Meh and you too.
The request was to expand on the 5 big W questions + 1: what, who, where, when, why and how.
So I'll start with a secret: this is the seed of all writing. So I could write something for this topic over and over and write something different each time.
"What do I do now?" I've been struggling a lot with this question about what do I want to do. I've been through this once before, and that's how I ended up doing science.
So I think I've covered heart and head. What's next? Gut feeling?
I feel like doing science for so long has had two contrasting effects on me:
1) It made me braver, and made me realize courage is not really an area where I'm lacking
2) It put me relatively out of touch with my own gut feelings.
The thing about science is that you're taught not to be superstitious, that hunches don't count unless you can explain them with data, and that you should often ignore your gut feeling, especially if your gut is telling you to run away from public speaking or doing animal work.
Truthfully, I think my best weapons in science were my gut feelings. But I was told to ignore them, that I was being paranoid about the people I worked with (who were every bit as crazy and back-stabbing as I feared), and that I was making logical leaps (all of which turned out to be right once I had the evidence to demonstrate my hunches were good).
And I wouldn't have done science at all if I had listened to my gut feelings way back when I interviewed for graduate schools.
Regardless, my goal now is to spend a lot of quality time focusing on my gut feelings.
"Who is going to help me?"
At this point I'm not sure if anyone can help me figure out what I want to do, but once I figure that out, I will probably need help to do it.
One thing I fucked up royally in my science "career" (according to the blamers) was not getting the right help from the right people. I realized too late that I needed help from different people, but I couldn't figure out
a) who were the people with both the interest and the power to help me, and
b) how to get them to be interested in helping me
Also, "Who are the people I want to work with?"
This is something I'm focused on right now. I really hated most of my coworkers for a long time in science, maybe because we weren't really coworkers at all, just competitors pretending to be polite. The whole system was set up so that there was never enough to go around, and we were basically trying to climb over each other to get to the good stuff: the money, the attention from our advisor, the jobs.
So I'm wondering who are the kinds of people I can work with? Would I be better off with more creative types? Should I just steer clear of male-dominated careers? Am I better off doing the kinds of things where everyone works independently but in parallel? Are there any careers anymore where there's plenty to go around? Or does this economy pretty much preclude that from happening at all?
Also known as, "Will I have to relocate?"
I like where I am now. I am learning new things, slowly, and the pace is more or less up to me. But what if I decide the thing I most want to do in life is something I can only learn in a city far away? Am I going to make MrPhD go with me? Is there anything I want to do so badly that I'd make him quit a job he loves to follow me on a hunch about my next big thing?
Yes, when. When will I figure this out. When will I feel better. When will the bolt of lightning strike me down, or give me that aha! moment I could use right about now?
One thing I'm certain I'll miss about science are the aha! moments. I loved that. I loved problem solving, I loved getting new data, I loved finding something unexpected in the middle of an experiment designed to look at something else, I loved reading a paper and having so many ideas I had to scribble them all down excitedly.
The good news is there are other kinds of aha! moments, and I wish I had the perspective to realize that years ago. They are there when I cook, and when I shop for gifts, and when I read good books. When I listen to really good music. And when I write.
But mostly I want to know when I will stop having dreams about the bastards who fucked me over in science. I am so tired of the nightmares where I have to go back and work with them again, or I find out one of them is taking credit for everything I did in his lab, even though it was my idea, etc.
The one I'm doing the most lately is "Why is this happening to me? Why do people say I chose this? Did I choose this, really? Why would I do that to me?"
Also known as,
"How did I end up here?"
I keep retracing my steps and saying "No, I couldn't possibly have known any better at the time, I actually got a lot of bad advice, or people seemed to think I could figure it out from obscure hints, and I didn't. I didn't figure it out until it was too late."
I made a lot of mis-steps. One foot in front of the other, right?
But it's pretty much impossible for me to see how I could have known to do any differently, given where I came from, my family, and a general lack of good advice.
Does that make me feel any better? Only slightly.
Also, "How do I move forward and get on with my life?"