PhD and constipation: a comparative study of the dark side
You eat and eat and eat. And you go on eating. At the beginning heavy stuff, because little did you know. Specialized papers, cutting-edge communications, complex carbohydrates, heavy proteins. And you like it. You have a big fat plate of unknown tastes and you shove your face in it, devouring food like a pig in first youth.
Noone is there to advise you; eat this, leave that. You just stuff yourself, your brain malfunctions, your kidneys hurt, your liver fails; and you go on reading incoherently, in swirling learning bulimia.
You like it, only that you observe that you stop shitting. Yeah, you used to shit regularly, nothing of really significant value (or volume) but it was regular. Not anymore. At the beginning the frequency reduction is not alarming. A conference here, a conference there, an abstract, new ideas, a paragraph or two, an experiment that seems to work.
So you like it. And you keep eating. And you start shitting less, sort of an inherent terror of facing the write-up, translated in sad anal retention out of fear of a potentially foul result that just won’t come out. You wait and wait, and as the time goes, the pain grows. And as the pain grows you don’t even want to eat anymore. You just stop eating, and you try to digest the last bible-paper you read, that puts things in perspective and your research at the level of two centuries ago. Food has started to disgust you and you are constantly googling the last-minute flight availability to a place as far from universities as possible.
At some point, either because the budget finishes or because life takes its toll, you start farting. Nothing consistent, very small, tiny farts, in the shape of abstract pages, table of contents, pretentious page numbers.
Small and coward farts. Bit of introduction, copy paste theory chapter, some equations you plugged in matlab centuries ago. Ready-made. But the big fat shit everybody expects you to produce after all these years of eating, won’t quite go down the porcelain haven of the lavatory.
Then you start farting bit less, but bigger ones. The really smelly and not-so-loud. Little by little. Experimental setup. New output. Nothing more. At the next stage, your bowel movements are non-existent. The pain is unbearable, especially when all others enjoy life as summer approaches. You keep on typing, 1 word/hour, you delete 2 words/minute. Your rectum hurts so much that the small farts that come out with some liquid is not from the juices of your shit (for it is drier than Sahara on a sand-stormy day), rather than from internal bleeding of shearing the sensitive anal wall. Your brain is just exploding and you want out. Out of your own skin. Conclusion chapter. Recommendation. Bull-and I only wished-shit. You print it just to tear it apart.
You have reached your limits. Your constipation is playing games on you and it is becoming chronic condition. You are afraid you will never find redemption after so many years of endless scientific carbohydrate consumption. You are scared shitless -sarcasm- they will find you there, lying pulseless on your keyboard, landing strip for the shitflies amidst a mountain of scientific papers and a landslide of fart-chapters.
Until one day you blink.
Survival instinct hits.
You take a decision.
You take THE decision.
You are going to sit on that toilet bowl, you will tamper with your very own asshole if necessary, you will do all it takes, until you manage to shit that shit out. The pain is unbearable, you have cried many times, but now it is a moment of fight. Are you a Man or are you a fucking Mouse?
You strain, you push, your eyes can barely stand the pressure, your sphincter won’t cooperate, but you envision the light at the end of the smelly tunnel. You have the will to prevail, to shear the fabric of time and space and in what seems to be eternity you manage to produce a bloody steamy thesis book, still covered with the placenta of the infant doctor of philosophy.
And then silence. You light a mental cigarette. There it lies, and there you lie next to it. Loving it and loathing it, just like the mother looks with endless love and hate at her wrinkly stinky ugly newborn. And contrary to children, it will neither leave you, nor do you run the risk of it dying before you. You feel relieved and life has just started making sense again. The birds are singing, the sun is shining, you still have friends and it is again guilt-free to enjoy your free time. It is the beginning of the rest of your life, and no matter what you do, you’ll never have to call it a PhD again.
Trust me, I am a doctor.
P.S. This is for Lu who is at the final stage of writing and all fellow PhDs. The text is an elaboration on an idea I communicated appropriately upon submission of my manuscript.