Your work is not your own.
Anthony Bourdain is riding a horse in a fox hunt on tv in the background as I write this, and it seems very appropriate for this post. Anthony basically says that the idea of an old-fashioned fox hunt is to chase the fox around until it's cornered into a hole, and then leave it completely freaked out.
So today I went to see my new therapist.
I gave her the short (less than 1 hour) version of some of the things that have happened leading up to my current crisis of wondering just how much soul I have to sell to get a job around here.
In short: some of the things I told her made her look like the back of her head was going to blow off.
As in, if forced to deal with some of the things I've dealt with, her head would literally explode.
At the end of our session, she said she learned a few things from me about how science really works.
Really? I guess if I leave science having educated a few people about the reality of scientific research, that's a contribution to society... of some sort.
[Still thinking about writing that tell-all book, when all else fails. It would include edited versions of blog posts. If nothing else, I might get some, I don't know, revenge?
Damn that would be a fun way to burn bridges. ]
Interestingly, she said that much of what I've experienced from my "colleagues" both in my own lab and when trying to publish my work "could be considered hazing".
Hazing. Well yeah that does describe it pretty well. Good to have a word for it, I guess, and some validation of my perception that it was, you know, unnecessary and brutal.
It calls to mind that quote from someone about how senior scientists are "eating their young."
You biologists out there know that this happens. Rats and mice eat their offspring quite often in the lab; frogs eat their own fertilized eggs, etc. So you might not think about how fucked up it is.
Just think about that analogy in all its grisly glory for a moment. Parents picking their children's cartilage out of their teeth.
That's what PIs do to their postdocs.
Just think, why do we let them do this to us?
That's your cartilage. Those are my bones they're using to pick their teeth.
Speaking of young, my new therapist was also surprised to hear about this concept that postdocs nowadays are usually accused of not having our own ideas or enough independence from their advisors, but especially women postdocs.
She was trying to suggest that I should try to be my advisor's best collaborator, instead of viewing it as a soon-to-be competitive relationship. I was explaining that I still don't trust my advisor, that I really think my advisor would like nothing more than for me to quit science, because then my project ... is no longer my project.
Then I explained that, even if that weren't a major concern, if I did get a job I wouldn't want to collaborate with my manipulative, dishonest boss... also because continuing to publish with one's former advisor doesn't really count towards helping you get tenure since it makes you look anything but independent.
But I was thinking again about this idea of owning your work.
My project was my idea. My advisor not only did not come up with it, my advisor did not support it. Did not believe it. Has fought me every step of the way... until now. Now my advisor believes me.
Know what that means? Say it with me, kids:
"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you...
... then they say it was their idea."
The idea of other people working on it, and of my advisor getting credit for it, makes me want to shoot myself in the head.
(I'm in favor of gun laws, because if I had a gun I would have shot myself a long time ago.)
Today I also happened to get confirmation that my paranoias are, so far as I've been able to learn, right on target. Totally unprompted, one of the postdocs volunteered to me that our advisor basically planned to have him work on ... aspects of my project when I leave.
Yep. I knew that. But I was kind of hoping I was just being paranoid.
So I'm feeling like the whole "crazy like a fox" thing is really not a good state of mind to be in. Or else I'm doing it wrong. Is there a better way to hide in a hole and freak out than I'm doing right now?