Tomorrow.

I recently re-listened to the ‘On Being’ interview with Jennifer Michael Hecht author of the book ‘Stay’ that I read about on Brain Picker. It’s all about making a non-religious based argument against suicide. And there really are reasons to stay. Be assured, your absence will be noticed. I won’t go into all the arguments why here, but it’s true.

Watching the latest episode of ‘Cosmos:ASO’ last night, Neal Tyson walks through the fact that we’re the legacy of all those organisms that struggled for survival on Earth before us. That’s one reason to stay. There are many, many others.

Last week, I casually wrote a Gchat away message talking about an important experiment I had to set up the following day. And it led to this idea for a reason to stay:

Blog Post Line.

 

It’s something I’ve told myself the last week or so and it’s good to remind myself that life, in part, is about keeping on trying. I am doing things now that I couldn’t have possibly done a few years ago and it’s because I stayed; there was a time I didn’t want to.

The future isn’t really written in stone, as much as scientists try to do predictive work; it only applies to rather narrowly defined experiments, nothing like life. So it’s not only saying ‘Stay’, but also to crib one idea from science: to try new things and find those that work; discard those that don’t, and to keep creating, tinkering, interacting, acting, thinking, insert favorite present participle here– we’re only here once.

There is problem within academia surrounding poor mental health of too many people in it– particularly amongst young Ph.D. career path people. The reasons vary, but the added pressures of the highest career uncertainty for Ph.D.s and postdocs now surely is  a contributing factor.

Tomorrow is an important experiment to do, find something new that might work for you and even if things don’t work out, you’ve at least fought in the arena,

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Pitch Perfect.

During my vacation, I got caught up in watching ‘Pitch Perfect’ on the bus. The opening scene is this: projectile vomiting while performing in a high stakes situation. I highly suggest you watch this clip and the movie. It is a lot of fun. It’s a modern day John Hughes movie- and pays homage to one in particular.

You might ask why I’m bringing this up. Pun intended. I’m not an acapella singer (though it is kind of a guilty pleasure to listen to it). I’m not a projectile vomiter most days- though I find it hilarious. What I do have, however, is holding onto tension and being so uptight that I could have the vomiting response. I feel it in the pit of my stomach on a lot of days; just the tension of anxiety and fear that I’m not doing life correctly, that I’ll choke in a big moment.

Of course, in the movie, the projectile vomiting is shown as a totally humiliating event; though it is the most exciting part of their performance. And I have to admit it’d be pretty embarrassing. But going through the pain often makes you stronger on the other side.

The other option, the one I choose more often than not is avoidance/internalization.

Spoiler alert! In the movie, that’s what the character Aubrey (played by Anna Camp) does for the majority of the movie. In another moment though, she just lets it all go…by projectile vomiting again. It’s pretty gross. But afterwards, she’s ready to perform and is much more relaxed and can get out on stage and rock.

I keep waiting for my habit to change- not to internalize/remain really tight all the time, but it’s a hard habit to change. I am not impulsive by nature. I get accused of being too serious all the time. ‘Just relax’ is a hated phrase (if I hear it, I will certainly not relax).

Any professional athlete will tell you that mental preparation is as important, if not more so than physical preparation. To perform well, it’s almost required that you’re in the right frame of mind. That’s not just true on the athletic field, either.

And of course, being anxious means almost by definition you’ve been taken out of experiencing the present moment. The ideal is to get into a state of ‘flow’, where you kind of lose track of time, but are engrossed in what you’re doing whole-heartedly. Tension is gone as is projectile vomiting (barring some sort of food poisoning).

I think many people experience the pattern of having some big project to do, to get done, some big deadline that they hold onto really tightly and obsess over and fret about. Then you’re suddenly done with it and your body releases all the pent up tension…and in my case, I get sick almost instantly. It’s not a healthy pattern. For one, it seems to isolate you from other people; you don’t put out a good vibe (believe me, I know). So you’re a less effective team member. And since almost all work is done in teams now- like an acapella group, that can matter a lot.

