Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Use your anger.

Inspiration comes in strange packages sometimes.

All this week I've been frustrated, depressed, and generally feeling pretty hopeless. Things at work are going slowly, and I have been away from the bench doing what feels like thankless, unproductive paper pushing and networking that may lead to just a lot of loose ends.

But my boyfriend has been my unfailing support, who will take me out for a beer and a steak sandwich and venting when I really need it.

And last night I got inspired from a strange source.

I have this friend. We will call her Bizzy. Bizzy is a little bit older than I am, and not doing the traditional science route anymore.

And I always feel Bizzy is trying to push me to quit. She's almost evangelical about it.

Part of me wonders if I shouldn't get rid of people like this in my life. I have one friend who cuts off all ties to anyone she deems Too Negative. That's a bit extreme, I think, though I understand why she does it.

Part of me thinks, well if I can't hack it, at least I know that Bizzy will never judge me if I leave academia, she'll congratulate me!

But what annoys me sometimes is that Bizzy is not a great listener. Bizzy has never once asked me what I work on, and I have never been able to get her to listen to even the 30 second version of my One Big Idea, much less What Cool Research I'm Doing. I'm not sure I've ever gotten a full, uninterrupted 30 seconds of speech into one of our so-called 'conversations.'

I figure it's good practice to learn how to get people like this to listen, or at least hear the 3 second point I'm trying to get across. And in general, I like her. Better to practice on someone I generally like.

aside: (I have another friend, we'll call her Missy, whose lectures I'm finding harder and harder to take, since in addition to being a bad listener, she's incredibly insensitive and clueless.

Missy's latest news was bragging, and not in a cute way, about her boyfriend. Who is such an Amazing Postdoc and Gifted Scientist that we should all be impressed, or something, at what a catch he must be. Stupid bitch! What on earth makes her think we want to hear her assessment, based on not having any clue whatsoever, that he is somehow a better or more deserving scientist than, for example, yours truly or anyone else who was present when she was saying this?)


So Anyway. Yesterday when Bizzy asked how work was going, I said "I'm feeling frustrated." Just that. I couldn't have gotten more than that out before she picked up her usual lecture at the usual starting point.

As usual, she ran with it. Bizzy has plenty of suggestions for other things I could do and how much I would like these other things better than research.

I don't think she means to insinuate that I can't hack it, but my knee-jerk response is that she must think I'm an idiot. I know it's not personal: Bizzy thinks that anyone who would stay in academic research with no job security or faculty position in sight... is crazy.

Well I must be crazy, because it pissed me off. And that was just what I needed, at least yesterday. And it got me through today. It's stupid, but it works. I will definitely take anger any day over depression.

And then I laughed, because on a whim I looked up my horrorscope online, and it said I should be more ambitious right now.

Me? More ambitious? Really? I should?

So for now I am fueling on my favorite sustenance:

I'll show YOU (motherfuckers).

To quote our President, they just better not misunderestimate me.

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At 8:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a sometimes fan of yours, but today's entry was a bit too much. You better hope your "friends" don't read your blog. Maybe some of this would be better written down in a non-public place.

At 3:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Ms. PhD,

Cut your friend Missy some slack. People brag about their significant others (or their children, or their siblings, etc) ALL THE TIME, without having any clue about what they're saying. Although its annoying at times, you shouldn't take it as a personal insult toward your own work and life. Maybe you should change the subject when she does this, and start bragging about your boyfriend.

Also, keep up the good work. This blog is fascinating. I don't always agree with everything you say, but it is nice to see a blog in which someone really understands what its like to be a postdoc. And thanks also for the advice. Things have gotten better for me (I'm the one who wrote about the instructor-dominated lab). Not perfect, and I'd still love to bail on academia, but maybe I can handle it for a couple of more years.

At 10:58 AM, Blogger Breena Ronan said...

Whatever! I disagree with the first comment, I think you post was right on target. Sometimes people giving unwanted career advice should listen more and talk less. I frequently feel frustrated when people who don't know anything about what I'm doing start going on and on about what I should be doing. Not many women admit to being ambitious and we need more ambitious women in science. My only suggestion is that you might think about talking to your friend and letting her know that it doesn't feel good to you when she does that. She probably doesn't realize what she's doing.

At 5:10 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Thanks, Breena!

I suspect that telling her what I want to tell her- that she has no clue what she's talking about because she hasn't been through it- would just make her really defensive and she would stop, but probably either
a) only temporarily or
b) never want to talk to me about career stuff ever again.

(a) wouldn't help much, and I'm not sure if (b) would be so bad, but I'm still debating that.

She's one of those people who has been helpful despite her irritating tendency to be snobby about some things, so I don't want to totally burn that bridge unless I'm really on my last nerve, and even then it would be smarter to be careful about tapering things off rather than starting a war.

I know she doesn't mean to be, you know, downright offensive, and probably doesn't realize how she sounds- my family has done this to me for years, but in a slightly different way. I think I've got them somewhat trained, finally... or maybe I'm just lucky that they don't know enough other scientists to be constantly comparing me or my work to everyone else & their work. Lord knows they did that constantly while I was growing up.


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