There are particular members of society who, since childhood, dreamed of making fantastical and grandiose contributions to society. Instead of idolising Paris Hilton and dreaming about what it would be like to grow up and live the high life, wear designer clothing, be rich beyond imagination, goto the hottest parties, look gor-juss and mingle with A-listers (without demonstrating either talent, hard work, intelligence, or contributing to humanity in any discernible way), chances are that the good sort of children made life plans that hinged upon receiving inordinate praise from others for superior displays of intellect. These children usually had hyper-ambitious parents who harboured similar desires for their children, but unfortunately were bereft of anything remotely resembling a CLUE. Mummy always wanted to go to university but wasn't able to because her daddy was an alcoholic and her mummy was borderline, so she had to leave school when she was 15 and work work work and give her daddy all of her money which he then pissed up the wall. Mummy couldnt go back to university because she got knocked up with you, but you're female, and you kinda look like her, so you must be the miniature version of her and the vessel through which she can live out her pathetic half-buried dreams so yes you will go to university! You will do Arts like she wanted to because she loved history and english and did i ever tell you that you are going to go to uni and then on to postgrad study and maybe you will get a scholarship to oxford and then i will see you get your degree and think that i deserve the degree too and no then i will not feel so pathetic and then i can abandon the dream of going to uni so yes you WILL go to uni you DONT have a choice because youre BETTER than everyone else and you have to AIM HIGH and no arts isntgoodenoughonitsownyoushoulddoLAWbecausethenIcansaymydaughterisaLAWYERandboywontthatfeelgood!
Development of the PhD student in late adolescence
Unfortunately, after nearly two decades of such emotional fuckwittage being crammed down these children's throats, they become indoctrinated into believing that the world would fall at their feet if they go to this far off mystical magical-fairy land and receive a piece of rosewatered, calligraphied piece of paper. Thus, these children work very hard throughout their entire adolescence, doing extraordinarily well at school and accruing valuable life skills by enduring the manifestations of their classmates' passive-agressive hatred. Mummies and Daddies also love these children above all else, and when Mummy goes to her church committee and talks to the mother of the boy who was just caught by the police for downloading child pornography - boy, doesn't she feel smug!
So chances are, instead of actually 'discovering' who they were or what they were capable of in any meaningful sense, these children live a standard 'tick the box' approach to life, simply navigating their way through life experiences (such going to university) and gaining accoutrements along the way (such as scholarships) simply because society dictated that they HAD to do these things in order to be recognised as successful. Remarkably, these sorts of children manage to sit through three to four years of higher education in which they are trained to think critically about the world in which they live, the politics that govern the world and the machinations of human nature, but are incapable of applying any of these critical thinking skills to their OWN lives. Unfortunately, if they did, they might have at least taken some sort of sojourn in the real world ... maybe travelled before they graduated, taken a full-time job in a relevant industry, moved out of Mummy and Daddy's chequebook and discovered how difficult it is to be self-supporting, and most importantly, realised that that generalist degree from an elite institution that you were nearly KILLING yourself to get isn't worth spit to most people in the great, big, scary external expanse called "THE REAL WORLD".
Birth of the PhD student
Sadly, and oftentimes far too late, these children inevitably come to the heartbreaking conclusion several months after graduation that the graduate recruiter at KPMG won't give a tinkers cuss that they got a HD in 'Postwar Australian Cinema: Ned Kelly to Mad Max' ...
But then.... Panic! What to do now? What else is there? What else WAS there? These overgrown children are simply brains in bodies, the natural elite, the movers and shakers of tomorrow (or so they were told). Where are the good jobs, the opportunities, the chances to move up the corporate ladder, the money, the kudos, the recognition, the chance to bypass the bottom rungs in life? Why won't the manager at Sportsgirl respond to the application that they put in three months ago?
These children reflect a little bit on this predicament, usually whilst sitting at home on their spotty behinds, eating garguantuan tubs of Haagen Daas whilst watching Oprah on the rotting couch in their parents basement, silently sobbing themselves to sleep at night, protecting their fragile egos from the possibility that perhaps that piece of paper doesn't mean that they are immediately entitled to be treated as superior beings. So they ponder, "Why did that academic tell me that honours would give me an 'edge' in the employment market? More inexplicably, why was I dumb enough to believe him? Has everyone who espoused the value of education been lying to me all along?" And funnily enough, those critical thinking skills they learnt at University FINALLY kick in. Especially when they accidentally bump into the class clown of their high school graduating year, who is now turning over $100,000 per year as a carpenter. Fucking bastard.
But ah ... eventually the real world becomes a bit too much for these suckers, and they run back to the poisonous teat of the mother that has always sustained them and like Lady Macbeth, continually threatened to bash their brains out ... ACADEMIA. Post-graduate studies ahoy! "This time," (they tell themselves) "I'm not going to make the same mistake ... I'm going to study something vocational, and be of real use to someone when I graduate! THIS will give me the edge in the job market that I was after!" And thus, the Ph.D. student is borne.
The Quintessential Existential Post-Graduation Crisis
Everyone gets excited for the Ph.D. student (particularly hyperambitious Mummy and Daddy, whose psychopathic ambitions haven't exactly abated over the years) ... but ... on the other hand ... no-one really has the heart to tell them that a 20,000 word dissertation on Patrick White's use of bark imagery isn't exactly going...to...cut...it...either. So what to do after this debacle blows up in your face again?
Hmm... not quite sure. However, that retail assistant's job at the Co-op Bookshop looks rather appealing. Think about it - you'll be surrounded by books, and you technically wont leave Uni. And the best bit of all? At the start of every semester you'll be surrounded with fresh faced 17-18 year olds, purchasing their semester textbooks on their first step on what is sure to be a tortuous process of heartache, self-abrogation and shattered dreams. You know? People who used to be just like you! How endearing!
Best of luck to all doing a PhD - Remember: we normal "not-so-smart" people who didn't sneer at studying a 'vocation' in the real world will always be here to laugh at you when you wind up as a high school humanities teacher instead of getting that associate professorship that you were after. Ha-ha!