In my last post, I intimated that I would write a little bit about how I got to this point. This 'point' being how I ended up in a career that I believe is unsuited to my character, to my interests, and to my abilities.
And I have an easy answer. I'm smart and lazy.
Well, maybe not that smart. Smart people supposedly make good decisions and are able to achieve goals that matter to them. After all, can we really call a person smart if they consistently make the wrong decisions in their lives?
However, before I explain that easy answer, let's back up a little. Most of my friends (and possibly the only ones who are reading this blog) know my basic educational history. After high school, I went straight into University as a pre-med student. I found out pretty quick I didn't want to do that, so I transferred into a degree program and graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Biochemistry. The very next fall after graduating, I got into the Biology graduate program. About 3 years later, I walked out of the University with my Master's degree in Biology (with a concentration in Genetics, Phylogenetics and Evolution). Ok, I didn't actually walk out either literally or metaphorically, since I spent the next two to three years working at the University. But you get the idea.
Now it all sounds pretty good, doesn't it? From an external point of view, I may look like a very high achiever. Not only did I manage to get Federal scholarships to support me during my summers as an undergraduate student and during my entire time as a graduate student, I also published two very well received papers based on my work. But internally, these achievement mattered very little to me...every single goal I accomplished were ones I did for reasons outside of myself. Oh, they fulfilled some of the needs of my ego: I was driven by the need to BE BETTER than other people. I always had something to prove. However, I didn't really care about my accomplishments as much as I cared about what other people thought of my accomplishments. My family, my supervisors, my friends...what they thought was more important.
Which takes me back to the point I made above. I'm smart and I'm lazy. At some point in my past, someone in my life decided I was smart. It's not hard to see why, even though I deny that I am intrinsically more intelligent than your average person. When I was a kid, I liked to read. No, I loved to read. And obviously, if you love to read, it's going to help you in school, which is what we use to judge children (school or sports, you better be good at one of them). So I did well in school. And that meant I was smart. And once you internalize that, it's game over.
I'm not saying that being smart is a bad thing. I'm not even saying that some people aren't more capable than others at intellectual pursuits. What I'm saying is that being smart, to a large extent, is a skill that you can improve and is a lot more fluid than people think. Read more, learn more, and COMMIT yourself to an intellectual goal, and you too can be 'smart'. However, when you internalize 'being smart', it becomes a finite quality. It's becomes something you ARE, instead of something you work AT, and your life becomes an never ending quest to prove you HAVE it. "I am smart, and I will do things smart people do." If you really believe it, you stop challenging yourself because you don't want to be one of those dumb, mediocre people.
Of course, some of you may have been similarly labeled and resisted the trap. You may have used your smarts to do what you wanted to. Well, good for you. Fuck off, this post is about me.
So I finish high school and now I have to make the first real choice in my life. What do I do know? Well, in high school, you certainly aren't aware of all the options available to you. I wasn't anyways. So I thought about what smart people do, and I did it. I enrolled in premed. Keep in mind, I had no interest in medicine. It sounded good, it made my grandparent happy, and doggone it, dumb people just didn't become doctors (I know better now, lol).
Well, like I said above, I realized pretty quick that medicine wasn't for me. I hate body fluids (wait, no....I hate MOST body fluids, wink wink). Hell, I'm emetophobic. Look it up. Sufficed to say, I now had a decision to make. But I already had some science electives finished, so the lazy part of me didn't want to change into another program. Besides, science is something smart people do. I am smart. I will do science. After all, what are my alternatives? Business? IDIOTS. Arts? MORONS. Fine arts? GREAT PLACE FOR THE MORONS AND IDIOTS THAT COULDN'T HACK IT IN ARTS AND BUSINESS.
Alright, don't get too pissy. I don't think those were the exact thoughts running through my head. Maybe more like unconscious feelings. Besides, by that time, I had gotten to know some people in science and, doggone it, I had to prove I was as smart or smarter than they were. It didn't matter that I disliked most of my science classes. It didn't matter that I put off reading my bio textbooks so I could spend extra time on reading social theory. It didn't matter that I couldn't wait for my sociology, philosophy, and anthropology classes, because I loved discussing topics with my teachers and writing essays. I was smart. I was in science. Science is where smart people go.
Grad school? More of the same. I got the opportunity to do my graduate studies, and I did it because I was too lazy to look for an alternative and I'm smart. Smart people go to graduate school. I'm smart. I'm going to graduate school.
My master's subject was a bit different in that I actually sort of liked my research. There was molecular biology involved, sure, but the topic was grand. Evolution, Astronomy, and Geology have always been interests of mine, simply because of their grand nature. I'm not a detail person. I could care less about what some molecule or enzyme does. Screw that. But give me a grand purpose, and it's bees to honey. It didn't hurt that my supervisor was one of the greatest guys I know, and working with him was an absolute pleasure. Still, I sure didn't feel like I fit in with other grad students, especially at conferences. Every conference I went to, I much preferred speaking to the spouses of the scientists, because they also seemed as tired of listening to science research talk as I was. At one conference, I spend about 2 hours talking a political science professor about her opinions on American foreign policy, while generally avoiding her husband who was one of the leading researches in my field. I felt uncomfortable among science types, because...well...they always wanted to talk about science.
So that's the short and skinny of it. Here I am now. Do I regret my life so far? Well, it isn't that simple. The truth is, I've met so many awesome people that I wouldn't have if I had made other choices, including the love of my life. I don't regret the knowledge I've gained either. I can't say I didn't enjoy some of my science classes. Some of the things I learned were pretty damn neat, and I've had great experiences in my lab classes. I love science, just not in that 'career' way. But there are always regrets....
In future posts I will talk about my work outside of the university, and how it cemented my need to get out of science. I also want to talk about how and why my perspectives on being 'smart' have changed so much. I'm not the same person I was five years ago. Hell, I don't even think I'm the same person I was two years ago. I've let go of every phony aspect of myself (have I?), and I aim to be as authentic and true to myself as I can be (am I?). I also hope I don't give the impression I used to be shallow. I don't think I am or was.
One more point before I go. I fully expect this post to be full of syntax, punctuation, and grammar errors. I don't care. I didn't proof read this at all. So don't complain if you find mistakes. In fact, kindly fuck off and stop reading it if it bothers you so much.