So, I’m a PhD student in economics. Life is not very beautiful here in grad school. Bearable, but full of stress that evolves over time. First year, you study your ass off to pass qualifying exams (most intense year study-wise). Then, second year, you can chill out a bit and learn more specific stuff in fields of your interest. Third year…you are free to pursue your interest in any research topic. Sounds great except that research must be creative, original, and interesting. This is not an easy task at all. What you find interesting might not be so to others (other academics). And most of the times, for whatever you come up with, people have done it already.
At least to me, third year was bad. Most of the time I just didn’t know what to do. No class. Little to none RA work (lucky me?). I just kept reading literature and got most of my ideas shot down. I was completely lost and spent a vast amount of time in existential crisis (reference to this: http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1490).
After a year of struggling to find a research topic, I finally arrived at one and, from my prelim presentation, my professors seem to like it (Although, I might be imagining things). Many times this past year too many times I thought about leaving this place (I did apply to one job). Thank to one of my friends here who always kept me on track and made sure I work on my then-non-existing paper. (Thanks, LM :D)
I guess, one thing I learn from this year is that if you hang on for long enough, new opportunities will turn up. So, for those struggling out there, don’t lose hope! Keep chasing your dreams!