Teenager.

I had the opportunity to go to the Montshire Museum of Science Science on Tap event where a researcher from the psych and brain sciences who talked about risk behavior in teens. It was interesting, and afterwards I got to build a contraption to try and protect an egg from cracking by enclosing it in some basic materials- mine failed, but creative destruction can be fun. 

This event made me think about myself as a teenager. I didn’t engage in much risky behavior and in fact, to this day, I am very hesitant to do much of anything; I think anything I do will come back to haunt me. I am doing somewhat better, but I’m trying to think if it’s just my nature to be this late bloomer who doesn’t seem to know what I’m doing in so many ways because I didn’t take advantage of having many novel experiences when I was younger and presumably would have made some big mistakes, but would have realized a lot sooner that many mistakes aren’t fatal. 
I was at a friend’s house tonight having dinner and a drink and watching the NHL playoffs and some of the other postdocs and I were talking about science and our research experiences and challenges in graduate school. When it comes to talking about things like this it inevitably brings up what I feel are my complete shortcomings in the research world. I don’t know if there’s a general feeling amongst researchers about sharing what they don’t know (a lot), but I always feel like admitting I don’t know and need help (or just comparing my terrible research to anyone else’s, which I think is great more often than not); well I have a hard time being vulnerable like that. I think some of it is hanging on too tightly to the small shreds of confidence I do have rather than putting myself out into the world and getting torn apart. 
I need to break my cycle of being afraid to admit I don’t know, trust more people (I don’t like thinking people are out to get me- but I think it’s true sometimes…especially the ones I don’t know), and just ask people to teach me things. I WANT TO LEARN. From you. I’m curious, but like I was as a teenager, I have a very powerful mechanism in my head that will quash any impulse I have to do anything- that I am now, at 34, just breaking out of in some small ways. I’m getting a lot better at using microscopes, though I’m still a rank amateur. 
I don’t know if there’s anything to this, but Aisha Tyler interviewed Baratunde Thurston on her Girl on Guy podcast, and he was saying, as a Virgo, he had the need to do everything himself, whether he knew what he was doing or not and had a hard time letting things go. Aisha readily agreed…as a Virgo herself. I’m one too, and while I don’t think astrology is real in any way, I do think there’s something to personality of when you’re born; maybe being born in the fall means you’re tendency is to be more introspective because you’re trapped inside over a long winter and have to entertain yourself rather than exploring the world outside. God, I wish I was as accomplished as either of those people. 
I don’t know if Chris Hardwick is right in ‘The Nerdist Way’ about confidence being all about options, but I can see how that could be the case. I don’t feel like I have a lot of options currently and need to expand my world; I’m workign on it, but I feel like the task I’m undertaking is exploring the world like a (normal) teenager would, but with my adult, 34 year old brain and body..and I’m trying to force it to happen as fast as possible. Anything I’ve done lately that’s good though seems like a small drop in the bucket of what’s going to be necessary to even feel like a moderately confident person. 
That’s enough rambling for one night. Even writing things like this in a blog is probably good for me; forcing myself open in a way. Of course, I’m also extremely worried that this will come back and haunt me. Hopefully by doing this, probably a mistake, I’ll learn, realize it didn’t kill me and move on, a more confident human being capable of interacting with anyone without worrying so much about it. 
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Author: Ian Street

Ian is a plant scientist and science writer relating stories of plant science and scientists on his blog, The Quiet Branches as well as other outlets. You can find him on Twitter @IHStreet.

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