Tuesday, November 08, 2005

On headaches, daylight spendings, and mentors

1. Creeping headache has been off and on most of the day. It's not quite of migraine proportions yet, but I suspect I should go home and take some of that Zimorg, or whatever the hell it's called, that my doctors have been shoving at me. I haven't tried it yet- anybody want to warn me about scary side-effects now??

2. I hate daylight savings time. I cannot wait until it ends in 2007.

Got another rejection letter... I'm not heartbroken, since in a way it confirms that the committees are actually looking at applications now. It wasn't a top choice or even a place I thought I had a good chance with, but. But. It's been such an irritating few weeks, I could really use some good news, rather than the very brief "we have decided not to go further with your application." Oh well. Fortunately my years of writing poetry got me relatively inured to rejection letters. I know that on some level it's just a statistics game, like cloning: you only need one to say yes.

And don't get me started on all the other irritating things that happened today. Let's just say they mostly comprise other people not doing their jobs, in such a way that it has only contributed to my growing headache. And, the headache being what it is, I'm not inclined to expend the energy to fix any of these problems today!

My only good news so far this week: I finally managed to talk to my best friend, after playing yet another week-long round of phone-tag. Yay.

The news from all my friends in a nutshell: our parents are getting old and sick. One has a depressed mother, one has two parents with cancer, one has a parent with Alzheimer's, another has a parent with Parkinson's.

I know I'm supposed to be glad that I have my health, or whatever, but the headache is preventing me from believing it.

3. Someone brought up a good point in the last set of comments about meeting older, more experienced Academic Warrior Women. Here is my experience in a series of stereotypes:

1- the Women Studies professors kick ass, but I never see them. (see also 3 below for why)
2- Bitchy Prof, whose mission appears to be to step on anyone who tries to follow them up the career ladder.
3- Strong Leader Prof, who is too busy writing her grants and paying attention to her own people to mentor me.
4- Nice But Clueless Prof, who looks at me blankly when she asks me how things are going and I try to tell her anything that isn't 100% positive and professional.
5- Socially Inept Prof, who won't even look me in the eye, much less have a conversation with me.

So far, the best I can do is scramble from crumbs, a few minutes here and there, or emails, with #3 up there. Despite numerous efforts to be friendly and outgoing with #5, I haven't made much progress there, because even when I can convince them to talk, they're typically unwilling to cough up anything about their own lives. Although I think some of the things I say do eventually sink in with #4, they either take forever to process in her very slow brain, or she has no experience of her own to draw from to be supportive. Either way, I don't get much out, even though I am still holding out hope that I am at least contributing to her education!

Sigh. I think the headache is winning, so I should probably go home. Anyway just wanted to say thanks again to all of you who are offering encouragement... blogs are so weird since we have this little ethereal community of virtual strangers... but it really does help a lot to combat the isolation.



At 7:18 AM, Blogger Ranger of the West said...

I hate daylight savings as well. You should move to Arizona or Hawaii :)

Sounds like its been a rough go the past few weeks. Keep your head up! Maybe you should go on a vacation?

At 7:39 AM, Anonymous Zuska said...

Oh, bummer about the migraines. I suffer from them too. The triptan drugs - of which Zomig is one - are really wonder drugs for migraine sufferers. You must take them as early as possible when the headache starts to get max benefit. I can't use them because of a conflicting medical condition but my husband uses them and they have been really good for him. In the past I was able to use them and I never had any side effects. Don't be afraid to try, it can change your life, really. But here's some things you should know: women with migraine are at increased risk for stroke. So, you should do things to reduce your stroke risk. Like, don't smoke (of course), get off the Pill if you are on it and can find another method of BC, exercise, etc. and the last one which may seem odd - don't use decongestents. They increase blood pressure and that increases risk of stroke. Don't freak out about all this - just put this in the same category as all that advice you get about eating healthy and exercising. Stuff you can do to lower risks. Okay?

Now, about the appalling lack of mentorship from women profs on your campus: (1) that sucks. (2) it will change when you are a prof and of the same status as other profs, which sort of sucks, but is true - there will be more of them willing to take time to mentor a young prof than a young grad student. (3) Go visit www.mentornet.net. See if you can hook up with some mentoring via that website, or whatever kinds of support you can find there. And do look into that Ms. Mentor book. It can really help.

Hang in there.

At 6:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: Where are the helpful older Xena women?

Well, they're probably pretty busy raising kids, writing grants, driving to soccer games, shoving dirty dishes under the couch, and just trying to hold it all together.

Nevertheless, there are some that do want to be helpful. They tend to join organizations like AWIS (Association for Women in Science). So my advice, as an older warrior myself, is to check it out. They're a national organization and they probably have a chapter on your campus.

