Ever on and on.

‘The Hobbit’ opened this last weekend. And this JRR Tolkien verse came to mind in thinking about my post this week:

“The Road goes ever on and on // Down from the door where it began. // Now far ahead the Road has gone, // And I must follow, if I can, // Pursuing it with weary feet, // Until it joins some larger way, // Where many paths and errands meet. // And whither then? I cannot say.”

‘The Hobbit’ was one of my favorite books growing up. I’m taller, don’t have furry feet and only have one breakfast a day, but in my attitude towards adventure, I am decidedly Hobbit-like. Bilbo had to be forced into adventure. I’m barely there in my own life. I stay safe in too many ways.

I know one theme in this blog is to serve as an example of what not to do as a postdoc. It’s really the most useful function I can serve. 

How do I push myself to be less risk-averse? And when I say risk-averse, I often feel that I don’t ‘deserve’ to use the fantastic digital tools we have access to these days. Or it’s OK that I have a Gmail account, but couldn’t possibly sign up for two; That’s for people who have ‘real’ things going on. Nor use all of its features to enhance my productivity, organization and life. Staying small and in my comfort zone is usually where you can find me and I find that frustrating. I’m not enough and so don’t get to partake of what everyone else does routinely.

Being timid isn’t good for a life in science or anywhere else. SciCurious wrote this post about what she wished she’d known in grad school. Wish I’d known them better too; the commenters have some great suggestions too. I would say that mistakes are harder to take in an environment when your scientists are having a harder time finding steady jobs where we make a decent living for our level of education. It’s enough to keep me up at night…so many stupid mistakes.

I watched ‘Losing Control’ this evening and came away with the message that applying laboratory and scientific thinking to everything isn’t a good idea to be applied to life generally. The movie does capture the thinking (or at least my thinking) of scientists and our world pretty well.

I know I’ve mentioned ‘Daring Greatly’ ad nauseum in my posts. It really is a good book & I think Dr. Brown has hit upon something pretty profound (at least to me). For this post close to the end of 2012, I’ve decided to do Dr. Brown’s checklist for ‘wholehearted living’ as printed in “Daring Greatly”, page 8. Wholehearted isn’t a term that resonates with me, but I see what she’s getting at- Let’s see how I’m doing:

Wholehearted living feature on the left. whether I’ve achieved the goal or not at right in bold (followed by annoying asides I like to make…:

1. Cultivating Authenticity (letting go of what others think): No (though I am progressing; unabashed Whovian here). 
2. Cultivating Self Compassion (letting go of perfectionism): Yes/No (Now that I know what self-compassion actually is, I’m practicing it more,  still have to remind myself very actively to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good).
3. Cultivating a Resilient Spirit (letting go of numbing and powerlessness): NO, not really. @#$%! 
4. Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Yessish…I’m doing ok with gratitude. Joy is hard to come by.
5. Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith (Letting go of the need for Certainty): NO.  
6. Cultivating Creativity (Letting go of comparison): NO, though I think I’m doing a little better here. Comparing things is just what scientists do. 
7. Cultivating Play and Rest (Letting go fo exhaustion as status symbol & productivity as self worth): NO! 
8. Cultivating Calm and Stillness (letting go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle): NO (Unfortunately :-/).
9.  Cultivating Meaningful Work (Letting go of self-doubt and “Supposed to”: NO (I too often feel I’m supposed to be _____. Blank = better, married, wealthier, more tech savvy, more practical, bolder, extroverted, less depressed). 
10. Cultivating Laughter, Song and Dance (Letting go of being cool and “Always In Control”: NO.  

Of course, this is subjective scoring on my part, but it does reflect how I feel (I started this post days ago and am coming back to my initial answers and I feel the same now as I did then. I don’t have a definitive yes at all. Ouch. Something to work towards. This blog is a help as well I think: I hope I’ve found my voice this year. Or at least am more comfortable expressing myself- keeping things in hasn’t done me any favors (I realize writing on the internet may not be the best way of expressing my views/doing something useful, but I do like to write it). If I help someone (even myself) function better in the world of science (by being mostly an example of what not to do), then this blog has done its job.

Here’s hoping 2013 sees the launch of Ian 3.0


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.

2 thoughts on “Ever on and on.”

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