Thursday, July 09, 2009

Fortune Cookie:meditation on vague messages

From a couple nights ago at dinner:

Good opportunities: Make up your mind to grasp the next.

Hard to know when the next good opportunity will come along. But let's break it down (because that's what we do here).

1. Define "opportunity"

Presumably this refers to the one kind I really care about: a job

2. Define "good"

Still trying to figure out if I'm capable of recognizing "good" when it comes along? My therapist said that my judgment is dysfunctional because I'm depressed.

Nothing like being told your judgment is dysfunctional to make you feel even more helpless and hopeless!

3. "Make up your mind"

This makes me laugh. One of the worst things lately has been feeling indecisive. I have been chalking this up to depression, thanks to my therapist telling me it's a symptom. However, my therapist also noted, as I did, that I seemed to get more depressed as we went along. This is probably because she was telling me it was all my fault and that I'm defective, but that I shouldn't blame myself. What?? It made no sense. So I stopped therapy.

4. "to grasp"

As in, to not let slip by. This also makes me laugh. On the one hand, my therapist said one of the reasons I've gotten into these awful situations (not my fault, but yes, my fault) is because I just grabbed what seemed like the only option at the time. On the other hand, when you "pause", as my therapist told me to do, you miss your chance(s). As they like to say, not choosing is also a choice. I have to say though, when you're exhausted all the time, it doesn't feel like a choice. It feels like a disability.

5. "the next"

This is how I have always been taught to think.

The next time, I'll do this differently. The next chance I get, I'll say something about this. The next time this happens, I'll know better.

The next. The next. The next.

Never the now. Never seize this moment, this is it, make the best of it.

More like you'll probably fuck this up, but there's always next time when you might know better.

Come to think of it, this is the perfect attitude to have in research. A certain humility coupled with persistence, right? It reminds me of a clip I saw advertising the DVD edition of that cop/firefighter show called Third Watch. The guy is telling his partner something like "What makes you great at your job makes you terrible at being a person."

One of the things I hate about fortune cookies is their vague time limit. I got one a few years back that said:

The current year will bring you great happiness.

At the time, I read it as meaning that year would be a great year. And it was wrong about that. And yet, technically it could still be true, it was just my interpretation that was wrong. Stupid vague fortune sat in my desk reminding me to try to be optimistic. All year. But you could also take it to mean that something I was doing then will eventually pay off.

Are we there yet?

I think fortunes should have an expiration date, even if the cookies could ostensibly outlive us all. It might be less confusing, anyway.

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At 11:53 AM, Blogger jj said...

Hi, I think research/academia can put women into situations that are abusive (duh). The thing about such situations is that they may well leave you without any good options.

It cannot be pathological for you to want to do science. So I'm suspicious of anyone's saying you have bad judgment. You are a young woman with very admirable goals who is in what should be considered an abusive situation. So what is the next step, especially given that it's gotten to you?
You know about all the practical things that can help depression? Exercise. And exercise. And some more exercise. Eating well. Doing things that give one the sense of having some control. (For some of us, depression reflects a sense of having no control.) Sometimes when depressed it can be easier to throw things out.
Have you thought of looking for one of those life coach people, who might have enough imagination to help you envisage alternative, practical solutions?
Of course, I don't know you at all, but I think the therapists who do this covert dumping on their climents really should be avoided. It sounds like you showed excellent independent judgment there. So keep it up.
Since I haven't read enough of your blog to get just what you've tried, I'm hesitant to say anything more. Still, I'm wondering whether you've tried to deal with your PI by given him/her/it gentle deadlines, such as "I'm going to/want to submit this for a conference/collection of papers; could you let me know by Month/day what you think, since obviously your input is so important on this." Another thing might be to go to your pI with someone else. Have you talked to women's studies people to see if they could help with someone who might accompany you? They might be a good resource for advice, etc.

Anyway, some thoughts. You will get through this.

At 8:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog on and off for 4 years. When you're crossing into depression territory, I think it may be time to leave. There are definitely other jobs that will involve science, but do not bring the uncertainty, frustration, and esteem issues that academia entails.

At 5:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's only one thing left to try: leaving your lab. What to do after that will be the start of a new series of forks in the road and turning points. But it sounds that you've reached a dead end where you are.


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