How do you subvert tension without projectile vomiting (I know, it’s gross, but it’s really funny to me for some reason)?  One thing is to acknowledge the tension- within yourself and with others…just saying that you’re feeling tense can help you let go of the feeling- breathing helps. It works sometimes. Longer term solutions include adopting habits of meditating, exercise, cultivating a resilient attitude, having a growth mindset and otherwise scientifically (and ancient) practices that really do work. They can all help get into a state of flow so you can perform at your best. Of course, practicing is important too- having healthy habits in practice is a good thing too.

Of course, I still am working towards these things myself (and have made very real progress). In writing the majority of this post I’m sitting in a coffee shop and it took me an hour or so to get into a state of being able to sit down and rapidly type this out. This isn’t a high-tension moment for me of course, so perhaps that’s another tip; find environments that don’t amp up the level of butterflies in your stomach (not always avoidable, but helpful for long peaceful work sessions).

I still get nervous putting my thoughts out into the world as myself; not an anonymous academic (as many do- I think probably wisely…since academia seems to look for any reason to discount people as employable (that might be true in other career areas too). So being open and vulnerable about some sensitive topcis (e.g. mental health) might well be hurting my career chances. But as I’ve written before, if my writing can help people not experience the long hard slog my brain has dragged me through, it’s worth it. I’m an educator first, after all. And I think this is something productive I can do for the world. I hope it highlights more that I am constantly seeking to always improve- to push my comfort zone- while trying to cultivate the feeling of being enough. And I haven’t projectile vomited because of it yet.

Hopefully that means I’m less tense than I used to be.

Ever on and on.

 

Switch

I was listening to the Lifehacker podcast this week. Lifehacker, the site, has changed my life even though it can get a little overwhelming. It’s not possible to do everything they post, obviously, but there are a lot of solid ideas there. Around minute 28, they answer a question from someone who was going to study computer science (smart decision, that) but he was saying it wasn’t really what he wanted to do for a living/career and was wondering about how to figure out what he wanted to pursue.

The answer kind of took me aback even though I pretty much knew what they would say: Try new things, formally or informally. See what makes you excited to be doing (also known as the ‘would you do this for free’ test). Second, meet people (which often happens when you’re trying new things). The part that really got to me (again, predictably- not the first time something like this triggered a gut reaction) was when they all concurred that starting to explore as soon as possible was a good idea as it’s harder to change the longer you wait.

Yes. It is.

They then went through their own stories about how they’d ended up at Lifehacker and all three of them (Adam Dachis, Thorin Koslowski, Alan Henry) have fairly round about stories where they were doing very different things before landing their jobs at Lifehacker, writing tech oriented life tips. They’ve changed careers multiple times and via sometimes serendipitous circumstances came together and they landed where they are now.

Their stories hit me in the gut for a few reasons.

I’m 35- nearly 36. I have not tried many new things until recently. I have not networked with others very well (shy introvert…deadly combo for doing that). Other than surviving, I have not accomplished much in my opinion (Fine, I shouldn’t discount making it through grad school, but plenty of my friends have done that, gotten married, gotten new jobs, and basically out-hustled me). And until possibly recently (thanks to Twitter!), I have not been connected enough to have serendipitous things happen to me and would be oblivious to them if they came along. Being open has not come naturally to me- which probably doesn’t make for the best scientists, and certainly doesn’t favor being prepared to embrace luck (Look at the ‘count the number of ads in this newspaper’ experiment).

I’ve made running a big hobby of mine even though I don’t really like it that much (great accessible exercise, for sure & I’ll be running a half marathon in October). I’ve started brewing my own beer at home (IPA turned out pretty well, I think). I started a blog. I’m trying to learn new things & read a lot more than I used to- including reading more fiction rather than the non-fiction I usually go for.

I forget who gave it, but there’s a TED talk about someone talking about how the 20’s is a key period in anyone’s life and taking it seriously is important (I’m not linking to it intentionally- I’d prefer to forget it exists). Exploring, dating, setting yourself up for the rest of your life, basically (with the sort of implication that if you don’t do it then, you’re kind of done, game over, screwed for the rest of your life. Obviously I can’t believe that or I’ll quickly return to very depressive thinking).

