Scientiae post: Transitions
Somehow have never managed to do one of these before, so here goes.
The topic was:
• What big (or small) transitions have happened in your life? Or are you anticipating a big transition?
• How did it affect you? (Physically, emotionally, psychologically, locationally..)
• What was the outcome?
• Did you handle it well? If so, how did it help? If not, what could you have done differently?
• What fears or hopes did you have? Did they come to be?
I like Scientiae. I really like this topic. I guess doing one of these might be a transition of sorts. I hope to do more in the future.
I think about transitions all the time. I have never felt settled since the first time my family moved when I was in junior high. Nowhere has really ever felt like home since then.
I used to always be the sort of person who envisioned my future life. I was very driven and it kept me going, but I was terrible at living in the now.
These days, I'm less good at picturing my future, and tend to get stuck in regrets about the past. You could say my life has been a long series of bumpy transitions.
So while I should be oyster-ifically expecting a Big Transition in my career to a faculty position, most of me doubts that it will ever happen.
Lately I feel like I've hit the ground so many times, and in the past I always bounced back. But now I'm just covered with bruises. I don't feel very bouncy anymore. I look back at my past self and think, how the hell did I do that?
When I started grad school, I had a physical reaction to the transition of moving. I was physically ill, and never did find out whether it was food poisoning, stress, or something else altogether. The brilliant MDs who ran a bunch of tests on me had no idea what it was. Thanks, US healthcare!
Eventually it went away.
Mostly I think my body was trying to tell me STOP NOW, DON'T DO THIS!! But I was just surprised and terrified and, uncharacteristically just in the moment of being in pain. Pain is very interesting that way, it can really stop time.
And I had no idea how much more emotional and psychological abuse was in store for me. Looking back, it seems obvious that the mystery pain was a bad sign.
Somewhere along the line I transitioned to confidence. For me, that was the best achievement, and almost made the whole grad school debacle worthwhile. I am confident in my science.
But somewhere along the line, where I used to be personally confident, I transitioned to self-doubt. And got stuck there.
Mostly I think at its root, the problem is that I doubt whether I really want to be a Professor. Not that I dislike science. Contrary to what certain journalists have claimed recently, I know plenty of women who love science.
No, I am one of those who consider, quite frequently, quitting because of the culture.
I am tired of working with assholes. And I include in that term both men and women.
I can see all too clearly how this culture is not necessary or sufficient for good science to get done.
So I have never understood why everyone says I should just put up with it.
And that it's perfectly reasonable, even NORMAL, to hate it.
Maybe most of the successful scientists don't mind because they have the sensitivity of a block of wood (?).
So I can't help wanting science to change. I would like to transition to doing something more about changing it, hence the try-for-faculty-position approach.
Alternatively, I would like to be able to transition to letting it go.
I don't think I will ever transition to just accepting the bullshit. In a way, I hope I don't.
But it's too bad, because I feel stuck. Here I have this awesome project that I think is of earth-shaking importance. And I am slowly, slowly convincing others that I'm onto something with this project.
But lately I feel myself slipping toward the belief that, even if I quit, it won't matter because eventually somebody else will work on it. So then everybody wins, right?
On the other hand, which will I regret more? Quitting now?
Or wasting more years of my life being unhappy and frustrated so much of the time?
The other day I had a dream that I drove my car off a cliff in a rainstorm. At first I was scared, but then I realized I was dreaming and thought of Thelma and Louise, closed my eyes, and relaxed.
In dream mythology, your car represents your career.
Was I dreaming about committing career suicide? Predicting a fatal outcome beyond my control? Or just having a moment of fear?
Another transition I've noticed is that when I was younger and kept a diary, I was very black-and-white about everything.
I had strong opinions and did not mind arguing my point.
Somewhere along the line I decided most things are gray. But not everything. A good example of something that seemed gray to me before, but is now black-and-white, was not being aware of sexism before, to being acutely aware of it. All the time.
While not being aware of it hurt my career, in some ways I think being aware of it has hurt my career more, just because it is one of the last remaining things that can really piss me off. And there's still very little I can do about it.
But once you see it, you can't go back.
Another major transition, related to my realization that I was being discriminated against, has both helped and hurt my career. While I once enjoyed verbal sparring, I've learned to hate it. It's not that I don't have strong opinions, but I definitely transitioned to seeing things from more than one side. I get bored with people who don't, and usually these are the most vocal opponents.
I think this transition was partly brought on by being aware of sexism, since I got smacked a few times for defending myself in ways I had learned growing up, when I often found myself arguing with boys in school. This does not fly, apparently, for women in science. My favorite is when I stand up for myself and they tell me I'm "being defensive" (to which I always want to say, "But you attacked me!").
But doesn't help to say nothing, which is in many ways what I've done in recent years.
It's another typical battered woman response, and I am trying to transition to some happy medium where I can speak my mind in a forceful but, god help us all, culturally acceptable way for a woman.