Falling Out of Love With Research
I had a thought this morning. (Well actually I had lots of thoughts this morning, but one that I feel especially compelled to blog about). Being in grad school is a lot like being in a relationship.
When you first get to grad school, you join a lab, get a new project, and then there’s what I call the puppy love phase. Everything is so promising and bright. There are fuzzy feelings all over the place. You just feel so in love, so optimistic for what the future holds. Nothing could go wrong.
That was me three years ago. They (my fellow grad students) called me the “naïve optimist”, no joke.
Time passes. You realize that the technique you are developing which appeared so promising at first is actually chock-full of problems. You have to work to solve those problems. It takes a lot of time. Numerous failed attempts to fix things are spotted with few successes. You try everything you can think of to figure out a solution.
Now hear me out. Does this or does this not sound like the period in a relationship when you’re starting to fall out of love?
I have to interject at this point and just say that I am happily married to an amazing guy and that my description of how my relationship with my project is going through a rocky period in no way mirrors my relationship with my husband. I’m just saying that it’s like a relationship. Now that that’s all cleared up…
So you’re starting to fall out of love with your project. You get mad at it some days and don’t want to talk to it.
But then you realize that while you can try to just keep ignoring the problems, they’re not going to go away on their own. Sometimes the problems fester and get worse with time. But if you want the relationship, I mean the project, to work, you need to keep on trucking. You need to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again. Because if you don’t, your project is on the line, and the chances you’ll ever finish and escape with those three coveted letters after your last time– they get slimmer.
Your choices are: suck it up and keep trying, or walk away from everything you already invested so many years of your life working on.
Gosh, I feel like I could turn this into a daytime soap opera. I’ll call it: Days of our graduate school lives.
Here’s the thing though. I still love being in grad school. I love learning, I love being part of an intellectual community. I love communicating fascinating scientific concepts to people in a way that gets them excited and makes them want to learn more. Hence why I want to be a science writer.
I just don’t love research anymore. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve found a new love in science writing.
But I’ve just gotta keep on keepin’ on… and stay on speaking terms. Good communication is vital to any relationship.
Dear project, tell me what you need. Tell me what you want to be happy and I’ll do it because I care about you and I want you to succeed.
Gosh, now I’m talking to my project. This needs to stop.
But I know you know exactly what I’m talking about…