pre-Plant Biology 2014 (#PlantBiology14) post.

As I prepare to head to a conference with my newer mindset (as in not as depressed, experimenting with life more), I’m thinking about conferences, what they are for, who they are for, and what it is I’m trying to get out of attending this one (#PlantBiology14).

Even though I’ve been going to a conference or two every year for my whole scientific career, I’ve almost always felt out of place, not like I belong (hello impostorism!). And like I haven’t really been present enough to take advantage of what is on offer there.

I largely thought that conferences were for PIs (‘real’ scientists; those could certainly be grad students and postdocs) to get together to swap stories of funding, writing, ideas for new or old collaborations, grants, and things like that. PIs always seemed to be writing furiously at their computers between sessions, presumably writing grants? Furiously emailing? Perhaps updating their talk? Getting the latest dispatch from their labs? Analyzing ALL the data? It did seem largely specific to PIs to my eye; not as many postdocs or grad students doing that. I guess that’s why PIs earn the big bucks. Paid to always be (look?) busy and exhausted constantly? I’m sure any PI reading this will laugh at just how wildly inaccurate my projection of what it is they’re up to is; even though I’m a postdoc, I don’t get that great a sense of what actually goes on in a PIs mind.

Poster sessions were the worst. I sometimes would wonder exactly what I was doing there, taking up space, that someone else could actually use to do something actually productive and contribute to the world. I’m strongly introverted. I was (& still can be) shy and anxious. My history of being depressed doesn’t help either; a combination of not wanting to spread my depressed thoughts to anyone else and feeling completely unworthy of existence. I tended to not think highly of myself– still don’t very often though I’ve gotten better at acknowledging that I too, can do decent work sometimes.

Other people do great things (I now count myself amongst the doers, creators and builders of the world; one reason I started blogging– of course that means I am always striving to do more than I have done); I will continue to try and find the good in what others are doing and help them improve their work if I can or help them learn a new thing about the world or point them to a place they may not have been aware of.

Of course, I can discount connecting people to ideas these days because we all have a fire hose worth of information coming at us constantly now and the key skill is to be a good filter for all that information– the conference environment can be overwhelming. Maybe the best I can do is try to ask good questions when people are talking about what they are doing, even though I imagine most things I would ask are probably naïve (but maybe those are valuable too).

That said, it’s hard to be a connector of people to ideas if you aren’t actively interacting with people; especially at a conference where interacting and building community is the main reason for the event (Introversion does not mean aversion to people, FYI). A place where grad students and postdocs can land jobs (or at least start that conversation) and maybe get out of their own narrow confines for awhile. Outside that one conference at the end of my Ph.D. where I found my postdoc position and on that same trip met a girl who I dated for 8 months, conferences have mostly been drab affairs where I become a zombie, not really actively engaged and kind of put off by the crowds of people at booths and feeling largely isolated and not just because of exhaustion; because I couldn’t push beyond my largely mental barriers.

I’m trying to re-frame the conference in my mind. More as a place where good things can happen to anyone (me included). Where you can meet new people and find your ‘scene’ as entertainers like to call it; your group of people you come up with, learn from and bounce ideas off the wall, get feedback, etc. (this happens in science too; clusters of scientists that grow and succeed together in their independent careers; I’m sure these are fascinating Venn diagrams). Where it’s not perfect, but in the chaos, interesting ideas come out, new people are well met. I started Tweeting a few years ago and last year, tweeted up a storm which was a lot of fun for me and I plan to do it again this year. There’s now a more formal social media framework for the conference: the iConnect with Plant Biology team. We’ll be extending the meeting beyond the meeting with The Internet coverage from attendees and interacting online with anyone who’s interested. I met people last year because of Twitter.

I posted a fill in the blank elevator pitch based on the opening of Star Trek the other day. I think it’s not a bad mantra to take into a conference either:

Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 12.00.56 PM The full text, if you don’t know is (no worries if you’ve never seen this before):

“Space, The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its ongoing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”*

Conferences are a place to expand your mind, push your comfort zone, grow some new brain connections with new ideas, systems, scientists and thoughts and importantly, to build the community of like-minded people; plant scientists in this case. While my research contribution is small, I fully intend to connect people, find new places and avenues I haven’t really looked into before and to cover my experiences on Twitter. Of course, I’ll catch up with old friends too. One good thing about going to the same conference for years in a row is just this; you see the people from your ‘science scene’ again and again and catch up (and perhaps incorporate new people into that scene– if you see someone standing alone, invite them into your conversation or just say hello; sure, it may go nowhere, but you don’t find out by ignoring people; cultivate curiosity).

