Being seen.

I was getting my haircut for the first time since Christmas, a lot longer than I usually go. And the woman cutting my hair was new to me– I usually go to Supercuts generic 4 digit number store and get my same basic haircut I get every time…shorter on the sides, slightly longer on top, short bangs, rounded neckline, basic stuff. She did her thing, finger length on top, but as she moved to the trimming my sideburns and my hairline, I was looking in the mirror and thinking “something’s not right”. I ran my hand through my hair, it was still really long on top. My usual habit in these situations is to just think “it’s fine, I can live with it” and not say anything. My haircutter saw my apprehension as I looked in the mirror and asked if she should take more off the top. I eventually said yes after some uncertainty as The Beatles “8-days a week” started playing.

As she continued to cut my hair, I happened to be looking in the mirror as she went and slowly, yet quickly, I emerged. Where the weird looking haircut had been before, I was there. The chorus of the song came on. And I nearly started to cry. Or laugh. Both maybe. This is me in 2015:

2015-02-17 19.51.19j

She finished cleaning me up as the song ended, and I continued to try to hold myself together as I paid and left to head home…feeling seen. And it’s not the only way. My post this week over on The Quiet Branches on the discovery of cytokinins garnered me some comments and emails from people.

I’m not perfect. And I’ve gotten in my own way more ways than I can count. I’m in the middle of a crazy month where I’ve largely abandoned a lot of self-care and just going, going, going. And trying to built systems that work for me while also growing, and yet also staying constant in some way.

I’ve been thinking about successful people this week. Something that is often seen, as in the case of Folke Skoog who’s lab discovered cytokinins is that they were successful in other areas of life too. He was an Olympic runner in the 1932 Olympic Games. Or a professor at my alma mater who’s a chemistry professor and plays in a punk rock band. I’d take success in one area…let alone several.

I know success is defined by the individual. And in that I have made it through to better manage my mental health, I feel successful, but I keep thinking I need more. I want to be able to ask for things more. I keep also thinking about who my models for success are. Most are entrepreneurs, reporters, story tellers and full time writers. Scientists are there too, but maybe less. I love the creative, the challenge (even if it’s exhausting at times), teaching, and connecting others with ideas. There are personal life goals too. Getting to my definition of success from where I am still seems insurmountable some days, but I see hints of real progress too, even if it’s taking a long time. I hope I can bring a sense of urgency and do as much as possible on my list. I am helping a friend conduct a survey of plant scientists gathering career desires, impediments, and stories from their work lives. I hope it’s useful to the plant science community, but I hope even more that it’s helpful to me in some way.

I hope 2015 will be a good year seeing me answer questions, get work done, play, have fun, laugh, and even if it’s scary, be seen. And if there’s a way I can help you have a better 2015, ask.



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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