In college (even before that) and in my 20’s I didn’t exactly do much actively (Again, shy & introverted- both making me think something was fundamentally wrong with me). I fell into some great friendships. I didn’t really date until I turned 30. I was rigid. Closed off. I was decidedly a homebody- even still, I rarely go out (I’m writing this on a Saturday night). I spent most of my time trying to work. What else was there? Of course, that burned me out, kept me pretty depressed and is something I’m still recovering from (it’s still a good sign that I’m fairly comfortable relating this story to people on the internet- hopefully to help them not go through the same thing).

I recently started in on two new books (making for a total of 3 I’m reading at once): Aisha Tyler’s “Self-inflicted Wounds” and Richie & Natalie Norton’s “The Power of Starting Something Stupid”.

I just started both, but in Aisha Tyler’s book, the idea of a self-inflicted wound is that it’s something that transpired that you clearly did to yourself. It’s something that you can’t blame anyone else for (on her podcast, guests often tell ridiculous drinking stories for this segment). The other idea in a self-inflicted wound is that these are stories that you learn something from too, even if it’s as simple as “I’ll never drink like that again.”

A self-inflicted wound is failing up, failing to success by f$%@ing up, learning and not quitting. And there lies one of my problems. I’ve always feared screwing up and so avoid it as much as possible. It’s probably the worst thing about being a perfectionist (perfectionist, shy, introvert…I’ve been doing something about the first two, the latter I’ve embraced thanks to “Quiet”).

My own self-inflicted wound story would involve the feeling of having no agency to do much of anything, feeling like I was waiting for permission to do things or waiting for things to be perfect. These seem to be chronic self-inflicted wounds that lasted for decades. Is this a self-inflicted wound resulting from low self-compassion? Depression? Not getting it into my head that taking chances and trying things is the way to get ahead in life- and even if you fail, you learn and move on?

The Norton’s book is more business oriented and is about how most of the successful businesses we hear about actually started as “stupid” ideas; ideas that won’t go away, that you want to pursue, but hesitate because of time/money/education (experience) constraints you feel are preventing you from proceeding, that you hesitate to take the leap on, that others tell you is crazy to go after sometimes. Guess what? Those kinds of “Stupid” ideas are where innovation comes from. And hesitating is deadly. We’re only hear once and deferring life/dreams until conditions are ‘ideal’ means you’ll be waiting for a long time.

I had the deferment mentality for years and am now trying to shed it (too late?). I’m trying not to be discouraged by the fact that I’ve wasted a lot of time in just figuring out what means enough to me to pursue as a “Stupid” idea- I’m still not really sure what lights me up like a Christmas tree (beyond the frivolous- talking about certain pop-culture franchises, e.g.).

As a postdoc in academia, it seems that we are often actively discouraged form pursuing ideas that we feel might be fruitful because current funding is rather conservative (you often have 2/3 of the data for a given grant done before you actually get the funding for it….). In some labs, you just do what the PI tells you without question (not my situation, thank goodness, though I definitely have guidelines that I do think are important). And of course, does any new ground we break have a big impact? Most of the time, it doesn’t (I feel this can cause disconnection/feelings of pointlessness about our work). It’s a basic contribution to what will yield practical results 50 years hence. It’s hard to be that patient and it’s well beyond any conceivable business cycle.

There’s little thought put into attaining a satisfying life in science (maybe this occurs more when you talk to individuals, but as a whole culture, it seems to be a discussion that’s only starting to be had). It’s about the research. The humans doing the science are secondary.

I do love science and what it can do (it does light me up), but I also struggle to see what my place is in it anymore (I do like communicating it to others as evidenced by my tweeting the recent conference I attended). I don’t know what to switch to (the Tenure Track faculty thing still seems like a very remote possibility). And any steps I do take towards exploring seem very small (I know, any steps are good, but patience is wearing thin in me). So I’m still waiting for a stupid idea to strike me- possibly that will be the real launch of Ian3.0 (currently, my stupid idea is to blog about how I’m trying to adopt much better mental habits and otherwise take care of my mental health- which I hope will help others, though it often seems to me that most people have this sorted out better than I do).

