Thursday, June 21, 2007


I think part of what brings me back to the laptop each night - composing some self-indulgent post about what happened or what I thought or something to make the day matter before I sleep - is the hope that someone will read and understand. There's no room for interruptions - I finish my thoughts before I click the button to publish and let you read.

I did try to tell Boss today that I didn't want to submit the grant. The statement was postponed while we looked over data for a meeting this afternoon, then penguin's paper to make sure I had covered all the relevant revisions.

"I fixed that." I noted as Boss went through his notes. "Yes," I smiled again, "I saw that too. I'm learning to write and edit the way you do."

So after covering all sorts of professional ground, I felt badly. He has taken me under his wing to a greater extent than the other post-docs. We talk and he guides and I'm learning a tremendous amount from him. And he wants the grant to go in.

"Talk about the grant later?" I asked as he walked out the door, and he turned around, checked his watch and sat down again.

"I think we need to talk about my future. Whether you see me staying here or going away. What I'm trying to do here."

"It depends on the funding, I think." He mused. "But if we get this grant, I think there are tremendous opportunities here."

"I want to..." I stopped, twisted my mouth. Tried again. "I think that I'll be ready... So, in a year, I think I want to move north. Be closer to my family. Leave here."

He nodded, looked down for a moment in thought, then bounced back. "Well, the grant could go with you when you leave."

"No," I corrected him. "The training portion is tied to the institution, and if we got it, I'd be here 3 more years. I don't want that."

"We could turn it down." He decided, then stood. "I think we should work hard to make the deadline."

I didn't say anything, so he nodded again and walked from the room.

I glanced over at Ken and got a grin in return.

"Did you understand what I was saying?" I asked and he laughed as he nodded. "No matter." I sighed. "I'll try again tomorrow."

We met later in the day to attend a meeting with the Supreme Polar Bear. When I watched Narnia and noticed the polar bears were pulling the witch to battle, I gasped. "The polar bears are evil?!" I exclaimed while sitting on the futon with Elle and Tom.

"She was the queen of winter." Elle noted, as if the polar bears were never meant to be good.

I smiled as I thought of it, wandering through the polar bear habitat toward the supreme headquarters. We sat and I handed him my carefully crafted document and began to explain. Boss, sitting across the table, let me speak.

After giving the SPB time to think, Boss got to the point. "Katie got funding to do some initial studies, and got interesting results, but she'd like to see more patients."

SPB sat back in his chair and offered a half smile that said to me that he'd predicted this part of the conversation. "And you'd like me to pay for it." He noted, seeming vaguely amused.

It made me slightly ill. This is the project that has pained me a great deal. And I was begging for more money to do it? When I kind of hated it?

Yet I tried to answer his question and dutifully wrote down his suggestions. When I have put the project in better order, I am to let him know and he'll provide the money. I returned to my office with my head down.

I later attended a meeting that was focused on building a team! Around the research! Yet if there are 2 branches in my niche, I'm the only one who likes the first one. Everyone else is clinging to and clustering around the second one. Which is great - their preferences makes sense - but it's lonely and difficult for me. So I left that meeting feeling even more isolated than before - it isn't my perception, I decided. I really am on my own.

The good thing about having a bad day is that I'm increasingly sure I don't fit here. And as flattered as I was when Boss expressed how impressed he was with my performance in the SPB meeting, and as befuddled as I was when one of the other post-docs asked my advice on research since I was doing so well, I still want out.

I just have to be more clear when expressing that. I'll try again tomorrow and let you know how I do.


doc-in-training said...

Hi Katie,

I just want to drop you a short note to let you know that I'd wanted to write you a few words after reading your posts "Back (and Forth) Home." I never did because I haven't figured out what to write to make you feel better...

Nevertheless, you're not as isolated as you feel - even though some of us only exist online to you.


JaneB said...

Good luck with the conversations - feeling heard is very important, and hard to achieve. I have been lurking here a while, and just want to say that yours is not a unique experience - I'm constantly gasping and thinking "that's how I feel!" when I read your stuff (though I'm not in medical-related science, and I'm no longer post-doctoral but faculty...)

Rodrigo said...

Oi, achei teu blog pelo google tá bem interessante gostei desse post. Quando der dá uma passada pelo meu blog, é sobre camisetas personalizadas, mostra passo a passo como criar uma camiseta personalizada bem maneira. Até mais

post-doc said...

Thank you. I don't know exactly how to make me feel better either, but I very much appreciate the thought.

It actually helps a great deal to know that I'm not as unique as I think in how I view research and professional interactions. I feel less guilty and inadequate that it's taking me some time to figure out how to work in this environment. So thank you.

K said...

Gosh, this is so hard. I feel you, Katie. I have to admit that when I take a long, hard look at what I truly want my life to be like, sometimes I am so overwhelmed by the possibility of letting people down or making the wrong decision.
Especially when it comes down to having a truly honest conversation with your mentor/senior professor. I never know--can I really tell the truth, or do I just nod and agree?

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I feel you. My husband hasn't got a clue how academia can be so hard, so I sometimes wonder if anyone can relate to my struggles!

LeRoy Dissing said...

I read you Katie. In this post, I identified with your boss to an extent since I write many grant funded positions. I rarely have the person the grant funds actually write the grant although they provide me with information as to progress for 2nd and subsequent year funding. I have also hired folks on with grant funds as limited term employees meaning they get an hourly wage but no additional benefits. Many of them were later added on as full-time permanent employees but some were not. It has to be disheartening when your boss doesn't or can't give you a clear answer. I know we lost a very good LTE recently and wish we could have kept her. Since then we have made the position permanent and hope she applies.

From an employer's perspective, if they think you are worth hanging on to, they will make it known in no uncertain terms and will go to bat. It generally isn't the way to create positions, i.e. with a specific person in mind cuz there are no guarentees the person will stay. And many grant funded projects rely on the person doing them so they do want someone competent, who communicates well and is motivated. Sounds like you are all those but the wind has blown out of the sails. Maybe next week you could feel differently, but something tells me that when you make your mind up, it would take a lot to change it, right?

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