There’s a notion that I even joked about above, that PIs with their heads in their computers kind of takes them out of the conference. I don’t fully subscribe to that; I think that tools like Twitter and other digital media (even just note taking) really are game changers for conferences and scientific ideas to spread beyond the confines of the actual attendees. And even for attendees, digital coverage can help them have a richer conference experience, as one person cannot attend all things.

Mindfulness is kind of a buzzword these days with some good reason. I am going to try and not be blindly mindful, but really actually notice what’s there in front of me and then tweet and photograph (within the rules) the entire thing to help others have an enhanced experience. I am also going to try and manage a blog post or two during the conference, as Twitter is great for some things, but not for longer form thinking like this.

Conferences are for germinating ideas, a starting point for new growth, for interacting with the forest, and pollinating ideas. They’re a leaping off point to new places.

Here’s to a good Plant Biology 2014 (#PlantBiology14) and may we all boldly go where no one has gone before (just know my boldness more likely will show up on Twitter rather than in person).

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*Yes, I forgot the ‘strange new worlds’ clause in my version with blanks. I’m a horrible nerd, more impostorism.

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Let it Go.

Note: Slight trigger warning here. I talk about depression and suicidal thoughts herein. For those who could care less about such things, read on! 

This post was inspired after reading Adam Rubin’s latest ‘Experimental Error’ column in Science Careers. I think it’s one of the posts that makes me nervous to post. I worry that disclosing my (largely) past issues with depression hurts me (even while feeling that literally changing my brain required enormous fortitude and determination on my part). I worry how I probably come off as a whiny and overly sensitive human in a world that does not value sensitivity in any job; I hate feeling like I’m one of those so called ‘orchid’ people…needing fairly specific conditions to thrive (The dreaded response: empathy? compassion? People first? Listening? Learning/education? HAHAHAAHAHA! Most ridiculous things we’ve ever heard of. Get out of this office, we’re about the dollars! //Note: I too, am about dollars on some level, just not to the exclusion of other things; maybe where I differ is wanting to build for the long-term, not the next quarter…something else no longer really valued it seems to me). I realize that the world is full of decent people too. I hope you enjoy this rather experimental essay 

Let it Go.

I want to let go. I want all of us to let it go.

The cold will never bother us if we do. I’m pretty convinced.

Read this and this from Sarah K. Peck and Andrew Rubin, respectively.

We exist in a state of terror as young scientists (or a lot of us do, perhaps some even unaware– the terror can be hard to distinguish from the air we breathe).

We’re frozen with fear.

With the pressure to be perfect.

With the fear of making mistakes.

With the fear that anything but the tenure-track is ‘failure’.

Fearing we’re not one of the super-humans that can ‘make it’ in science.

Vulnerability isn’t allowed (The beginnings of change, innovation, learning, and purpose– not necessarily fabulous wealth/success, but deeper satisfaction in work, definitely).

I spend a lot of time thinking about what makes scientists able to produce high quality work.

The conclusion from my anecdotal experience is a combination of effort, space/time to think, permission to make mistakes, an iterating growth mindset, some autonomy, and an open environment where learning from one another is encouraged and people aren’t afraid to ask for things they need (no, that does not mean always getting them).

And my own watchword here: Don’t become clinically depressed. Learn the signs and if it seems like your emotions have been flattened for a few weeks straight, seek help, nip it in the bud quickly. Believe me you don’t want the feeling that you & the world would be better off if you were dead (in part because you functionally don’t fully see the difference between being alive and being dead), hoping a bus will run you over. That’s not a brain space for doing good science; you can do science, but you certainly won’t be firing on all cylinders. Even now that I’m a lot less depressed, my mind still has those thoughts sometimes. It’s a mental habit I’m trying to get out of still.

Chris Hadfield talks about fear and danger and how to take risks and be prepared.