I’m trying to get to the bottom of why I haven’t been fully engaged/disconnected from life. What has been my hesitation with diving in? Perfectionism is one big reason. I am shedding that and just move forward when things are ‘good enough’ (I started this blog in part to write things fairly quickly and post them- and even if my mind is telling me ‘this could be so much better’, it’s going to have to be good enough for the time I’ve given myself to write a post about once/week).

The #sciconfessions on Twitter this last week has been great at bursting the bubble that other scientists are perfect. We are human and we mess up. A lot. In part that’s because we’re trying to do brand new things, testing new hypotheses. Trouble-shooting is hard and we’re trying to be creative, innovative, and explore All of which involve trial and error. We’re doing our best, just like everyone else. You don’t have to look hard to find out that the process of science works at making progress.

However, it never seemed to me that fellow scientists weren’t perfect (or at least vastly more competent than me) until recently. It seems to me that my colleagues are all really solid, intelligent and more knowledgeable than I am. However, I now pretty plainly see that that’s not the case (don’t get me wrong, I’m still a complete dumb ass in many situations). I still need to upgrade my skills (who doesn’t?), but only just well enough to get what I need to do done before moving onto the next thing.

As Norton says: Live to start. Start to live.

I’m still fumbling about for that “Stupid” idea to devote my time to/start. However, I do feel like I’m moving again, as I’m sure I’ve said multiple times. I am largely sick of being a postdoc (probably not uncommon these days & may be by design) and if your first dream gets deep-sixed, what do you do next? How do you take your scientific CV and translate it to a whole other endeavor? Why can’t I just break through that mental barrier to see possibility, to start living in the present and not defer life any more than I have? Most of us postdoc types will not end up in our first choice positions (i.e. TT faculty), so hustling, finding a new niche to occupy in another place or self-starting something on your own is going to be where we find careers- I’m just not sure where that is, but I’m trying to cultivate an exploratory and entrepreneurial spirit.

I come back to Conan O’Brien’s 2011 Dartmouth Commencement Speech often. He talks about shooting for one dream (that for him was hosting “The Tonight Show”, which he did, briefly, but then had to make a turn into something else). He talks about how dreams can morph over time and that that’s OK.

So here’s to living now. Doing something now. Start something.

Something I’ve had knocking around my head the last few weeks (and been trying to figure out the right punctuation for it) is this from comedian Tig Notaro:

“How about now? How about right now.

The End (of 2012). 

Surreal.

Down the rabbit hole

I’ve been reminded lately that science is largely done for fun by the people who choose to do it for a living. Lawrence Krauss talks about taking joy in science, something I didn’t do very well at all throughout my Ph.D. or my postdoc. Being serious all the time was my demeanor a lot, actually. I’m that person who gets told ‘you’re so serious’ all the time. I ceased to see the fun part of science which really can be thought of as going down the rabbit hole like Alice to Wonderland. Though the original ‘Through the Looking Glass’ wrold is a dark place, there’s also some whimsical and interesting things- it’s an adventure and involves risk, stepping out your door can be a dangerous business. Assuming your’e open to what’s out there.

Openness to possibility is key to scientific progress. Though the House Science Committee Chair seems to disagree with this notion and thinks science is about what are perceived priorities that will immediately enrich our economy. While some things are fairly obvious to fund and invest in, how do you account for getting the World Wide Web out of CERN? That’s a happy accident that permits me to transmit this to readers. All because of a large scale science experiment discovering fundamental (likely useless) structures of the universe. Lasers were similar. Electromagnets. Who knew that specific and certain plants produce compounds that work as medicines (maybe intuitive as people have done this for thousands of years, but there’s likely a lot to be discovered out there still). A lot of discoveries come out of stydying the ecosystems and identifying what’s there. how it interacts with everything else and no immediate economic benefit from that until it’s discovered. The initial discovery of microbes was useless too.

