Saturday, November 07, 2009

even more depressed than usual.

I don't have a good analogy and I don't really have the energy right now to figure out how to blog anonymously about what has been going on lately.

Suffice it to say, it's nothing new, nothing dramatic. If it were an isolated event, or only a few, that would be easier to paint as a picture.

Instead it has to do with the frustration of not being able to explain what it's like being subtly but consistently slighted over and over and over and over (death by a thousand pinpricks, basically).

The frustration of dealing with scientists who consistently and repeatedly offend or disappoint me (or both).

The frustration of noticing that non-scientists somehow manage to be less offensive, less disappointing, more supportive, better people. My own cynicism that this is part of why I would rather be around students, because they were people before they started school and they haven't yet lost their heart and creativity (which science seems to beat out of everyone).

The frustration of noticing that it is only in the non-science parts of my life where I have female role models who manage to set a good example AND encourage me AND give concrete, useful suggestions that help me reach my goals.

I could list all the things that are bothering me this week, but I have other things I need to do, science things that should be fun, and I will be happier when I just do them, or at least they will be done and then I can move on without feeling as if I am being lazy.

Still, I am distracted by the low but consistent drumbeat of none of this is going to help, it's too late already.

Not to mention the creeping feeling that this is somebody else's deja vu, history repeating itself because nobody listened the first time when this happened to legions of other women scientists.

And yet, it continues to happen. And I feel like I'm screaming into the forest like a broken tree, and nobody is around to hear me.

Today I spent some time slowly catching up on reading blogs I missed while buried under a pile of other things. I am still feeling disconnected from the writing mood.

In a way, it is usually good for me to be busy - I am better about being "in the moment" when I am too busy to think beyond what is in front of my face, in firefighting mode.

But in other ways I don't think it's good for me to go too long without writing. For whatever reason, it is therapeutic in the sense that I feel worse when I don't do it, even if I don't always feel better when I do.

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At 1:26 PM, Blogger GirlPostdoc said...

Hey YFS,

I've come back to the bloggosphere after a serious hiatus. I'm sorry that things are sooo shitty. Recently, a friend had a phone interview for a faculty job. At that job they asked her how she was going to teach 4/4 and do research.

Her response was "Well, you guys have managed. How did you do it?"

Do you know what their response was? "You can't use us as a reference, because you're expected to be better and will be judged by higher standards."

This was not a Tier1 school. It turns out that there are ridiculous standards expected at even the smallest schools. My prediction is that sure these schools (small) will hire high intense academics who will come and then go. The universities will be left running job searches. This will cost money. Eventually, stability will matter and things won't be as insane as they have become.

Interesting sidebar. My friend got a face-to-face interview. Twelve hours later they emailed her to tell her the provost removed the job. It's a rat race out there.

At 2:48 PM, Anonymous Steph said...

"Not to mention the creeping feeling that this is somebody else's deja vu, history repeating itself because nobody listened the first time when this happened to legions of other women scientists."

TOTALLY!!!! I feel this way. And the system doesn't care, no one does anything to change it, so that's why I'm getting out. Those idiot white men can sit around and write papers about why there is a leaky pipeline and why women don't go into science, but those of us who are "leaking" could tell them exactly why, but no one really wants to change things to make it so more women succeed. Sorry, I'm not a masochist. Have fun being tortured.

At 2:40 AM, Blogger Bee said...

I'm genuinely sorry to hear, I can relate very well to what you're saying. I have no good advice to give other than that it helps me very much to have good friends in my own field who I can talk to, even though I don't work with them. All the best,

At 7:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

*sigh*. I hear you. All too well.

At 8:17 AM, Anonymous HGGirl said...

Business executives aren't always "good people" either, I would guess. I think being really good at one's job has a slight negative correlation with being a "good person." Not that you can't do it, but higher-ups tend to be more focused on getting the job done than world peace. It doesn't bother me as much anymore. I just make sure I have balance in my life, so I interact with enough "good people."

At 5:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you need to leave your present lab. It's true that other labs and PIs are probably also dysfunctional and with people you can't trust or respect, but their negative issues may be different from the ones that are holding you back right now and may be more agreeable in the grand scheme of things.

At 12:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're back...I was concerned about you! Never mind the depression... we're here ...we're your friends...heck..I can't start my day unless I know what YFS is doing! So perk up!

At 3:10 PM, Blogger EngiNerd said...

Hi it sucks when you are trapped in a vicious negative downward spiral of a lab. I agree with anonymous that you really should leave your lab. You can do great science somewhere else. This lab does not make you, you make yourself and this lab is a detriment to you. I think you know this already but sometimes people outside the situation do not have the emotional involvement it is easier to say. The definition of crazy is doing the exact same thing and expecting different results. So you have made changes, adapted, and proved it is NOT you that has the problem you have suffered enough. Make a change honestly it cannot possibly get any worse than where you are and hopefully will improve your satisfaction tremendously!! If nothing else at least give yourself a cut off date of when you are leaving or getting out of this experience so you can secretly relish in this visualization.

At 7:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am new to your blog and i just read a whole bunch of posts. for what it is worth, i am female, a post doc, recently graduated from an unbelievably manipulative, warped, twisted (did i mention manipulative) adviser.

the best (= least of all evils) way to deal with my adviser was to get as much done by email as possible (to keep a long forwardable record), to use the CC button as much as possible, to make sure others (collaborators, lab mates) were keyed in into the real version of what happened and to send an email to my adviser immediately after each meeting, summarizing what had transpired (i forget, i misundertand easily, i am so disorganized - please let me know what i missed - these are the lame excuses i used).

hope things look up for you. soon.

At 6:36 AM, Anonymous a physicist said...