15-20 years of training in every possible scenario and then you can launch yourself into space. Get started learning the whole system you’ll be working in and you’ll be ready to take chances and put yourself out of this world.

And yet, today’s academic system doesn’t instill that very well (or doesn’t allow the time for that to happen; the long learning phase seems to get clipped off even as experiments get bigger, more technical and more complex).

The work has to get done and yet there seems to be ‘no time’ for training people to do it even though we’re labeled grad students and postdocs; both considered ‘training phases’.

Fantastic mentorship exists and there are people that thrive, but I’m sure we can do better, do better work and improve the scientific enterprise without making a sizable population of participants within it mentally ill (again that does not mean it shouldn’t be hard; science will always be hard work and take effort).

Feedback is often judgmental and harsh, instilling a fixed mindset, believing learning isn’t possible, but that our talent/intelligence is a fixed trait.

Pressure and uncertainty can be paralyzing. One misstep and we’ll be unemployable forever. Nothing but academia is acceptable. Don’t tack against the wind. If you’re not in the lab, you must be wasting time.

And if you can’t do it on your own, don’t bother. Collaborate and be a good citizen, but stand out. Work alone, but as a team.

Being able to learn, problem solve, ask good questions, and perhaps be unleashed to do grow and do great things somewhere won’t happen because you’re convinced you’re an impostor.

Never enough. Ever.

There’s a fog that settles over your mind. You have dead eyes. Helplessness sets in.

I’ve felt all of these things and I’m starting to get to a place where the cold doesn’t bother me anymore.

There’s a space for me somewhere; either in science or not, I don’t know, but it exists and I can rule there, even if it is just me writing for a small audience on my blog.

Let it Go. We’re all human. Fallible and ridiculous creatures.

Take the work, but not yourself, too seriously. Try stuff. Figure out how to do it in small scale first if it’s something new to you that will be big later. And write. Write it all down– take notes.  And don’t be afraid to get your work out there or toss out ideas (guess what, vast majority will be terrible and probably wrong, who cares?).

Always feeling like I did the rational thing hasn’t worked. So I’m trying irrational (to me; often that means leaping without 100% certainty of outcome…obviously I still try to be as informed as possible ).

I adopted a cat a month ago. That makes no logical sense for my life, but I think it was a good decision for the most part.

My joke about this blog has been that it’s about what not to do as a postdoc/academic. I hope it’s helped a few people, mainly me, of course, because I write for myself too (and it has helped me).

Success is not a straight road. It’s a maze with lots of blind turns and dead ends. We won’t all end up in academia, but I’m sure most of us will find satisfying work somewhere, some how.

Let it go. All of us. We’ll likely do better work, help each other more, give better feedback, and not always act so terrified of everything and everyone. Funding is tight, work/life balance doesn’t exist, we don’t know enough to advance to the next phase since you only get hired to do something someone needs done, who can demonstrate they’re awesome in a loud way (never mind if they’ve hastily published crap papers in high profile journals…it’s out there, so they must be good somehow).

I feel passionate enough about studying the ideal knowledge worker that I’d be willing to switch fields and make a study of just how to optimize humans to do science. It’s certainly not a one size fits all formula (e.g. it’ll likely be different for introverts and extroverts), but as with depression, there are likely hallmarks of it as well as individual level manifestations.

Keep going. Get out into the cold. It’s not as bad as you think/feel, we’re wired for survival (take that from a former near-suicidal person). Expose yourself to small ‘dangers’ at first and watch yourself grow. It won’t be pretty. Winter is always coming. Staying in a warm cocoon leads to mere survival whereas the science enterprise not only must survive, but thrive as well (advancement & knowledge is our business). I’m sick of mere survival for myself. Let it go.

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What depression takes from you.

Introduction

As depression recedes into my rear view window, I’ve been reflecting more on just what exactly it took away from my life. Obviously, I was a lot less vital as Andrew Solomon so eloquently put it. And there’s the not enjoying life, feeling lethargic all the time and being otherwise frozen in place unable to muster much motivation (you want to do things even things you don’t feel like doing…but just can’t) or energy for much of anything not to mention the black suicide thoughts.

