The worst. And the slightly hopeful.

My self-critical voice is still pretty strong. And still works too well.

The joke I use as the founding principle of this blog still rings true to me. I’m exactly how not to be a postdoc, or how to live life. I’ve been trying to do the opposite, or at least try new things the last few years. To some little effect, at least.

I’ve shared my view on the world from a lens of introversion, depression, and hopefully realistic optimism and openness, as terrifying as that is sometimes.

I don’t feel successful, even by my own internal standards. Things are generally better than worse in my own little world, but I am still feel early on in building my career, and yet i’m almost 38. I’m still trying to figure out how to feel like a pro at something. To feel somewhat confident, even in the face of learning new things constantly, or trying to.

I started from where I was. Depressed, anxious, feeling alone in the world, without hope.

Since I started this blog in late 2011, I have much more effectively treated my depression. I’ve tried taking up new hobbies, actually taken days off, and tried to focus on a growth mindset. And practice gratitude and self-compassion.

I tweet a lot. I still find it fun. And this year, I started a science blog which has been a lot of fun, even if it’s starting fairly small. And I feel like I have a career direction I’d like to go in, even if it still seems like a long shot to me. I keep asking, shouldn’t I be further along by now?

I have a vague sense of opportunities that might exist. I say yes a lot more. But then, I feel like I say no a lot too; and possibly in dumb ways and too often from a place of anxiety, rather than feeling excited about something.

I still worry about my energy level sometimes. I feel like the list of “essential” skills is long and I’m still at the beginning of learning, as expert as I might be in some areas. And I still worry I have not built enough effective habits.

Giving myself credit is still hard. Being optimistic (as an “early career” academic especially) is also hard. But I need to hope. Doom and gloom isn’t a healthy place to come from.

I hope I can still improve. I hope life gets even better, though I know there are no guarantees.

The feelings are complex. And as I found with starting this blog, becoming a bit vulnerable, I know I’m not alone. And in the end, that keeps me going.

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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.

2 thoughts on “The worst. And the slightly hopeful.”

  1. Dear Ian,
    Thank you for having the courage to share your experience here, it helps me feel a bit less alone as a struggling, introverted postdoc. I identify with much of the things you write about – self-doubt, pessimism, self-doubt, depression, and did I say self-doubt? I started therapy in November when it became impossible for me to focus for days at a time. It has helped me tremendously. I want to share with you a book that was recommended by my psychologist, and that is helping me when I am in a dark place: “Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind”, by Kristin Neff.
    Take care,
    Christine

    1. Thanks for the kind comment Christine!

      I haven’t read Kristen Neff’s book, but have heard and read a bit about the tenets of self-compassion. I generally really like them, and yet it’s really easy to forget to practice them. At least for me.

      I’m sorry you’re having a hard time; it’s not easy being a postdoc! But it can get better. Know that. And as you know from reading, you’re not alone. I’m at least in a similar boat and have been for too long.

      Anyway, wishing you the best. Self-compassion, growth mindset, and challenging the depressive voice are the biggest things i’ve picked up the last few years of trying to bounce back from depression.

      Cheers,

      +Ian

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