This just sucks.

Addressing just one small part of what you said: I always try to tell people that scientists can be regular people too. They can be kind, they have families, they look just like you and me. And then you have a big bunch of idiot scientists who go and ruin this meme by being jerks. By not following the standards of politeness and decency set by the non-scientists. ARGH.

As for everything else you said... I repeat myself, this just sucks.

At 9:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi YFS, I've been reading your blog on and off for about a year. I found reading your words to be inspirational when I was going through a particularly difficult time in my own struggle with my career (I'm a woman postdoc debating what's next). It is reassuring to hear others are thinking similar things to me.

I must admit that I have really cut back on the number of blogs I am following and that I follow less regularly so I may be kind of out of it. May I ask where you're at in your thinking these days? Are you applying for faculty positions this year? Considering other things this year?

At 7:39 PM, Blogger Kea said...

And I feel like I'm screaming into the forest like a broken tree, and nobody is around to hear me.

I hear you, sister. Faced with a continuation of my ongoing waitressing career after the expiry of my Oxford research job, I have been depressed lately. The completion of another 100 postdoc applications didn't cheer me up. And the acceptance of my latest paper by a top physics journal didn't cheer me up much either (after years and years of rejection, my first blind review paper gets immediately accepted).

Who is listening? We are probably doing a first rate job of turning young women off science.

At 11:24 AM, Anonymous mixlamalice said...

I've seen many people like you sticking around for some reason I can't figure. If you're so unhappy in your professional life, and/or if you believe that the Science World is Hell populated by frauds or morrons, then leave and do something else, golfing, writing, drinking, kids, unemployment or even industry. At least go for another post-doc position with someone you like if this kind of people exists.

I always wonder why there are so many masochistic characters in science: when you have a PhD, it is not like being a post-doc and then to academia is the only choice. Yeah, being a post-doc sucks but if it sucks too much and too long just give it up, you only have one life and being miserable because of work is probably not worth it.
I'm still not too unhappy about my life (2 years as a post-doc) but I know I won't go on like this for too long (in my mind less than 2 years). That's also why I'm leaving my lab pretty soon to start something new. I am not an adventurous type, but it will help keeping a little freshness in a kinda crappy situation.

At 3:41 AM, Blogger iscars said...

Why don't you get this

Lilavati's Daughters: The Women Scientists of India, is a collection of (auto)biographical essays of about 100 women scientists who have worked and are working in India. The name is drawn from The Lilavati, a twelfth century treatise in which the mathematician Bhaskaracharya addresses a number of problems to his daughter, Lilavati. Although legend has it that Lilavati never married, her intellectual legacy lives on in the form of her daughters - the women scientists of India.

At 11:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is exactly how I have been feeling as well - except that I am male.

I would like you to reflect on the fact that male scientists can also be discriminated against, if they are from the "wrong part of the country".

BTW, I am not in North America or Europe, and my condition (similar to yours) is a reflection of the sad state of academia in my own country, not yours.

Still, your words seem to describe my mental state very accurately!



At 12:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

in my experience 90% of male scientists are assholes. They had to be in order to survive beyond the postdoc and actually get into a permanent job. I firmly believe that science selects for asshole-ness so only those who are willing to lie, overinflate themselves, exploit and step on others, end up in secure permanent positions. Meanwhile the 'nice guys' and the women get shoved aside because they don't have it in them to be jerks. (yes there are some women who are also jerks but it seems that men are far more skilled when it comes to utilizing it to get ahead in science careers)

At 11:36 PM, Blogger Confident Female Scientist said...

All I can add is that I hear ya! I also had a similar post to my blog in the last few days. I some how ran into yours and seem somewhat triggered, since I have been through very horrible situation in my lab.
Stop by my blog sometime and maybe you and I can really share horror stories. I could use the distraction from the absurdity!

At 6:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

YFS, Your post is so in line with what I'm going through right now. I won't tell you to cheer up and that everything will be okay because I'm sick of hearing that. The problem is that some of us believe in fairness, equality and science. And that hard work = results = rewards (i.e. a job, a raise). We spent ~12 years getting our degrees and people say, "just switch labs" or "find something else to do." We aren't masochists. We just want to succeed at what we've wanted to do since we were 6 years old and have done all "the right things." We are now utterly disgusted with how unprofessional people can be. Hell, what can you do when grown men/PI's won't wear deodorant. It's not logical and we are logical people.
-Bummed and losing it

At 5:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a "young female professor" and have come across so much of what you are and have been dealing with for years. So many of my female friends in the sciences all deal with this same sort of crap and it is so unnecessary.

I am in a male dominated field (aren't we all) and during the course of grad school had an assistantship in a female dominated department. When I would share stories of how I was treated and what was par for the course for female students in my department the smart successful women in the department where I worked were shocked and disgusted, and told me I needed to see the Dean immediately. When I explained to these women that as a doctoral candidate I had only ground to lose and that people would knowingly try to interfere with my completion of my degree because I was female and stuck up for myself, even when others wouldn't, they came to the realization that I did: horrible as it was I had much more to lose than gain at that point. I was lucky to have an opportunity to work with a large group of collegial, supportive, and bright women who realized how hard it can be and as such had a tremendous support net both professionally and personally. To work in that environment motivated me that much more to squash narrow minded people when my time comes. I haven't forgotten how I was treated as a student and don't take it out on others, but am much more guarded now as a result of being burned more than once. It can be hard to maintain enthusiasm and drive.
I am lucky to be in a place that is much better than where I went to school, but it is so frustrating that people can not look at the caliber of what you do and how much you bring to the table by being good at what you do. It is so frustrating!!
Keep up the good fight.

At 11:36 PM, Blogger mylene sai said...

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