Optimism Muster

Oh Bugger.

It’s December already, and Christmas Eve to be precise. Christmas Eve EVENING to be precise-er. I guess I should do some sort of ‘signing off’ piece and so here I am. Unfortunately I only have about half an hour before I have to leave the house for Christmas drinks. Now I’m always one to advise against apologising for your work but…yeh I haven’t put too much planning into this one.

I am feeling inclined to write An Ode To All The Work Which Hasn’t Been Done. But that won’t serve anyone, although it really is all that I can find to think about right now. So instead I’m going to pull together all the optimism I can muster and see where that takes me.

For several fleeting moments of the past few weeks, as I subconsciously scramble to piece the sum of my experiences into a reflective summative blog post, I have been reminded that there are some things worth being optimistic about. As ever, these moments are quickly overwhelmed by my concerns and anxieties as once more I’m left with a tightness in my chest. But as I said, I am today in the business of Optimism Mustering.  Hence here I go, listing all of these aforementioned moments which made me forget, if temporarily, that everything might not been completely doomed:

(I’m not unaware of the “First World Problems” perpetuated in my blog, and how most of my concerns about career prospects and acceptance by my peers could be viewed as fairly petty. However, we can’t help the way we feel and nor should we be ashamed of it. It’s with this proviso that I march onward with this post.)

-I met with up with a fellow tweep for the first time. She finished her PhD a few years ago and has moved away from academia into a field which she enjoys. After a long (not long enough!) conversation about concerns about my project and post-PhD prospects, she told me, “I’m just so excited for you!” I was terribly confused; had she not been listening to everything I had just said? How scared I was, how convinced I was that I was likely to fail? But then I remembered saying the EXACT SAME thing to my younger cousin when she started her undergrad degree. And the look on her face which portrayed those EXACT SAME concerns I have of myself now. Sometimes we have to trust other people’s faith in ourselves when our own wavers. And I’m so lucky to have people around me whose faith never wavers. Thankyou to my parents, my sister, my supervisor, my partner, my friends, my tweeps! That these people are in my life, this gives me optimism.

-I got involved in a long twitter-chat with some fellow scientist ladies. One, a second time PhD attempter (and still carrying the weight of the decision to leave the first one behind, something many of us can empathise with!), another was an Honours student trying to decide whether a PhD is the right choice for her, and finally, a post-doc on the cusp of losing funding. All three ladies talked of their concerns about their future, something I can definitely identify with. However, the conversation evolved towards to include the pressure they feel from their family about making the “right” decision. This was something I couldn’t identify with. My parents have always just, for lack of a better phrase, left me to it. I can’t imagine having to make a decision which I knew would suit me AND my parents. I can’t imagine ever having to have some sort of ‘career plan’ to show my parents in order to prove myself, my worth, and earn their permission and respect. For my parent’s belief in me, I am so thankful. That I have only myself to please, this give me optimism.

-This time last year, the idea of going into the lab with a new protocol to try out on my own filled me with worry. I got so pissed off at conferences or talking to other scientists when they suggested to, “just try this experiment”. It wasn’t that easy for me. But this year, I have been thrown into trying several things all on my own, with no one around to ask for advice. Guess what? I didn’t die. No one laughed at me. I didn’t break anything. And I learned that trying out new experiments can BE FUN. It can also be soul destroying. But the fun potential is there. And then, when I come out on the other side, I get to advice people on THEIR work. I’M THE LAB EXPERT ON X PROTOCOL! I HAVE LAB WORTH! And while the head-desking and trouble shooting can be fairly painful, the pleasure that comes with knowing that I have brought something to the table for my colleagues is wonderful. Also, unlike head-desk bruising, it’s not temporary. That I have learned about my potential and that I know I have more to learn and to give, this gives me optimism.

-I am going to Toronto to train for several months next year, I am visiting Dr Karl at the ABC next year, I have my first publication deadline next year, I have my first Franklin Women piece next year, I have my first Scientists in School deadline next year, I will have TWO blogs up and running next year. That all these great opportunities lay ahead of me in the coming year, this gives me optimism.

Merry Christmas AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR. 

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