Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Another shitty day, and I still want to quit.

This morning in the shower I had all kinds of ideas for things to blog about, but now I can't remember what they were.

But here I am at work and I'm really tempted to just grab my purse, get in my car, and never come back. I don't care about abandoning my computer or all the hard work I've done here. I want to go somewhere tropical, assume a new identity, and work as a bartender. Nothing that has to do with science whatsoever.

I have lists of things I "should" be doing, but again today I'm flattened by the cumulative effect of feeling - nay, knowing - that nobody notices or cares what I do, that none of this suffering seems to add up to anything, that it has been getting worse and not better for a while now, and I can only expect more of the same with a very small chance of future improvement.

Nevermind that I actually made some progress on writing yesterday. Nevermind that I'm supposed to get excited about results, about reading other people's publications, about new ideas. It's not enough when it's in a vacuum.

It's definitely sucking the life out of me.

Except for one or two people, at this point my family and even my friends would rather see me quit. I love that they care more about me as a person than about, you know, anything I might contribute to science, but in a way that's like a vote of no confidence.

All I really need is someone who actually cares about my results to say, "But you can't quit now! We really need your contributions!"

I definitely don't hear that often enough.

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At 12:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

nobody is going to care. you have to decide if it it's worth only you caring about your work. how many people read your ph.d. thesis (as a whole)? probably less than 10 people, almost certainly less than 20 people worldwide. 20 people out of the entire planet. that is the type of impact one's work tends to have. it will take years of other people building on top of your work in order to make a difference.

At 1:01 PM, Blogger Manontheoutside said...

Science is a thankless profession. It's all built on the idea of sacrifice (by the loss of free time, a life, etc) for some made-up romantic notion of "doing it for the good of humanity".

Unfortunately, this mentality preys on certain types (like myself) who give a damn about doing meaningful research and wanting to produce good work. A lot of people float on through the academic realm off the back of said romantic notion of "doing it for the good of humanity". "I do science. I'm untouchable!" Some of these people are nice people. Some of them don't deserve the degrees they're aiming for or the salaries they're earning.

I long ago realised that praise is seldom offered in academia. Most often, silence from colleagues can be interpreted as praise (though I won't pretend that's easy), provided they know about the work. People will pipe up if they see something they don't like, or don't think is good enough, worthwhile, etc. People won't pipe up to say "Well done. Well done."

So I'll say it. Your clear dedication to doing the job correctly in the face of so many people who cannot/do not is commendable. You, my anonymous colleague in bloggery, are doing well. Well done.

At 1:25 PM, Anonymous mrswhatsit said...

If my mother tells me just one more time that she will still be proud of me even if I quit grad school, I'm going to commit matricide. That is SO NOT HELPFUL! Why do family members think that is what we want to hear? It's not. It's like saying they don't think we can make it.

You canNOT quit now!!! We really need your contributions!!!!

At 1:31 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

thanks, manontheoutside and mrswhatsit.

i like the idea that if they don't say anything, it means they don't have anything _bad_ to say (rather than the reverse, which is what normally passes for being polite).

i've also been trying to take it as a compliment that they pick on me a lot, like if my stuff were really hopeless or unthreatening, they wouldn't bother because they'd know that nobody will ever take me seriously.

i like the idea of being the dark cloud on the horizon that everyone suspects they will have to take seriously.

i just wish i could be a big scary thunderstorm a little bit sooner.

At 1:32 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

I know a blog is a place to vent and make yourself feel better about sucky things, but the more and more I read your blog that sadder and sadder I feel for you. You have this love and hate relationship with academia and it seems that it is killing you. Is your sanity really worth the love part that academia is giving you, which seems to be so little of it? It seems what you love about academia is really science. Good science can be done outside of a university. I know there is this stigmatism about going into industry, like you've quit or something, or it's a second class job.
I don't know enough about your research but I know in the line of work I do I can contribute a lot to my field by working for the government or in industry or in politics.
So as much as this may not have sounded encouraging it was suppose to and I just want to summarize by saying, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

At 2:48 PM, Anonymous peterFalk said...

Done crying yet? Or will I have to sick my degradosomes on you??

At 4:17 PM, Blogger ScienceGirl said...

Romantic notions about rewarding research aside, you are in it because you are a curious person. So don't let the lack of encouragement from others make you stop!

At 4:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A friend told me what HE does whenever he feels sorry for himself...He sits in the lobby of a hospital and watches patients come and go. After a few hours his problems don't seem so big. Try it.

At 9:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 4:47, When I feel bad about not finding a job, I read cancer blogs. Sure, I feel better about my health but not about my job-finding prospects. In fact, it depresses me enough that I don't want to try. I know what you are trying to say, but context is key.


At 11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Jennie. If you want your work to have impact on people's lives, try imagining yourself saying, "you know that drug that's on commercials during prime time? you know, Lipitor (or insert your favorite drug of choice)? I was part of the team that developed it."

And that's just one little way that your Ph.D. can make a real difference.

Does working in industry really seem that bad now?

(and this is also true for other "alternative science careers",even if you decide to go teach high school science class after getting your Ph.D.; success or impact is not just defined by whether you can publish in Science/Nature/Cell, or assume a high-power R01 professorship.)

you don't have to suffer just because you love science.

At 1:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I could not agree with you more. You quoted the thoughts from my own head. If I could take back the 5 years, I would in a heartbeat. in the end, I am hoping to get my piece of paper, burn a copy of my thesis and try to figure out what i really want to do.

Industry would be great, if they actually hired a lot of pH.Ds. We over-educated ourselves out of a significant role in society.


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