Life metaphors and narratives.

I’ve been challenged (keeping the by who vague for now) to write a blog post talking about a narrative, a story I tell myself to help me along as I try to become more of a blogger/science writer/editor/informal science educator of some kind, likely beyond academia, but not necessarily so.

And the challenge is to come up with a positive narrative, one that has challenges and obstacles, but not one that is self-limiting and stifling. I’ve been there and done that narrative, and it doesn’t work well.

Is academia like Shawshank Penitentiary? Yes, it kind of is. And I am trying to crawl through the tunnel out into the clean rain on the other side, and pray I’m not like Brooks, unable to make it on the outside.

For awhile, I’ve felt like I’ve been trying to swim to the surface but I’m being held down by a large squid, each arm an aspect of life that I have to take on, but there are so many of them and each time I take care of one, there’s another one there…hard to get free. Or to go after the squid itself for some reason.

One, more positive, narrative is that I’ve gotten away from is Ian 3.0. Treating myself as software that upgrades over time with all the right skills (of course, I wonder how many of us have software on our computers we don’t use often, or that we don’t use to its fullest extent or become full masters of no matter if we use it regularly or not.

However, the one I’m going to explore is that of running an ultra-marathon, Something I have never done (best I did was a half marathon). It takes training, and grit to do something like that and the fact that I’m still here, after going through a deep depression, still showing up, starting a science blog and spreading the word about it. Hitting publish each week, even if I know each one is not the best work I could possibly do. I hope I’m getting better as time goes on.

I have helped staff an aid station at one ultra-marathon, and it’s the kind of event that relies on having friends and staff to account for racers along their way. I think runners go through more than one pair of shoes, and their friends/staff leave aid packs strategically along the way, at least for some of the runners.

And that is what I need more than anything. Connections with others, and being able to ask them for things/help/encouragement to keep going. And of course, having a staff to track me well along the way would be useful too.

I have been running for awhile, I may be halfway to a finish line that would mean a new job, new life, a better place for me. I am tired. I have a lot of trail to navigate still.

I fear that any step I take towards a new career also means stepping away from having a life outside of work. I hope that’s not really true. I want to experience things outside the world that is the career race and I hope that it’s still possible to explore beyond work. I can’t see them really in opposition, because that will always cause problems.

I hope I have a network of people I can ask things of to help get me to the finish line. I am a lot less hesitant to ask for things, though I still feel like I could do more in that regard. I know I can’t do it all alone and that indeed I am not alone.

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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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