Most stories like mine refer back to early childhood—like the kid who knew deep down he was gay, or the friend who was a late talker that turned out to be partially deaf. A "diagnoses" would suddenly bring everything into clarity, long forgotten experiences suddenly strung out like a strand of awkward pearls of self wisdom that hinted all along at what was wrong. There was the inability to deal with mathematical concepts which found me applying a semester's worth of tactics that fruitlessly led nowhere as I explored across the page, rather than systematically following the steps to solve a problem in a logical and deduced way. My lack of a favorite movie, food, band, The fact that every time I rewatched a film was like seeing it for the first time. My interest in replaying the same experiences over and over again. My brain felt fuzzy, a feeling that didn’t go away until I had spent considerable time in my graduate program. I would read accounts of students finally diagnosed with dyslexia decades after the start of their problems in school. Their struggles of not being able to wrap their head around the problem, of their own brain getting in the way, and the marked differences in how they saw the world compared to their peers resonated with me in a deep way. But I had no such label—and while their struggles were mine in many ways, they understood the origin of their difference and for that I was jealous.
One night, late at work on a paper it suddenly dawned on me. I started my research on the wheel of science in the inductive rather than the deductive portion of the wheel. My sense of sickness lifted and I had a label: the reason for my ill fit wasn’t just epistemological, it came down to my starting point. My “learning disability” wasn’t a disorder at all but simply a reflection of how I saw the world and approached my research—differently form my department., and it explained why I did not fit. This was a process issue.
I had been accused my entire graduate career of being too interested in the context of what I studied, and not focused enough on the underlying phenomenon. I wanted to take personal experiences and observations and work toward exploring larger level phenomena. I had spent the first three years desperately scanning text books for a theory, any theory, I could accept and stake my entire research agenda around. Or a concept even, that could underlie my research. My program wanted me to think logically and theoretically about a phenomena, and reason out from there.
"You do know you are not really an inductivist?" My husband asked that night, after I had burst into the room to unload my newly found knowledge. He protested. "You ask empirical questions, you just don't buy into how restrictively your program embraces deductive research. They need to be more flexible."
He was right. It still gave me comfort to recognize the source of my frustration, but it also reinforced one of the most important lessons you learn in graduate school. That the world is not black and white, but a thousand shades of gray, and everything is nuance.