I remember seeing a SeriouslyBigDeal Professor at a conference when I was in grad school. I was a bit awestruck, frankly, that a person who had been so important to the field was just walking around. How cool would it be, I thought wistfully, to study with someone like that. Instant name recognition and immediate respect - that must be a wonderful feeling.
As good as I was at research - and I honestly wasn't terrible - I was never going to matter on any grand scale. I'm not particularly brilliant - I understand science, but it fails to spark that need to delve deeper and know more. I was bored a lot of the time - forcing myself to read through poorly-written papers and debugging lines of code until my head ached. Publishing was hard, requiring many iterations before I could adequately define my objectives and communicate my results. And - if confession is my goal here - I didn't like being unappreciated. I wanted people to ask my opinion. I wanted to matter.
My attention to this blog sprung, at least in part, from that desire. I wanted someone to care enough to read what I thought. I needed a community of people who saw me - noted that I had ideas and amusing insights and painful stories. I felt some sort of desperation to record text daily to indicate I did something. That I was here and if I were to go away, there would be something left when I moved on to whatever is next. That I chose to fill those needs in such an ephemeral space - to make my mark through words that could disappear if Google decides to take them and to be seen by people I'd never meet - is interesting, but it changes nothing of the human desire behind my actions.
As I returned from my last trip, physically exhausted and at my emotional limit, I realized that those needs are now being met in other ways. When I sit down across from those men I admired at conferences, when we make decisions that could result in changing health care for given populations, when my questions are answered and people know who I am and what I think - I matter, if only in my own mind. And despite how furious or heartbroken I become over given situations, I finally feel like I have the power to make a difference. And whether we launch products that can be used to treat depression or diagnose liver disease or detect cancer earlier, we're talking about global distribution and millions of people who see the results of what we do.
The magnitude of that is a bit terrifying to me - I'm daunted by the task before us and continue to be slightly surprised they're letting me do this. It's not for everyone, obviously. Despite an impressive salary and benefits package, I'm willing to bet that very few of you envy my professional position. And that's fair - I've traded creativity for power, freedom for leadership. Having never been good at teaching, I imagine my feeling when we release prototypes or launch products is a little like knowing you've changed the way someone understands biology or physics or how if/else loops function. But this is something I can do - rally the troops, argue passionately, organize time lines, hold meetings - and I am immensely proud of it.
When I come home and kick off shoes I've worn for 12 hours and snuggle into pajamas before skimming the blogs I've always read, I often don't have energy to write a blog post. But there are times when I do have a bit left. And I often change computers and answer work email, revise upcoming presentations, make sure items are captured on my 'to do' spreadsheet. Because that - in part - is where I find meaning.
Even having written that, I acknowledge that I miss it here. I used to compose posts in my head nearly constantly, wanting badly to entertain someone. I don't do that as much now as most available resources are being used to multi-task as I run an experiment, talk on the phone, answer email and review data simultaneously. Perhaps circumstances will shift and the blog will emerge nearer the top of my priority list. But for now, I'll soothe myself with writing when I can and hoping someone is still reading when that happens.