Monday, April 28, 2008

Still the same, only different

The theme for this month’s Scientiae is our changing views of ourselves and our careers as we progress through life.

I wasn’t originally planning on writing an entry for this month.  I’ve been in a sort of writing and thinking funk.  I really just want to do and be done.  Contemplating things too much just seems to get me angry/upset/sad/frustrated/etc.  And I’ve been trying to maintain some sanity. 

However, there are some awesome bloggers out there that have already posted some seriously awesome entries, and so I was inspired. 

Ever since I was little, I have had no concept of being unable to do something.  I was fearless as a child, and I believed I could do absolutely anything in the world I wanted to.  I saw no reason I couldn’t be good at everything.  And for a while I was.  I did it all.  Because I could, I guess. 

Then I started college, and I decided that maybe I should have a little more focus in my life.  I realized that at some point I would need to get a real job.  I was interested in science, so I got a work-study job in a lab.  Seven years later, I’m still here.

During my time in the lab as an undergraduate, I thought things were great.  I did experiments that mostly worked, I generated a nice body of work for my honors thesis, and was rewarded for that having it declared worthy of “highest honors”, which means publication quality.  (I’m still trying to get one more repeat 3 years later.)

During my time as an undergraduate, I was also largely oblivious.  I didn’t see the obvious gender discrimination that went on.  I didn’t understand how and why the other people in the lab struggled with career decisions.  I always just imagined that I would go to grad school, get a post doc, get a faculty position, get tenure and ride off into the sunset.

Since I started graduate school, all of that has changed.  I still want all those things.  I still very much want to be the very best at everything.  It’s kind of a complex I’ve developed.  But I’ve also begun to question myself.  Can I actually do this?  I want to have children, and lately, I want them sooner rather than later.  How is that going to work?  Can I be a great mother and a great scientist at the same time?  The more important question is do I want to? 

I’ve begun to see the discrimination that consumes the scientific world.  Sometimes I feel like it’s smothering me, and that there’s no hope of ever changing anything.  I just feel so tired of constantly worrying about how I’m being perceived, how my career decisions are affected by my gender, how everything will be impacted when I have children.  I get so so tired of it all, and I wonder if it’s really worth it to keep pushing ahead.

On the other hand, I really don’t think I could live with myself if I chose to go a non-academic route.  I believed that when I started undergrad, and I still feel that way now, even though I’ve begun to realize how difficult that path is.  But I’ll keep pressing on.  I have to.  There may come a time when I change my mind.  Until then, I keep telling myself that I can do this.  I have to remind myself of that a lot, but I’m starting to believe it.  I’m really starting to believe it.  


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great submission to the carnival! Your post and discussion of your thinking along the way holds a lot of similarity to my own experiences and thinking. I'm sure you CAN do this, if you want to.

Whether it's worth it, well that's another thing. Maybe it is, for you. But I'd recommend you take a look at other options to make sure you're not thinking "On the other hand, I really don’t think I could live with myself if I chose to go a non-academic route" just because you don't know enough about those other routes. Until you've looked into them and gotten advice from outside academia, how can you really know they wouldn't fit better?

anca said...

marie curie had 2 children and she received 2 Nobel prizes. women need science and science needs women!

i can understand your torment, i am in the domain and a female too. i am not married and never will nor have any children because science is my vocation