I vividly remember being on my bed in my parents' house and reading my graduate school handbook as I finished my undergraduate work. I like knowing the rules and being prepared. Why, I thought as I shuddered with horror, would anyone want to write a dissertation? Or defend it in front of a group of people? It sounded impossible - something for only the truly brilliant and special to accomplish. What if they asked a question you didn't know? Or thought you were stupid or inept or otherwise lame? Not for me, I thought decisively.
Yet I did write one and did defend it and can honestly put ", PhD" after my name. And while it was difficult and scary and horrible at times, it just became something I did for those years between 2001-5. And there were some amazing people and fits of giggles and a lot of learning and growing up that happened along the way.
I remember, albeit more vaguely, thinking I wouldn't be great at this job since my social skills aren't the most sparkling I've seen. I was especially worried about dinners with customers and collaborators as I strongly tend toward being a morning person and fade pretty quickly after 7PM. So the idea of meeting with Famous Scientists and trying not to end up utterly humiliated while spending a couple of hours dining seemed impossible.
As is typical, I decided I would try to avoid it as much as possible. Yet, over the two years I've worked here, I've had many, many dinner appointments. I realized as I was driving home from one tonight, the sky bright pink as the sun finished setting and my tummy full of delicious steak and mushrooms and a surprisingly nice local wine, that I had a wonderful time. I was tired by the time we gathered and felt even sleepier after my glass of wine but happily listened to stories, asking questions and giggling when appropriate. I accepted compliments because I have been doing good work lately and after the depressing dip in productivity, it feels good to bask in the glory of goodness again.
I stopped briefly to pick up mosquito repellent for tomorrow's walk on my way home. For as I killed the tenth horrible insect on my chin during Chienne's walk, I thought that I couldn't do this anymore. It was impossibly horrible to have them touching me, biting me, potentially infecting my blood.
But I am stronger than I think, as I think most people would say if they fairly assessed themselves, and those bastard mosquitoes are done screwing with me. Yay for progress!