Enough.

Today was a pretty bad day. Experiment went wrong, must set it up again ASAP even if it means losing sleep and weekends, breaking any boundaries I’ve set. And it’s the kind of thing where I am not fully sure what went wrong; seeds just germinated horribly that had worked OK before. At least I solved the one problem I had previously: no contamination.

Still, hard to deal with a sudden blow…and to think I’d woken up feeling pretty good. Even the snow today (even more than the Juno winter storm the other week) didn’t phase me. I was up at 5am, trying to sleep until my alarm, but also day dreaming about an ideal job in my mind (and a rather specific one). it doesn’t actually exist so far as I know…so still in the realm of fantasy, but it was the first time in a long time where I thought ‘that wouldn’t be so bad…I think I’d love that if it were real; or even if something like it were & it’s something I feel I could do). You’ll have to ask me privately for details if you care.

But today was hard. I skipped the gym, am going to sit down and dig into this neglected MOOC tonight, and be back in lab early tomorrow morning to set up this experiment again tomorrow night, late…skipping the gym again, most likely.

Part of it is distraction, but some of it is still the feeling of not enough, why bother because change may happen, but it doesn’t happen in big ways…at least to me, because I’m just built wrong some how, maybe? Defective human walking.

This whole day was a test of what I wrote about yesterday, vulnerability (indeed, it’s  a theme of this blog; I’m me here). And asking if I’m enough. Today, I didn’t feel like enough.That I lack focus and direction of my own, that I am still trying to stay small. I hope I can rise to this occasion. And others. And yet I do not feel I sufficiently push myself. Part of it is distraction, but some of it is still the feeling of not enough, why bother because change may happen, but it doesn’t happen in big ways…at least to me, because I’m just built wrong some how, maybe? Defective human walking.

How many potential jobs have I explored? Not many. If any. I do not feel like enough.

PIs are chosen for their clever, and visionary research

I was listening to the ‘You are Not So Smart’ podcast, one of my favorites; all about cognitive biases and self-delusions we humans fall prey to. This episode was about the halo effect, where halos get cast over other traits besides the one being measured. If someone is amazing at something, a halo develops around them that they must also be good at many other related things. A possible extreme example is academia. PIs are chosen for their clever, and visionary research and the halo effect says they must also be great at managing people, teaching, mentoring, service work, etc. even though all they have demonstrated is ability to do clever research. It’s not that they won’t learn or can’t do those other things, but the halo is there and it biases us. Ben Lillie’s partial list of things scientists are expected to be great at that are also full time jobs may be a good example.

Because scientists do wear many hats, it can be hard to narrow down to just one when exploring work outside academia. it can still seem like every employer wants superman/woman….who can do everything well (even this isn’t quite right in reality; obviously, someone qualified is important, but to begin, just do the job you’re hired for). It also cuts the other way and can make careers outside the academy seem plain and boring…just writing? just experiments? BOOORING!). For the record, I don’t find a career outside the academy boring anymore. Just still hard to envision an exact spot for myself in a new world (and it really does seem like a new, unfamiliar, world).

I am not superman. I am not great at all the things. I want to be good at something. A few somethings even (am I? I don’t even know…I rarely proclaim I’m great at anything ever because that is almost certainly a falsifiable statement and it’s not hard to likely find someone better). And have a person to help me with the rest. Accountants, a suit guy, perhaps…I’ll be here writing. Speaking up about depression & mental health in academia, being vulnerable and open on the Internet (good for me or not…), not giving up, teaching or linking people with new ideas, or putting science into terms more people can understand, showing up. And I hope I can make a real contribution to the world. Make a living/keep myself fed, etc. yes, but that is not my sole motive in life…I kind of wish it was in some ways…then the direction would be easier.

Maybe one day the switch will flip and I will simply be able to say without doubt or negotiation, “I am enough”.

I have worked hard to not cast a negative halo. I worry so much about being a ‘cooler’. Holding others back. If anything, I hope that is something I have accomplished, despite this post that’s making me pretty emotional.

Back to trying to learn more. Do more. Be more. Maybe one day the switch will flip and I will simply be able to say without doubt or negotiation, “I am enough”.

Ever on and on.

 

 

 

 

PS- I was excited today about my new planner/notebook…I think I’m really going to like using it. And the #Scinema today, #GradhogDay, made me happy.

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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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