Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A less edited version of myself.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to have some kind of outlet, so that as I am told to conform, conform, conform at work, I can continue to be ME ME ME somewhere else.

I was pretty un-selfconscious about starting this blog, but then the trials of Botanical Girl getting outed in her department and other bloggers sharing their various tracking techniques have made me somewhat more concerned for remaining anonymous. Which makes it less fun.

See, there I go, I just started to edit that last sentence frag, but it's hard to do the Allen Ginsberg first-thought/best-thought method of writing when you're contantly on the backspace key correcting your smaller mistakes... it's easy enough to just keep going and take out anything incorrect or otherwise, you know, personalized.

Lately I feel like a shell of a person, probably because I spend too much time worrying about my image at work. I dress differently than I'd like to, keep different hours than I want to, and try to watch what I say to everyone, all the time. I edit emails over and over until I'm sure they're short and to the point and don't contain anything that could be perceived differently than how I intend. And I hate all of it. I've dropped most of my hobbies for lack of time and energy, leaving very little of anything I enjoy or identify with...

One of the things that worries me most about the academic lifestyle is how you're supposed to be well-rounded in some ways, but in science it's pretty much impossible to really be good at anything outside of work if you also want to have a personal life of any kind. The people I know who have one major activity- their family, or a sport- seem to manage okay, but add even one more thing onto your plate and you get divorce and sports injuries instead.

Sigh. I never wanted to be one of the people who had a 9 to 5 job and then some lame hobby horse activity in the evenings or weekend warrioring, but the older I get, the more I can see why people do that. Separation of church and state. And a chance to be something other than a cardboard cutout imitation of who you wanted to be when you started out.

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At 3:37 AM, Anonymous Ontheoutside said...

> it's pretty much impossible to really be good at anything outside of work if
> you also want to have a personal life of any kind

I think what you describe applies not only to academe, but almost any other white-collar full-time working job.

Once anybody is pulling a full-time workload, generally it's difficult to pursue any other interests. Academe is a little worse for it because, generally, the people who work in the field work more than the average number of hours per week. Therefore, less free time to play with, to learn with.

That said, academia is _meant_ to embrace diversity. At least that's what it says on the tin. I know fine well that it's different once you're on the inside.

You're going to be in full time work for the rest of your working life, unless you find a way to make money. And we all know that earning money by working a 9-5 is not the way to make money. You have to make your own space and have people accept _you_, not the watered down version, NOW. Or you'll spend the rest of your working life feeling this way.

I make my working day easier by deliberately not being too careful with my emails (internal ones, anyway), or about how I talk (I'm one of the few natives here), or about how I dress (t-shirt and jeans is professional enough for me many days, and that's who matters). It makes my life that little bit easier, particularly because my colleagues are bland beyond belief. At the end of the day, it's the quality of my work that matters to everybody else.

Unfortunately, I have no real solution for this nagging feeling. But you're certainly not the only one to feel like this... :-)

At 3:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, I think it's good to try and purse a hobby outside of work. It's a good way to "shift gears" and let your science-mind relax a bit. Here's an article about scientists and their attempts to pursue balance in their life.

At 5:01 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

At the very least, always glad to hear I'm not alone.


Interesting, the article you link to about balance only talks about male scientists and men's health. That's actually pretty astounding. Where do they get off doing that?

I'm especially amused because it was written by a woman. What are we to assume, that she's not a scientist and didn't realize there are female scientists, too?

Or that women scientists aren't allowed to have balance, while men are?

Or that men's health, being somewhat more precarious than women's (we are the hardier sex, after all), justifies encouraging them to be more balanced? And women are just supposed to tough it out (because we also have to work 10 times harder to get the same jobs)?


At 4:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The pressure on postdocs to publish publish publish as well as to start taking on organisational tasks (supervision, seminar organisation, grant applications) does make it very difficult to have a life outside the office. I had a major injury a couple of months ago and that's provided the first real incentive for me to get out of the office and do some sport - because if I don't I am going to be a physical wreck by the time I get faculty, and I don't want that! I'm also trying very hard now not to turn the laptop on in the morning before leaving for work...all small steps, but there is no other way. I think the situation is worse in academia (I had a pretty intense job before my PhD but never felt I had to work all the time) - mostly because of the short term contracts, two body problems, and so on.

At 1:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

" And we all know that earning money by working a 9-5 is not the way to make money."

Plenty of people work 9-5, or similar hours, and make lots more than postdocs slaving away for 80 hours a week.

Maybe I'm not the norm, but I've never worked crazy hours, throughout grad school and my postdoc. I've been fairly successful. I'm convinced there is a martyr-like personality that often applies to scientists. Everyone complains how much they work, and how they do everything while their labmates slack off. Yet, the times I do work late, or come in on a Saturday, I don't see any of those martyrs working.

Life is what you make of it. If you prefer spending all of your time in a laboratory, all the more power to you. But don't complain about it, if that is your choice. Me, I'll continue to enjoy both my life and work, and not worry about being the "first one in and last one out" every day.

At 7:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ms Ph.D., it's been a while since I read that article, so I forgot that it focused on men. Unfortunately, most of the articles about work-lab balance for women are oriented around starting a family or being a dual-career couple ... not relevant for your case. This article is more gender-balanced, but it's less focused on hobbies (which was the original topic). Here is an article on stresses for academic women, which is related though not an exact fit.

At 1:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you actually read to the end of the article?

In my nonsystematic, nonquantitative research for this article, a few trends emerged. First, only one woman came forth to describe her after-hours passion. (She teaches a Pilates class at the YMCA every Wednesday night to help pay for her family’s membership.) Are female scientists too busy balancing family and career to have leisure pursuits? Perhaps they feel they can't admit that they have other hobbies, lest their colleagues conclude that they aren't serious about their work?

At 6:40 AM, Anonymous Bug_girl said...

You aren't alone!
Remember that each lab/university/company has a different personality. This one sounds really stiff, but they won't all be like that.

I have a pretty...wild...online presence, and I don't worry too much about being discovered. Why? Two words: Plausible deniability :D

I try not to link my self to a specific location too obviously.

Does your university participate in MentorNet? You can get a mentor outside the uni to offer advice. Feel free to contact me for more info.


At 6:37 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

I think the martyr complex is not that common. What people are usually complaining about it actually bad lab management. When grad students and postdocs are doing technician's or lab manager's jobs, you start to hear a lot of those kinds of complaints.

I don't TRY to be the first one in and last one out just for show. I really do have a lot of stuff to do. And I really do like the quiet parts of the day, when nobody is there yet and it's just me and the sunrise, or just me and the janitor and the radio at night. But sometimes I do resent it, more I think because I feel like nobody realizes how hard I work and would like a little appreciation, recognition or other kind of reward (or award?) once in a while.

re: the next two articles, I'll post about those separately.

And no, I guess I missed the end of the article, as I suspect did most people. Sorry if I'm no satisfied with some token nod to women tacked on at the end like an editor made them add it in!

At 3:38 PM, Blogger pluto said...

"I never wanted to be one of the people who had a 9 to 5 job and then some lame hobby horse activity in the evenings or weekend ..."
I know what you mean. And it would be great to love your work so much that you felt happy and fulfilled after a day at it, and didn't crave more balance in your life. (Like Maslow's 'self-actualizing' subjects who made no distinction between work and play). But for the rest of us, it's great to manage to involve yourself in even one regular hobby outside the house. It's a bigger achievement than you might think and it needn't be "lame" at all.


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