But there’s one aspect of it that I’d like to write specifically about and that’s the impact on learning and getting experiencing things. I’m not just talking academics either (after all some very successful, smart people also deal with depression who got good grades). My sense is that depression was severely impairing for me with respect to learning new things or feeling like anything I tried represented progress or moving forward. The things I have learned still seem hazy in my brain some how. It prevented connection.

I did a brief Google search for studies on depression and how it affects learning and didn’t come up with much other than the obvious– depression is a factor in people leaving school all together, but for those who stay, they aren’t any less likely to graduate, go onto college, work all of the normal things people do in life; except they’re hiding their depression a lot of times.

It takes a lot of effort to appear normal; depression is isolating and what I often told myself was “I’m keeping this hidden because no one else should have to deal with or see this, it’s just too dark”. So to be able to get up and out the door despite the forceful depressive voice saying “you’re not worth the space you take up” really does take a lot of mental strength. It doesn’t take much to go from functioning to lying on the (often metaphorical) floor. The brain alone uses 25% of the energy we consume and if a good portion of that is taken over by depression, other functions suffer.

Because learning well requires an engaged and vital mind, depression is a huge impairment of that process. The only possible upside is that depressives apparently see the world more accurately than non-depressives who are overly optimistic in their estimates of things. Even though I’m not a depression researcher, I’ll relate what my feeling is for what I’ve lost in terms of learning which of course as someone who believes that learning and education are keys to advancement makes me feel terrible at how much potential I’ve lost over years of being depressed.

Before getting into this more, I’ll just say if you or someone you know is showing signs of depression, get help or ask them to help. No one is alone with depression. I repeat, you are not alone.

In the Brain Pickings review of John Rottenberg’s new book “The Depths” (that I look forward to reading), I ran across this quote:

“Perhaps what we call depression isn’t really a disorder at all but, like physical pain, an alarm of sorts, alertingus that something is undoubtedly wrong; that perhaps it is time to stop, take a time-out, take as long as it takes, and attend to the unaddressed business of filling our souls.”– From Lee Stringer “Fading to Grey” 

For me, learning is one of those unaddressed businesses to fill my soul. So here’s how depression affected my learning.

Less than

For many years and even still now, I felt less than anyone else; everyone else’s advancement was more important than my own, after all, they’re worthy of existence. I wasn’t. Some of this isn’t necessarily depression related; it has to do with people pleasing, perfectionism and the fixed mindset that can certainly contribute to depression, especially if you don’t want to learn. Taking calculated risks was for other people to do, not someone like me. Feelings? Those were for other people too. Mine had to be kept inside.

I don’t deserve _______.

Related to feeling less than is the feeling that I didn’t deserve anything, including knowledge or expanding skills. I have done some of that, but it wasn’t as if I felt I deserved any of it. The great resources available to me to learn new things weren’t for me. They were for the aforementioned people who did & who’d use them to do great things. I didn’t spend money or invest in myself, really. While saving money is good, never spending a dime is not the road to growth, financial independence or a great career. This included simple things like using Evernote or Gmail or anything else. If you don’t get, use and learn the tools of your profession, that’s a very real loss for an individual. It’s not that I did none of it, but it was certainly at what felt like a glacial pace and that’s a problem, especially in today’s world.

The haze

Depression creates a fog over the mind. There’s a flattening of emotions. An emotional connection to a moment of learning helps it stick and concretize in the mind. And even when something is learned or progress is made, in my depressed mind state, it never felt like progress was being made; I hadn’t really learned anything, even if I had at some level. It’s not that there’s no learning, but it doesn’t seem like progress happens and making decisions about what to do with what you learn or even what to learn (having a hard time making decisions is part of being depressed). There’s a fog over everything, a haze that won’t alleviate and it makes deeply experiencing things hard.

Creative flow

The ideal for any creative is to get into a flow state when we’re working on a new idea or just working; independent of motivation to work (don’t wait to be motivated; dive in, even if it’s uninspiring…that’s hard to do but with practice it does happen), the creative mind just gets into a state of flow where time just doesn’t register and you’re “in the zone” just writing, creating, doing. With the depressed brain, the flow state happens rarely. Depression’s narrative is that things will never change. That runs counter to the creative narrative that sees what is and posits what could be. It’s making connections between things that aren’t always obvious. Finding connection doesn’t come as easily with a depressive mindset. Even finding those ideas to connect is harder with the depressed mind.

