Already this morning, I have heard a few horror stories that in the past would have made me really upset.
But now, I just don't care.
While watching my grad students friends freak out about committee meetings the last few weeks, I was struck by how little I cared about their agony. I used to be such a sympathetic person, I once fainted when I saw my roommate injure herself by accident. I don't mind the sight of blood, I was literally faint at seeing her in pain and being powerless to stop it.
And now, I just don't care. It's quite bizarre.
This morning I heard about a lab accident, which caused a permanent and pretty serious injury to an acquaintance. It's a sad story, but I was oddly unmoved. In the past, I would have had some kind of emotional reaction, and usually a physical one too.
Is my empathy broken? Am I becoming a PI?
Then I heard a couple other stories about the usual kind of lab bullshit and PI politics that used to make me really angry.
But I am not surprised.
And I just don't care.
I am, in a purely objective way, somewhat worried about this degree of apathy.
Is this why I'm so unexcited about my science lately? Why I just feel like I'm going through the motions?
On the other hand, watching grad students spontaneously combust under their own fear, pride and misguided ambition, I can see how apathy can be a protective and almost more mature response.
If you don't get upset, you can't sabotage yourself.
In the past, I would eventually reach apathy only AFTER having a meltdown (or blowup). As I got older, I moved my meltdowns and blowups behind closed doors, but I still had them pretty frequently.
Now it's pretty rare. I seem to go straight to the I Don't Care, and stay there.
Sometimes later, after replaying the events over and over in my head (whether I want to or not), I realized that I am indeed at least mildly annoyed. Maybe deeply insulted, even, but I recognize that getting upset gets me nowhere.
It's an interesting transition. I'm curious to see if it will last. In some ways, it's a relief to be so detached. I know I am much calmer, and more productive when I am not wasting time having meltdowns. I'm also more useful in advising others in this capacity than in my previous, highly combustible state.