Friday, September 19, 2008

Fake it 'til you make it.

Well, ironically enough, this week everyone is excited about my science except me

I'm trying hard to remain objective. I'm worried that if I enjoy getting positive feedback too much, I'll mistake that for enjoying what I'm actually doing.

Basically, I can't decide.

I guess I'm feeling pulled in too many directions.

Obviously I get a lot of negative feedback on a regular basis, and I have to try not to be suspicious when I get positive feedback of any kind.

Case in point: today while I was working on something else, my computer decided to develop a strange new twitch. No matter what program I was using, it kept sending me back to the one version of my CV that I made to submit for industry positions.

Shut up, computer, you're not the boss of me!

So I restarted it. Problem solved. If the universe was trying to send me a message, I say La la la! I can't hear you!

But when I'm getting a lot of positive feedback after a lot of suffering to get to this point, part of me can't help noticing that it feels a little bit hollow.

So is it just me being hollow? Or is it really kind of like putting a ribbon around an amputated limb?

Like, "Congratulations, you're still alive!" ?

And then I saw a quote today about how lots of people get what they want in life, but only the wisest know how to enjoy it.


Meanwhile, I catch myself enjoying things I don't want to admit I actually like doing, because I don't completely adore them. Tedious things that I have to do repeatedly, but in small doses, they are actually kind of fun.

This is one of the hardest things, to me, about science. At least in my field, one of the perks is getting to do lots of different things. It's one of the main reasons I wanted to do science: never being bored.

One of the worst parts, though, is that you often have to do one thing repeatedly until you're thoroughly sick of it, before you can move on to something else.

That kind of defeats the perk, you know?

So it's kind of a career existential angst that I keep returning to.

Some little part of me is still insanely jealous of the few people I know who are starting their own labs this year. Part of me is itching to start applying for faculty positions.

The other part was cruising through the Chronicle job forums yesterday, and um, more than one place I was interested in has a state-wide hiring freeze.

That is also the part that watched CNN this morning, with the market numbers going up and down, up and down, up and down.

I really don't want to be one of those people who keeps taking postdoc positions, even temporary ones, just because they can't find a better job. I don't know how people live like that. I've had enough uncertainty already, thank you very much.

So the good news is, positive feedback and money fears aside, I am planning to make this one of my work-less weekends.

I don't know if it can be entirely work-free, and I can't take a vacation or anything, I still have lots of chores to do that I haven't done in the last week or two. But right now I'm just living for that Saturday-morning-sleeping-in feeling.

Only about 15 hours to go. Might try to watch a movie or something tonight. Gratuitous violence, here I come!


At 3:20 PM, Blogger EcoGeoFemme said...

Every job has some drudgery or bullshit component, otherwise it wouldn't be a job. Those repetitive tasks get to me too, but it's still better than so very many other jobs because 1) the tedium ends and then you do something else for a while, as you said 2) I get to decide when and how long I will do the tedious task 3) it doesn't start over new every day, like cleaning toilets or something and 4) I know there will be some interesting outcome.

Take positive feedback where you can get it! You doom yourself to bitterness if you don't take the good parts at face value. It's not good if you're not happy with criticism and you're not happy with praise, either.

At 5:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been in those shoes... you get so much negative feedback that when you get some that is positive, you start questioning if the person giving it is being genuine. I have had this feeling a lot into the postdoc. A previous advisor was definitely more critical and negative. Now, I have had a hard time knowing if I am really doing a good job...
Sometimes, the hollowness is true, but sometimes, previous experiences are ingrained into your thinking to the point that your perception of a situation may be a bit warped...

At 12:06 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

EGF writes:

Every job has some drudgery or bullshit component, otherwise it wouldn't be a job.

I know. I keep trying to tell myself that!

But I wasn't clear enough. You wrote as you said 2) I get to decide when and how long I will do the tedious task

That's actually the opposite of my point. I DON'T get to decide. There is only pressure to finish by a certain time. I have no choice. I have to do it now, and I have to do it until it's finished.

3) It doesn't start over new every day, like cleaning toilets or something

Disagree. At least in my field. One friend loved to make a joke about how frustrating it is, like digging a ditch one day and then coming back the next day to find out it's gone. A lot of what we do has a short shelf-life, which means we spend a lot of time making more. If only this were automated! It definitely doesn't require a PhD.

4) I know there will be some interesting outcome.

Also disagree. Most of the repetition, at least in my field, is confirmatory. Meaning, I already know the answer. I just have to show that it's reproducible x number of times. BORING outcome.

And you're right, part of the point of this post is that I have to figure out how to enjoy praise more than I do these days.


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