End

There’s a lot more discussion about mental health and STEM fields and I think that’s a good thing. I hope this post contributes to that by addressing exactly why it’s a problem to have a depressed scientist or other creative (anyone who is depressed is obviously a problem). Wherever the depression comes from; genetics, circumstance, the academic system that appears to cultivate anxiety and depression, it’s a drag not only on the scientific enterprise as a whole, but particularly tragic for the individuals who suffer and don’t maximize their potential.

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Subclone.

Subclone.

In molecular biology, when we cut and paste DNA together and then let the bacterium E. coli replicate and propagate that piece of DNA. The goal is to isolate a single colony that contains the DNA construct of interest, usually a plasmid containing an insert with your favorite gene. This is a case of isolation being a good thing. In science, isolating the thing that’s causing the other thing is often the goal. Get rid of the noise and find the signal. The opposite is true for humans.

I wrote a few weeks ago about feeling isolated. I have been thinking more and more about why that’s a problem for me, specifically (it might seem quite obvious, I realize).

Here’s a list of why I find it problematic:

  • Dealing with stress: I found this TED talk from Kelly McGonigal interesting. Stress can be good for you in part if you think it is and also in part because it can cause outreach to others. The problem for me is that having those immediate people to reach out to don’t exist (yes, I can and do email and talk to my friends who live far away). This keeps my stress mostly bottled up.
  • Energy: I find that even for me, the introvert who needs time alone to recharge, being with people I like and am close to is in fact energizing. If I’m by myself, I find that I get run down more easily, I won’t push myself as much.
  • Determination/Inspiration: If you’re a runner, you may know the phenomenon that running in a group seems to improve performance. It’s simply being around other people that helps.
  • Serendipity: Interesting and sometimes messy things happen when people get together. In my overly isolated life, those things don’t happen as often. Be it business opportunity, dating, whatever, it just doesn’t come along as often. And again, some of this can be done over the Internet. Twitter is full of this kind of interaction, but again, it doesn’t substitute fully for real-life interaction.
  • Lack of feedback: Again, something the internet can help with, but isolation means that I feel like I’m in my head too much and can second guess myself like a champ. And it’s not just feedback that ‘you’re becoming reclusive and weird’, it could be positive feedback as well.

I’m not saying that being alone is a problem all the time, but humans aren’t meant to be isolated. I think ‘Doctor Who’ explores this with The Doctor quite a bit; he’s better off with a companion and can go off the rails without them.

Ever on and on.

 

Scientific fact.

I was talking on the phone with a friend of mine and we were talking about the fact that she’d started her residency and how she’s really feeling like she matters to patients and just as a part of a working hospital trying to help people day in and day out (at least I sincerely hope that that’s the mission of hospitals- if ever there was an industry where people should come before profit…).

Since I compare things, I was thinking about my own career and I don’t really matter in that immediate way. And of course it brought up a lot of old thoughts from years of my life when I truly didn’t think I mattered much to anyone or myself (no that’s not an exaggeration). Now, I had more of a sense that I at least serve a function for other people (and it is important to me to feel useful). I try to help whenever I can. I suggest things to read, I supply facts, I help them find what they’re looking for. I’ll drop just about anything to give someone a hand if I can.

The problem is that it neglects someone who should also be important in my life: me. And I won’t rehash everything I’ve read about taking care of yourself, doing things for yourself, having adventures yourself that are the keys to engaging with other people and having a great life- becoming your own person, I guess is how it’s framed. I’ve intellectually internalized that message and can’t really see much wrong (I worry about being narcissistic and completely selfish, but that does seem unlikely). Getting a pet is the instant solution, I suppose.

I’ve never felt like I have a strong identity or attachment to things I like. There are things I enjoy and identify with, books I like, food preferences, coffee! None of which rise to the level of passion or love, however. I haven’t done enough to really gain those things. I’m pretty passive, not actively making decisions. I think about things before doing them, too much and then the opportunity is gone.