My other piece of truly unsolicited advice, hard as this may be, is to try and connect with your peers. No one will understand you as well and be as sympathetic as the women your age who are enduring the same struggles. The older ones don't always want to be reminded of how they got where they are and some are not very sympathetic, especially if they've seen too many graduate students struggling with where to go with their lives.

Hang in there. It is a numbers game, and your number is likely to get called eventually. For a back-up plan, though, consider industry. For women it's a much saner place to work.

At 11:23 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Dear Helpful, though somewhat condescending, commenters:

1. My institution does not participate in MentorNet, so I cannot take advantage of it. Please stop suggesting it, as I am well aware that others find it very useful, but it is completely useless to me.

2. I am, and have been for a while, a member of AWIS. It is also useless to me, as the vast (and I mean, 10:1) majority of members are in industry, at least in my local chapter. Therefore, finding useful academic mentors will not happen there. Worse than that, it has been my observation that the few academic members mostly do not attend AWIS events, or they are of the type that will step on the younger ones. I am not kidding about this, I have witnesses who saw a very prominent AWIS member attack me in front of a bunch of other women, and for no good reason whatsoever. I don't need that kind of crap.

3. Re: connecting with my peers, in case you haven't noticed, there are EXTREMELY FEW women who are actually at the level of senior postdoc looking for faculty positions.

In fact, I am one of the only women from my college class who went on to grad school rather than med or vet school, and one of the only women from my graduate school class who stayed in academic research.

Likewise, the only women I know who want or wanted academic jobs either just got one and are now too busy to keep in touch, much less mentor me, or have since given up and gone to industry, journalism, advertising, policy, or investment banking. No kidding.

I can think of one or two other women who have similar interests that I knew from school, and they are incredibly competitive, not to mention completely different from me in personality. So despite trying, I have concluded that there is little point in trying to be buddies with them.

4. Re: decongestants, not optional for me, at least not until my insurance changes and covers allergy shots. But that is interesting to hear that being on the Pill might make things worse in terms of risk. My doctors certainly don't seem to be aware of that, so I will have to look it up myself and bring them the evidence.

At 12:40 PM, Blogger whathuh said...

RE: the migraine meds etc.
I take zomig and it's been a godsend. I know about the increased stroke risk (if you get migraines in general) but I don't think you need to get off the pill altogether. I was put on a low dose pill when I started getting migraines. There are a billion options for low dose pills and you might already be on one.
RE: the mentoring
I'm begining to think that given the scarcity of women profs, the best options for mentoring are now online. I think I get more out of reading your blog and those of other academic women than I do from the women in my department. Maybe given how busy/unhelpful the older women can be it will take a bunch of us at the lower levels helping each other to make it through. Of course we aren't the power brokers... yet. But any one of us, even non-faculty, could put in a good word for a new candidate to our department. These things add up. Just some thoughts.

At 2:03 PM, Anonymous Zuska said...

I am really sorry that I came across as condescending. That certainly was not my intention. So I deeply apologize for that. I really wanted to be of help.

It sounds like you are in a really frustrating situation. I know what it is like to have a more senior woman scientist be really nasty to you in public, and actually the same thing happened to me once at an AWIS meeting when I was a grad student myself. It's really, really rotten. For me, it felt like more of a betrayal and hurt more than when male profs were nasty to me.

If you can't find any female colleagues at your level, or any female role models above you at your university, then it seems you have to look elsewhere. Are there any decent male graduate students in your department that you can make an alliance with? Are there any decent faculty members in your department besides your advisor that you can cultivate a relationship with? If not, outside your department? I'm talking male faculty here. If the female faculty are too few or have let you down then look for men to mentor you. Some of them are decent.

Regarding those industry women in your AWIS chapter...some of them might be of more help to you than you think. And, you might decide one day that you would like to go into industry rather than stay in the academy. It cannot hurt to explore what it is like to be a woman scientist in industry. It is a bad thing that we do not expose PhD students to any alternate career paths other than that of trekking stubbornly onwards towards the tenured professorship at the prestigious research university.

Well, I hope I have not offended again with these comments. I'm really sorry you are having such a rough time. And really, really sorry about the migraines. But please take a look at the Ms. Mentor book (not the mentornet program, this is completely different). The book can give you advice and insight that it would be nicer to get from a living breathing mentor, but it's better than nothing.

At 2:24 PM, Blogger BotanicalGirl said...

I'm sorry to hear everything has been rough for you lately, and I wish I had a solution for your mentor issues. I realize more and more that my campus and my department is amazingly progressive in terms of amount of female faculty, none of whom fit nicely into your rubric.

You have opened my eyes a lot, pulled the wool off, as far as being a female postdoc these days goes.

The only thing I can think of would be to ask current grad students in your program about the female teaching faculty, and if you hear about someone cool try to contact them. I'm not sure how big your department/program is though. You probably know everyone already?

At 11:35 AM, Anonymous Women Mentoring said...

what a rough time...hopefully things are better now...women mentoring gave me a few pointers


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