Play

Science is full of stories where basic discoveries are made all at once by several people at once because they’re ready to be made due to the studies of previous generations. Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace discovered the process of natural selection and they were simply observing the nature and there was no practical application in mind, though it turns out that evolution is quite important in unifying all life on Earth and means we can use things learned in one living system to others. And even transfer genes between organisms via recombinant DNA technology.

Scientists need to have a sense of play. This example of studying cicada wings is a good recent example of just how something seemingly pointless to fund research into, but turns out could lead to some very useful things for people. Wonder is essential.

Taking things seriously all the time can lead to burn out. I’ve written about it before. In fact, that’s a big theme in a lot of this blog; I am writing to hopefully help other scientists avoid the mental doldrums I found myself in and am now, after many years, climbing out of.

Leap

The funding for scientific research is probably the worst it’s ever been. This is forcing young scientists, postdocs and graduate students particularly, to consider alternatives. Science is hard for a lot of us to let go, another theme of this blog. Where do we leap to? I recently met Kat Alexander, someone who quit her Ph.D. program and her story resonates with me, even though I haven’t done that yet. It would seem to be gut wrenching. Many of us have truly been pursuing science since we were little kids. And now, it’s a little hard to talk to advisors about alternate paths. And for me, it’s hard to know when to make a clean break in terms of my research. Rep. Smith’s proposal would make it even harder to get traction in the scientific world.

Fake-it

I was recently in Washington, DC for a friends‘ wedding and went to the National Gallery’s ‘Fake It’ exhibit. It examined the history of photography and how from the beginning, photographers were manipulating images in all sorts of ways. Sometimes for artistic purposes, sometimes to highlight societal issues, and sometimes to fake real events. All before we had Photoshop software. Studying the photographs, it was sometimes very hard to tell what was manipulated. The surface belies what is actually there. It’s similar with scientific grant proposals. Many sound ridiculous on the surface (why would anyone even care about that!?), but are actually quite profound. Even grants that are designed to find disease treatments sound a little esoteric in some way.

Scientists push the boundaries of knowledge, like the peripheral vision of an eye where things are just seen. Stars seen with peripheral vision often disappear when you look right at them. This is due to how the different light perceiving cells in the eye optimally see dim light at the periphery and bright, color vision in the middle. The goal of science is to bring those seemingly hidden stars to full light, so everyone can see the world as it is. And when those dim stars are fully illuminated, science is moving onto the next frontier, the new periphery.

Rep. Smith doesn’t seem to understand that. If NSF grants are submitted to Congress for review after they’re approved in the grant review process, it won’t just be social sciences that are defunded. I am guessing that Rep. Smith is not a believer in climate change- so why would we fund research into it if he had his way? Similar with Evolution. I know not all Republicans hold those positions, but many in Congress seem to- it’s not hard to find examples of anti-science Republicans.

There are more than enough real scientific problems to solve and novel systems to explore them. Funding could increase somewhat so we can make even more discoveries, have more accidental applications come from it and enrich people’s lives. I want to spread what scientists learn about the world and educate the public. It’s F$%^ing amazing that we landed the Curiosity Rover on Mars, as one example. Humans like stories and what scientists do is tell the story of nature and document just how they uncovered those things, and give credit to those whose work theirs is based upon. Scientists are starting to get better at telling their stories in engaging ways and disseminating research that was funded by the tax payer back to that tax payer, but much more needs to be done.

It is extremely competitive, no grant is a shoe in today. Between the competition, the lack of jobs- private sector and academic in STEM (arts too) fields- it is no wonder that many scientists want an alternative, or are getting anxious about their present. The current system hasn’t really trained us for alternatives, partly by design and partly because scientists tend to be very focused individuals who have been set on pursuing science from an early age. The social science grants Rep. Smith objects to probably do have real relevance, it just isn’t obvious on the surface.

There are certainly reforms to the science funding system and the academic system that would be welcome. This just isn’t one of them. Try again.

