq ko kaam samajhtey thay
Ya kaam se aashqi karte thay
Ham jeetey jee masroof rahe
Kuch isq kiya, kuch kaam kiya
Kaam ishq ke aarre aata raha
Aur ishq se kaam ulajhta raha
Phir aakhir tang aa kar ham ne
Dono ko adhoora chorr diya