Not just science.
Lots of random marbles rolling around in my head that I haven't had time to write about. This might be another grab-bag post.
One of the highlights of my week was talking with my very best friend, which I don't get to do nearly often enough.
We were surprised to find we both feel the same way about our very different careers: like we're in free-fall.
We both feel our bosses don't really know what they're doing, and we're very nervous having our fate in their hands.
We're trying to figure out where else to get the information we need, but when we follow the standard procedures for advice-getting, we keep getting the same empty suggestions like "You need to find a mentor."
We had a long chat about how hollow this advice is. We decided we think it's a myth. A total cop-out. A pass-the-buck from whomever you're talking to.
I've spent the last several years trying to find the Mr. Miyagi of my career, with no real success. I've sought out people and introduced myself, and I've found the same thing over and over.
The people with whom I hear an audible click, aren't very familiar with the eccentricities of my field. And they're wise, so they decline to give a biased opinion along the lines of what they would do if they were me.
The faculty in my field are
a) almost all men (mostly clueless about what it's like to be female in science, if not outright sexist)
b) mostly jerks (or insane, or both)
c) my age, and consider me competition
d) very old, and can't relate to me at all ("What are YOU doing here, little girl? Can't you find a husband?")
So I can't find mentors among these, and believe me I've tried.
Instead I've tried the approach of getting different kinds of advice from different kinds of people in other fields, to try to cobble some mentoring together like a patchwork quilt.
The problem is that nobody really wants to voice an opinion, but when forced to say something honestly, nobody really agrees on what I should do, so when I get conflicting advice it makes me feel even more conflicted than when I get no advice at all.
So I've kind of stopped asking for advice from scientists and career counselors... I'm still trying to figure out what I want, given that I'm pretty sure what I really want does not exist, at least not for someone like me.
I also learned that it can be very psychologically draining to feel undecided for a long period of time.
This was a major lightbulb for me, since I have felt a lot of doubt about my career choice lately, and I think it has been contributing to my feeling burned out.
And that is somewhat unintuitive. I always equated feeling burned out with working too hard for too long.
It turns out that it's more important how you feel about working hard, than how much working hard you actually do.
Oddly, when I heard this, it made a lot of sense. So it gave me about a week and a half of psychic freedom. I decided, okay, if that's part of my problem, I will decide to just go with this, at least for now. That is the healthiest thing to do.
But couple of weeks later, that wore off. My experiments haven't been working, and my advisor is doing the passive-aggressive dance again, and I'm back to feeling overwhelmed with doubt about whether I'm wasting my life and making myself miserable for no good reason.
According to one of the books I'm reading, you have to let go of your desire (check), anger (check), and fear.
Maybe it's about having a balance of these, because while I've learned to get some distance from my desire for something that I can't have, and anger about not having it, my fear seems to be rising in some kind of weird psychological compensation.
It's as much about fear for the future as fear that I've been wasting my time. Fear that I've already missed the one good chance I had, and if I knew that, I would stop torturing myself.
It sounds really stupid to write it that way, because basically what I'm saying is that I'm afraid of future regret. Which would imply, in a sane world, that there's still time to affect the future and avoid the regret, right?
I guess the problem is I still feel like I can't get control over the things that matter most to me. So despite all this struggling, I still feel like I'm bound and gagged and watching the train come to run me over, and I can't expect anyone to swoop in and save me.
Somebody hand me a blindfold. I can't watch this part.
Next stop: cultivating denial. I can't think of anything else to do.
In job search news: I found out that a co-worker had a faculty interview, only to learn that the school lost the funding for the position, so regardless of how the interview went, they won't be doing any hiring.
I suspect, from reading the Chronicle this week, that this scenario will repeat itself a lot this year.
I do think it's pretty ironic that, of all years for me to decide to go back on the job market, it had to be this year. I mean, that's pretty fucking funny when you think about it. And in a way it does justify my hysteria a few years ago. I felt like it was my best chance on the market, because it probably was! By that calculation, I've wasted the last 3 years as a postdoc being a miserable wreck and I should have quit then.
I have that thought a lot, actually. I think about all the chances I had to quit, and didn't. And I wonder why not, because lately the desire to just give up is overwhelming. What did my past self know that my current self forgot?
Political updates: Less than a week until the election, and I have to wonder if it's going to be the amazing panacea as some of my friends are assuming. It is definitely time for a few changes around here. I just doubt that many of them are going to affect my life directly.
Random movie recommendation of the week: Sister Kenny
About the nurse who developed what became western physical therapy while treating patients with polio. The doctors didn't believe her methods helped at all, preferring instead the opposite (immobilization). They even went so far as to say the patients she was able to make walk again had never been sick in the first place. One of my favorite parts: in the movie they use the terms "doctors" and "men" interchangeably.
Major blogging disappointment of the week: FSP listed different categories of university folks in a poll on her website, and wrote it like this:
•staff (incl postdocs)
Please, go over there and tell her how wrong this is. And here I hadn't even noticed the way she lists us BELOW undergraduate students and in parentheses. That's another nice touch. Probably unintentional? But still, somewhat revealing how we rank on people's radar. As an afterthought.