Being burned is not the same as burned out.
Okay, so I gave you the punchline up front. Consider yourselves punched.
I had this revelation today while recalling a conversation I had recently with a relatively snot-nosed first year postdoc (why are first year postdocs the most obnoxious beings on the planet? Yes, you got your PhD. No, you are not any smarter than any of the rest of us.)
She made some comment about burnout and it kind of pissed me off. She was doing that thing that most first year postdocs do: assuming it would be different for her. As in, much easier because she is sooooo much smarter than any other postdoc that ever walked the planet.
Okay, so I probably sound that way about becoming faculty, but you have to admit that getting burned as a postdoc will probably be most useful if I stay in academia.
I have seen a heckuva lot of shit that many young faculty I've met (and some senior faculty) didn't know existed (deniers). And they wouldn't know how to handle it if it happened to them or one of their students/postdocs.... or in their department... or when they were sitting in a meeting for a thesis committee... etc.
But I do. Because I've actually been there, done that, and figured a few things out.
All this time I've been thinking I was burned out. But the truth is, I still really do like doing science. Unbelievably, I have to admit that I still really like doing even the tedious parts. Even though sometimes I think I wouldn't mind if I never had to run another gel as long as I live, if I'm really honest with myself, I think I would miss it. I would miss never doing minipreps, never holding a pipette. I really would.
It's too easy to be overwhelmed by all the other shit. I definitely have gotten burned. That's what you get for walking through the fire (yes, I was thinking of the Buffy musical).
I'll admit, I'm pretty cynical about the possibility that there are places that won't burn you at every turn. I'm straight up when I warn the grad students (ahem, and newly-minted postdocs) to be VERY careful about choosing a postdoc lab, and I'm usually skeptical no matter where they choose. I worry for these little chickadees. I hate to think they're going to be fried chickens.
But I really don't like the idea that just because I've gotten screwed over repeatedly means I'm somehow used up completely. And I don't think it's true. I think I still have a lot of good ideas in me, science or blog post or what have you. Whatever I end up doing.
So there, Dr. Snot. Maybe you're just burned out and projecting it onto me. Whatevs. I'm just a little tougher on the outside than I was before. Doesn't mean I'm extra crispy.