Wednesday, February 20, 2008

No. Yes. And maybe.

The rejection came today. In the same batch of emails that arrived, there was a note from one of the postdoctoral supervisors I recently emailed.

The former said the paper wasn’t very good. The latter asked if I could talk this afternoon for a few minutes about the job opportunity. I filed the rejection after glancing over and scowling at the reviews. I hit reply to the job email and typed before staring at the words.

Sure. Whatever. I don’t care.

I sighed before putting my head in my hands and indulging in a long-suffering and deeply sad sigh. I knew I aimed too high for the journal and I hoped I could sneak in a special issue and I don’t know where else to send this paper and I was sick with disappointment. I take rejections very personally and felt my stomach cramp and shoulders slump and mood dip dangerously. I am not, however, blatantly self-destructive so I picked up my head and looked again at my email window. I erased my initial reply, mustered as much energy as I could and tried again.

That would be wonderful. My afternoon looks to be very light so I should be at my desk most of the day. My number here on campus is [ ]. Our voicemail system here is unreliable at best, so if I don't pick up here, my cell phone is the next best bet.

I'll look forward to talking with you!

Even typing it exhausted me and I shook my head before laying my head on my desk again. I soon drug myself out of my office and wandered to get my mail. Then I went and flopped in a chair in front of Jill’s desk.

“What’s wrong?” she asked as she looked away from her computer monitor and regarded me over her glasses.

I shrugged before telling her my paper got rejected. “It always hits me hard, which is kind of surprising since it happens a lot,” I mused. “But for today, I’ll feel really stupid and terrible at my job.” I shrugged again and asked how she was.

“My son is going to Iraq,” she said simply and I frowned as I frantically tried to remember which one was in the military. I shook my head at her when I realized that neither of her children were - I would have remembered such a fact. She elaborated on his job and why he’d go to such an unstable and scary place. “I think it’s for the money,” she concluded, “but it’s not worth his life.”

I nodded thoughtfully before cocking my head sympathetically. “I’ll say prayers,” I offered and she nodded back at me. In theory, I feel like we should be taking responsibility for training Iraqis to police their country. In practice, the whole thing strikes me as a mess and I'm not sure what to tell people who have loved ones there. We talked a bit more - she has a doctor appointment on Monday and I told her Mom’s gallbladder would come out that morning. She’s overworked. I’m bored and discouraged. She wishes I’d stay on campus after the summer and understand why I feel it’s important to leave.

“Which means,” I concluded after finding out how to order a couple of textbooks I wanted, “I should get back to my desk. I’m expecting a call about a job I might want. But not really. Whatever.”

I walked back and halfheartedly picked another journal for my poor paper. I called the bookstore to order my books and replied to a couple of emails. I told Carrie I was sorry she was sad lately - I’m sad lately too. I thanked Advisor for telling me how proud he was of my seminar and that he mentored my graduate work. I sent OlderStudent a copy of my CV to use as a template. And I wrote to Jill about the books I ordered.

I gave myself a harsh pep talk when the phone rang. “You try to be peppy, Katie Marie,” I said out loud before lifting the receiver. “It’s what you do.”

I answered and talked to a relatively young woman with a very pretty accent for about 15 minutes. I can do exactly what she needs and would be good at it. She, in turn, does work I find interesting and valuable, though I haven’t worked in that area and could learn a lot from her. We traded information and I found it was easier and easier to be upbeat and positive about past projects and future prospects.

“The problem,” I told Friend after going to her house and fetching her for dinner, “is that she wants to nail something down pretty soon. And this would be my safety job - I don’t want to commit to another post-doc when there’s a chance of getting something at a higher level. But I did like her. And I would be good at the job.”

I came home with a clean car (it had remained salty and gross from my trip to the frozen north) and full gas tank. I was full from dinner and had leftovers in a container. Friend is on my couch with Chienne so I’m not alone with my sense of publishing failure. And I got an email from PrettyAccent. She reviewed the rest of my references and would like me to work for her. She listed various reasons I should do so and attached papers she’s written. And she pushed for a visit and answer by early March.

The visit I can do happily. It’s the answer that I’m not sure about. But given that journals seem pretty sure about telling me no, perhaps another post-doc would serve me well. I’ll keep you updated.

9 comments:

Dr. Brazen Hussy said...

Sorry about the journal. I will share my beribboned booze with you.

post-doc said...

Thank you. I've had a good amount of non-beribboned booze tonight already.

Just as a bonus - and something that explains a lot - I have a story. There is an eclipse tonight. So Chienne and I went out front to find the moon to see if it was hidden behind clouds. It wasn't - it was glowing beautifully in a mostly clear sky. I went out front again to see the beginnings of the penumbral shadow and told Friend she should too.

She asked where the moon was and I pointed toward the back of the house since I had to stand well into the driveway to see if over my house.

"So," she said, "I could see it out the back door?" I paused for a moment - sweatshirt and slippers still on so I could make my next trip out front - and stared at her.

Then I moved a chair to the back door so I could look at the moon - and the super-cool shadows - from inside. It's no wonder my papers don't get published.

la rebelde said...

Sorry to hear about the journal. I feel your pain. I got a journal rejection the other day too. And now I need to get off my butt and send it off to another one, but I just don't feel like it today. Maybe tomorrow or next week... Glad you got to check out the eclipse though--pretty cool!

diss daisy said...

Good luck with the decision, that's a really tough one. :( Hey if you went with the post-doc, then you could keep your blogger id, heehee. I actually think you should hold out... But what do I know, I'm just a visitor here.

Yay eclipse!! We could even see it here in the normally-cloudy-but-not-today Pacific NW. I watched from the foot of my bed with my kitty curled up against me. :)

PhDLadybug said...

Sorry for the paper. But it seems like there is something good coming along....

Mad Hatter said...

Sorry about your paper. I remember my first paper rejection and it felt exactly as you described. Best of luck with the resubmission and jobs!

Day ByDay said...

Oh Katie - rejections are never fun. I'm sorry that they don't seem to get any easier or less deflating for you. You still do, however, have a stellar CV, and personality to boot! :)

As for the job offer for a second postdoc - I don't know anyone who would find you terrible for accepting the postdoc offer, only to later leave it for a better opportunity (such as a faculty position or such). It actually happens all the time, especially at stages of potential career transition like the one you are in right now.

You have to do what is best for yourself, even if that means saying yes to a "backup plan" second postdoc while still exploring other options.

Of course, I've had friends tell me "if you make a back up plan, you'll end up using it" - but I'm too easily stressed by the thought of not having any safety net :)

Wayfarer Scientista said...

I hear you about the "safe job" - I'm wishing I hadn't turned one down now.

Sorry to hear about the rejection!

post-doc said...

La Rebelde-
It bothers me to let them sit - I dwell on the disappointment and can't really get past it until I send the paper somewhere else. But there are actually many benefits to waiting a bit. So I hope you have more luck than I do, whatever you decide. :)

Daisy-
I hurt my neck trying to stare out my back door. So the bed seems a much nicer viewing spot. If I'm not able to stall her, I very well might turn her down. But I'll definitely keep you all updated.

PhDLadybug and Mad Hatter-
Thanks for the sympathy. It really does suck to get rejections.

DayByDay-
I agree with you in theory and would support someone doing what's best for her. But I don't know that I could put it into play myself. I'll think about it though. So thanks for the plan. (And I'm thinking about you lots lately - grow, wee one, grow!)

Wayfarer-
It's a fear of mine, of course. Turning down a reasonable job in the hopes of something better. But hopefully something will get clarified in the next few weeks and I'll be able to make a safe yet hopeful decision. Maybe.

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