Ever on and on.

Reaction.

I had this interaction on Twitter and am going to write my internal reaction to it- for a short conversation, there’s a lot here:

New Twitter follower! (always exciting!).
New Twitter follower! (always exciting!).

Stay small.

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is my tendency to stay small. Not be bold and out and daring and dare I say it, extroverted (I’ll never join the dark side!). And this interaction with Summer demonstrates that conflict in my head. I’m self-deprecating in a lot of contexts (nearly all contexts), but almost never talk myself up or market myself. And it’s pretty clear that I’m excited to have a new reader and also really uncomfortable that I have a new reader. I want to stay in my own little (probably delusional) world. At the same time, I’m working on pushing my comfort zone as I write about so often here.

Tension.

As Summer points out, postdocing exacerbates things. She’s not the only one to think that. This was published in the Chronicle of Higher Education this week talking about the recent era of stress, depression, anxiety, etc. that Americans seem prone to these days. There are definitely proximate causes to this; the recession particularly comes to mind- and the huge gap in income inequality that’s arisen the last few years. However, I do think the current climate in academia, especially those who are in a transition state- postdocs- have it particularly bad in terms of anxiety just now (no, we don’t work in mines and we’re not slaves, and yes we could all be a lot worse off). However, there is something hard about being a postdoc in 2013 that lends itself to mental torture (anxiety and depression, particularly).

Let me state at the outset of this that I think competition in science is a good thing- ideas competing works. However, I think in the present time, the competition is too intense- for faculty positions, industry jobs, grants. When grants come back with excellent scores and are not funded, it’s a sign that the competition is too intense. While I’d love to see a bump in funding for research, I don’t think that will happen, nor does it solve some of the structural problems of how science is done in the US (possibly the world- I can only speak to where I know).

Scientists at all levels feel the tension as funding cuts occur, pressure to publish increases, biology- and science- get bigger making many of us who do ‘small science’ feel obsolete even if big biology can’t address specific questions that we can (not to mention that small science is still needed to confirm the broad conclusions of big science). Current postdocs are caught in the middle of all of this. Pressure to publish is a immense (quite possibly the reason for the uptick in publications that don’t hold up well, or are simply wrong).

I think most of us got into science when we were young- very young….something about the world fascinated us or we had encouraging parents or maybe it’s partly genetic- I don’t think it’s an accident that many of us aren’t good with the socials because we focus so much our areas of interest- we’re nerds; even prominent scientists/science communicators have their awkwardness about them (I’m looking at you Neil deGrasse Tyson). And now that we’ve pursued the path to professional scientist, we can’t see the next step and seeing the scientific enterprise up close has made some of us pretty disillusioned. We also grew up with the message that ‘learning science and math will lead to success! That’s where all the jobs are!’….only now, not so much. A lot of smart people have written about why this is and problems of the wrong incentives in the system .

The view of science that we had (SCIENCE IS AWESOME!!! and always will be) is running up against the reality that science is expensive, there are few jobs and little money in going into a science career unless you happen to make the next big discovery or are otherwise super-human.

Hours.

We all work long hours- no scientist I know is familiar with the 40 hour work week- that doesn’t exist in science as far as I can tell (even those with families!). 50 hours or more…be in lab as much as possible doing experiments that of course will all work on the first try (ha!) because they might satisfy some curiosity we have- and scientists are curious- but more and more, it’s really not clear why we do what we do; will it lead to a satisfying career/life? Many women in science say no, it isn’t and so there’s a gender imbalance, particularly at the faculty level, because women choose to have a life beyond the lab (there should be no question that women can do science & math- they can, and do). More men I know are increasingly feeling the same way (I’ll raise my hand here). Going into science is a stupid, stupid idea (and to think we’re considered ‘smart’). We want to contribute to the world and make it a better, more knowledgable place- most of us would do this even if we didn’t get paid (we’re passionate).

This is where I’ll insert that scientists and many other creative types are often introverted. Introverts often aren’t nearly as motivated by money- in the case of scientists, we just need to know answers to things.

