At some point in your program, it’s likely that you’ll have an existential crisis. When this happens, you’ll begin to question your sanity for even getting involved in this whole “PhD thing” in the first place.
For me, this was roughly the spring of 2009. At that point I felt like I was in a very long, very dark tunnel. I was right around the halfway point in my studies with two kids, a wife, and a full-time job. Who does this to themselves? I don’t need a PhD. I can do almost anything I want to do in my career without one! I mean, what do I want to do? Publish papers in journals no one will even read?
Had I been not so far along, I’m not sure I wouldn’t have quit. I felt like I was too far in to turn back but too far from the end to see the “light.” I reasoned that if I quit, I’d hate myself forever. So the only way out was through. I focused on my love of learning and the reason that I, personally, had decided to embark on this journey: The prospect of contributing to changing an aging system and being paid to learn and write. In truth, a job in higher ed is probably a long way off for me since I truly love what I do in my school, but I like knowing that when I’m ready I’ll have the option.
If and when you begin a PhD program, you can be almost certain that you’ll question yourself at some point (or points) along the way. Try to keep in mind that you’re in a marathon, not a sprint. It requires moderate, sustained effort over a long period of time. Heck, if it was easy everyone would have a PhD.
Here’s the thing: You can always find a reason not to get your doctorate. A corollary of this is that there is never a good time to begin. There will be kids, bills, mortgages, and a myriad of other things going on. But the time will pass, whether you’re in grad school or not.
When the doctoral doldrums hit, consider taking a semester off to rejuvenate. Change up your schedule. Take an online class or something outside of your college.
Most important: Stay focused on why you started on the journey. You had your reasons.