Science is as close as I’ve come I think; but even there, I’ve numbed myself to it (as Brene Brown would put it). I’ve conditioned the expression of joy out of my life- in that sense I’m very Spock-like. I’m not sure exactly how to re-light a fire I’m not sure was ever there, but that’s what I feel it’s going to take to actually go after things that I want (whatever those are; it’s still unclear to me much of the time).

So when my friend said that I matter to myself, I unconvincingly agreed and she instantly told me that I didn’t sound like I believe that. And I don’t. I’ve been doing new things the last few years, things that feel more aligned with what my desires are without going overboard- but maybe going overboard is exactly what I need to do, though I have no idea exactly what that would look like either. Acting on my gut instincts more often? Saying yes to everything? Saying no to more things (boundaries are important)? Jumping into something huge that I have no idea how to go about doing, but having to move forward somehow anyway (yes, this is what life is, but I’d be talking about some project of slightly smaller scope than that)?

Bringing back passion/joy/love for things is really important I think (for work, life, everything); and it has to start with me- being passionate about being me. Enjoying being me. Loving myself. As I’m sure I’ve written in the past, part of my hang up here is that as a scientist, I’m big on having evidence for things; and too often I feel like I’ve come up short in that regard- hypothesis that I matter is rejected, p < 0.05. So as I’ve done with a few other ideas I like to remind myself of, I’m posting this note to myself where I can see it every day:

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Feeling that you matter is a  message that I feel like many people don’t need to hit themselves over the head with like I do (yes, I’m sure it fluctuates and reminders now and again are important, but it’s not even a question most of the time). Being enough is one that I think a lot of people do struggle with. However, despite what my scientific brain might say,  these are facts. Our senses deceive us all the time. What is closer to us than our senses? Our brains. Don’t trust it, either. I’m actually not even sure what the experiment is to show that you matter, or that you’re enough. It’s not a DNA test. It is for things like this that I really like Adam Savage’s line ‘I reject your reality and substitute my own!’. I want to reject my present reality and substitute it with a better one.

I just finished reading Charles Duhigg’s book ‘The Power of Habit’ that I will write more about in this space, I’m sure. Maybe I can make a habit of believing that I matter and that I’m enough as is, though I will never stop learning. I think it will make a huge difference- and not being convinced of the ‘scientific’ fact that I am not enough and don’t matter, because that’s not in all likelihood real science. Anyone want to help me conduct an actual experiment?

Ever on and on.

Grimey.

Frank Grimes and Homer Simpson. ‘The Simpsons’

Set up

This episode ‘Homer’s Enemy’ has been on my mind lately.

In the episode, Homer is put up against Frank Grimes, a man ‘who’s done everything right’, taken all the right steps and moved up into a steady job at the nuclear power plant in Springfield. And Homer sort of lucked into being the safety inspector in sector 7G. If you watch the show, Homer has also had any number of crazy experiences in his life, including winning a grammy when his singing group, the B-sharps, hit it big.

Living in the moment

‘Grimey’ is a very straight arrow, stays on the pre-laid path. He does what’s ‘expected’ by society- education, get a decent job and just do that. Forever. There’s some comfort in that.

Homer is the opposite. Living in the moment, doing what feels good for him in the moment, pursuing what he wants, leaning into the uncertainties of life- in large part because he doesn’t know any better.

I am much more like Frank Grimes. Standard. Straight. Narrow. And decidedly not a risk taker. I wish I was a bit more like Homer- a more competent at his job, perhaps, but someone who lives more in the moment and enjoys his time more…spending more time blogging perhaps, doing more creative things with my time. Oh, and Homer, of course has a family….Frank Grimes doesn’t. It all suggests that leaping in with both feet, while no guarantee, means interesting things will happen to you if you take the plunge. I don’t plunge enough.

Nick Offerman, Ron Swanson himself was on The Nerdist this week and talked about what it is to be a man (really, just a decent human being). Hard work. Empathy. Being authentic. Be humble. Be a lifelong student. And apologizing when you’re wrong. Being comfortable with yourself. Feeling like your work is a privilege. Owning your story. Something I’ve talked about a lot before.