Sticking to it.

It’s hard to encourage younger scientists to stay in the field- why teach a young person science…we don’t need more scientists. My own answer is that I want to teach people to be scientifically literate and critically think about the world, but not encourage them to go into science. And it is worse now that it was before. PIs who say it’s always been hard are right. It has. But it’s worse now. More postdocs, fewer faculty jobs, fewer industry jobs, less funding. None of us are perfect and we haven’t been trained to do much else but solve scientific problems (OK, that’s pretty cool, but still a hard sales pitch to anyone in any other field I think).

It is hard to work those long hours, and for me, who’s single, delaying getting a life…again and again because I feel like I have a brain disease that makes me insatiably want to stay at the bench trying to get that one thing to work. To even have a shot, we work long hours for low pay- and try to be smart about what we work on and when, but there are no guarantees- we’re all forging new territory. On his Star Talk Radio show, Neil Tyson paraphrased ‘Academia is loving something more than you love sex’. There might be something to that. There is only so much time we can work though (at a minimum, we need to eat and sleep).

It’s been hard to force myself out of the lab to do things that are fun- or have nothing to do with work at all. Hobbies! Being well rounded helps. And I’m just now rounding things out after learning the hard way that burn out is a very real thing.

Om.

To sum up, it’s no wonder that postdocs are depressed and anxious these days. A temporary job that is on soft money makes it hard to put down roots. Increasingly, it seems that no matter how much we do, it’s not enough. The ‘War Games’ conclusion comes to mind here- ‘The only way to win is not to play’. I think a lot of postdocs feel this way- that no matter what we do, how hard we work, how stellar we are, we won’t be among the 3 tenure track faculty that will be hired in 2013.

Now maybe it’s not as grim as all that, but it appears that way. All my friends who aren’t scientists are married, seem to have good lives and actually have time for their significant other. I know some scientists who have that too- though like the theme in most spy shows, work-life balance is a constant issue. Scientists have to fight hard against the pressure to work all the time in a way that my non-scientists friends seem to not have to do (or not have to do as often).

I think I’m done. Going to go meditate and get to bed. I can at least do oen good thing for myself tonight.

Ever on and on.

Present.

Present.

I had to present the department seminar today, the journal club of the plant labs, but postdocs present our current work. 

I have a lot of pain associated with the last few years as a postdoc. I’m trying not to dwell and I put together what I could in the time I had. But didn’t have much time to rehearse, which is really a problem for me. 

So when I went up to talk, I was nervous. I talked too quickly, I felt incoherent and on auto pilot. I felt completely disconnected from the audience, who were more than kind enough to listen to me.

Part of this is content related- I am not engaged with it, but I’m trying again, with all aspects of my life. I’m just not connecting well.

I wasn’t present in the moment. Something I struggle with even when I’m not speaking in front of ostensibly friendly audiences (I always feel on trial- even if that’s not the case). 

I felt like a stand up comedian bombing on stage. Comedians like to talk about their bombs once they get to a certain point. I guess I just haven’t reached it with presenting my work, or presenting at all. I do need to do it more often.

Present..

I still feel too often like I’m a mistake- an embarrassment of a human being. So whenever I’m in front of people or talking to them,  I have a high level of self-consciousness. I’ve felt that way for so long, I’m not sure how to change it even though I’m really trying to move past that mentality.

I am trying to show up. Be present. Do my work. And working on being compassionate to myself. 

That last part is probably the key to unlocking a lot of good things in life; passion for work, better relationships all stemming from actually liking myself. Which is a feeling I haven’t had for a long time. Be a presence.

Present…

Will I ever put things together and figure out how to get the true presents of life? Not stuff, but normal relationships, a meaningful job, a significant other, etc. Will I declare my presence here and do things because I want to, live in my own authentic way and not worry what others think. Not try to be invisible. Not have to be perfect.

Declaring that it’s OK for me to assert myself is a big step for me. Not feeling guilty. Blogging about things that matter. Learning something new every day. Being mindful. 




Be present.