Feeling old and overeducated
Every once in a while, I make an attempt to hang out with non-scientist friends.
Even when these people are my age, sometimes it just makes me feel really old. Like having gone to grad school and doing a long postdoc gave me the equivalent of the world-weary, veteran, thousand-yard stare.
I feel like these people are making the most banal observations, things I figured out years ago. Things I read in books when I was in elementary school. Of course, they also don't know how to listen, so they dominate the conversation and I can't get a word in edgewise to change the subject from their endless monologues.
I do have non-scientist friends who are not like this. Who are older, and wiser, or maybe they were just born with enough wisdom to know not to do science in the first place. We talk about life. We have real conversations.
And then sometimes I hang out with friends who are actually younger AND not scientists. Some of them are really entertaining. But there are some people, I'm not sure why I ever hang out with them at all. Talking to them just kinda makes me want to shoot myself in the head.
In the worst case, I feel like I'm babysitting kids who won't listen to a word I say. I keep wanting to yell, "It's time to go to sleep! Stop jumping on the bed!"
Like that one time I babysat for a couple of incredibly spoiled brats and actually let them jump in the beds until I saw their parents' car drive up. Just because I knew it would tire the kids out enough that they would actually submit to laying down and closing their eyes. I spent the whole evening with one eye on the kids, and one eye out the window, waiting for it to end.
It was bad enough feeling un-heard and disrespected at work, but at least there everybody knew I was a senior postdoc, and they knew what that meant. I don't think anybody ever treated me like I hadn't worked hard, even if they might have claimed I still needed to pay more dues, or that I didn't know what I was talking about.
Even if they never came back later to admit I was right, or apologize for ignoring me. I figured eventually they would learn the hard way, even if I couldn't make them see what I had already seen.
Out in The Real World, I'm judged entirely on my appearance, which is young and female. And people tend to talk to me based on that alone, without having ever asked me what I do.
They just assume they are smarter or more educated or more well-read than I am. But usually they aren't.
So, yes, I got carded again last night. I glared at the bartender when he asked, but I knew it was just his job and at least he was nice enough.
And I'm trying to cultivate a sense of humor about all of it.
The last few people I met who did ask what i do, I said I was trained as a scientist and got my PhD X # of years ago, they said, "Oh really?" and did a tiny double-take, like they seriously had no idea what to say to that. Like they thought I was fucking with them just to see what they would do.
My favorite comment of the week from someone who clearly wasn't sure whether to believe me not: "Well you seem like a pretty smart person."
This amused me because of the way he said it, like he was actually thinking I'm not sure if you're lying or not, but you seem like a pretty good actress and I wouldn't know a real scientist from a liar anyway...?
I also had a moment of schadenfraude this week when I spoke to a friend who works in Big Pharma. For the last three years or so, I told her I was having problems with my advisor, how frustrating it was to have a sexist boss who wouldn't listen to me, took credit for my work, etc. And she was always sanctimoniously bragging about how she loved her job and was so glad not to have those kinds of problems. And I always thought Wow, she is either way smarter than me about picking places to work, or just really lucky.
Well, let's just say her luck has run out. This week we talked about how her boss does nothing, takes credit for her work, and then privately thanks her later "LIke I'm his fucking secretary!"
And because the new season starts tomorrow, I have to add the obligatory reference. Yes, it sounded like something out of Mad Men.
I'm sorry to hear that she's having a Peggy Olson problem, but part of me kinda wanted to say, "See? Now you know."
Except I'm not really sure if she gets it, yet. That it's not just this guy and it's not just happening to her.
It's not really until you realize that it's rampant, that everyone everywhere will at some point experience it. Only then will you really see what's going on and start looking at it with one eye out the window.
Maybe in a few more years of this Big Pharma, she'll have the equivalent of the thousand-yard stare. In the meantime, at least she's capable of carrying on an intelligent two-way conversation. And she knows I've paid more than my fair share of dues.