Plunge in

I am trying to plunge in more in my life and enjoy the adventure, rather than hiding myself away. I don’t fully know what that means. But it at least means forcing myself to do the things that I am uncomfortable with. In the lab, in teaching, in life. Which is a lot. Venturing out when I’ve kept myself closed off for so long. It’s hard making it out of the dark forest. I have taken some steps in the right direction I think, though they seem so small and insignificant that I am still feeling like a failure at life. I know I’m still relatively young, but there’s a point where I have to say ‘I’m not where I want’…I just don’t know what or who to ask to change it all. But I’m asking my bumbling, stupid and slow questions, challenging myself in stupid ways and writing…which I’m told is a great way to learn what you think and find solutions to problems.

Bias.

Self talk.

PAST.

I’m no good. I’m embarrassed to even be walking the Earth. I want to get run over by a bus. I want to crawl under a rock and stay there. I don’t want to talk to anyone. Or make eye contact. Or talk to them. Or declare my presence.  I am an impostorAnxiety boils over in my head. I am extremely perfectionist. I am neurotic

Why bother investing in myself? Nothing will work out for me no matter what I do. I question and ruminate on every decision I make no matter how insignificant. 

I don’t love myself. Rationally, I know there are people who care about me, but I don’t  know why. I know I’m better off than many, but still feel awful about it. Truly, the world would be better off without me. I don’t matter. Or count. I’m useless. 

Things can’t possibly change. I’m too…old, set in my ways, don’t know what I’m doing, uncertain, indecisive, asocial…I am wrong. A mistake.

PRESENT.

I am doing more. I am in the arena a little more often. I have accepted my my introverted nature and understand more that it’s not a flaw, just a part of who I am. I am inching my way back up to feeling like it’s OK for me to live life. Doing something. Or at least trying to. I still don’t have a good direction to go in. I am trying to prevent career burnout by doing things for myself that are novel and new. And enjoyable. I am exploring slightly more. And through this blog, commenting on things through Twitter (my tweets made it onto the #Sciquester home page the AAAS had!), emailing people and asking for the things I need more often. I try to do something that will make me uncomfortable every day…I even succeed sometimes.

I am much more open to feedback. A friend of mine- @MalaChakraborti- who has been a huge support to me when I was in my deepest depression wrote this to me recently: 

“You have a pretty strong tendency to qualify your sentiments, and sometimes you go pretty far at the self deprecation part. The reason I’m pointing it out is because I think it no longer really represents your true opinion of yourself in that situation, but has become a habit from a time when the sentiment was stronger.”

I have noticed this myself. When I write, or speak to people, I still come from a perspective that I don’t have a clue and am not confident. While it’s true that I don’t feel I have a ton of confidence, I do try to have a more confident voice. I go back and edit things I write when I see equivocations in my writing whenever I see them. I’m sure I do a lot of that here in this blog (I’m doing it right now…), but this is meant to be fairly quick and informal writing. 

I am taking enjoyment in things a bit more. However, I am not engaged in my work. The idea of doing something else is still strong in my head (this economy scares me still- no more middle class apparently…). I am slowly being swallowed and stifled by my scientific career and feel I need something else to lead a meaningful life (having a significant other is a long standing goal of mine still). I just feel largely lifeless when I’m working. I like science, but the career prospects to stay in it are absolutely dismal. It keeps me up at night sometimes.

I am having more compassion for myself as well. Not that I feel like everything I’m doing is OK, but being kind to myself helps me recover from set backs.

Things I have done so far that make me uncomfortable are actually looking more into my finances, setting up a newish home network, learning and trying new things in the lab, talking more (even though my voice sounds weird when I am more extroverted…and feels like someone else talking entirely), I am using more tools to help organize myself- like doing a weekly review, using Evernote (awesome!), and Unclutter to keep my desktop clear.

I am continuing to learn about myself- reading about High sensitivity (pretty sure that fits me well) and learning more about will power/habit formation and trying to learn good ones. And continue to be more mindful. 

FUTURE.

I want to be bolder. Take more chances. Make more mistakes- and hopefully learn more from trying rather than reading theoretically about how something works. Not over thinking, which is still very much a habit of mine. I would love to just decide something and do it. Right then. And not be so afraid to spend money on things I want because I fear buying stupid things. And of course, I hope a major life change comes soon and I can truly announce the release of Ian 3.0.