March 16, 2013

Self talk.


I'm no good. I'm embarrassed to even be walking the Earth. I want to get run over by a bus. I want to crawl under a rock and stay there. I don't want to talk to anyone. Or make eye contact. Or talk to them. Or declare my presence.  I am an impostorAnxiety boils over in my head. I am extremely perfectionist. I am neurotic

Why bother investing in myself? Nothing will work out for me no matter what I do. I question and ruminate on every decision I make no matter how insignificant. 

I don't love myself. Rationally, I know there are people who care about me, but I don't  know why. I know I'm better off than many, but still feel awful about it. Truly, the world would be better off without me. I don't matter. Or count. I'm useless. 

Things can't possibly change. I'm too...old, set in my ways, don't know what I'm doing, uncertain, indecisive, asocial...I am wrong. A mistake.


I am doing more. I am in the arena a little more often. I have accepted my my introverted nature and understand more that it's not a flaw, just a part of who I am. I am inching my way back up to feeling like it's OK for me to live life. Doing something. Or at least trying to. I still don't have a good direction to go in. I am trying to prevent career burnout by doing things for myself that are novel and new. And enjoyable. I am exploring slightly more. And through this blog, commenting on things through Twitter (my tweets made it onto the #Sciquester home page the AAAS had!), emailing people and asking for the things I need more often. I try to do something that will make me uncomfortable every day...I even succeed sometimes.

I am much more open to feedback. A friend of mine- @MalaChakraborti- who has been a huge support to me when I was in my deepest depression wrote this to me recently: 
"You have a pretty strong tendency to qualify your sentiments, and sometimes you go pretty far at the self deprecation part. The reason I'm pointing it out is because I think it no longer really represents your true opinion of yourself in that situation, but has become a habit from a time when the sentiment was stronger."
I have noticed this myself. When I write, or speak to people, I still come from a perspective that I don't have a clue and am not confident. While it's true that I don't feel I have a ton of confidence, I do try to have a more confident voice. I go back and edit things I write when I see equivocations in my writing whenever I see them. I'm sure I do a lot of that here in this blog (I'm doing it right now...), but this is meant to be fairly quick and informal writing. 

I am taking enjoyment in things a bit more. However, I am not engaged in my work. The idea of doing something else is still strong in my head (this economy scares me still- no more middle class apparently...). I am slowly being swallowed and stifled by my scientific career and feel I need something else to lead a meaningful life (having a significant other is a long standing goal of mine still). I just feel largely lifeless when I'm working. I like science, but the career prospects to stay in it are absolutely dismal. It keeps me up at night sometimes.

I am having more compassion for myself as well. Not that I feel like everything I'm doing is OK, but being kind to myself helps me recover from set backs.

Things I have done so far that make me uncomfortable are actually looking more into my finances, setting up a newish home network, learning and trying new things in the lab, talking more (even though my voice sounds weird when I am more extroverted...and feels like someone else talking entirely), I am using more tools to help organize myself- like doing a weekly review, using Evernote (awesome!), and Unclutter to keep my desktop clear.

I am continuing to learn about myself- reading about High sensitivity (pretty sure that fits me well) and learning more about will power/habit formation and trying to learn good ones. And continue to be more mindful. 


I want to be bolder. Take more chances. Make more mistakes- and hopefully learn more from trying rather than reading theoretically about how something works. Not over thinking, which is still very much a habit of mine. I would love to just decide something and do it. Right then. And not be so afraid to spend money on things I want because I fear buying stupid things. And of course, I hope a major life change comes soon and I can truly announce the release of Ian 3.0.

March 14, 2013


Thank you.

Two words I am trying to say a lot now. To express gratitude as much as possible. 

This appeared in the NYT ecosystem this week. 

I have been reflecting on gratitude lately and how much I try to express it- even for small things that happen in my day. The customer service rep that I don't have to be nice to- they probably don't expect to be thanked for their help (or even their lack thereof).  

This has gotten me to think about how I communicate with colleagues and other scientists and my own digital habits. I'm not sure I communicate that well with anyone, let alone colleagues. I'm the strong silent type (also introverted). 

Introversion is a trait a lot of scientists share, but science also rewards extroverted tendencies a lot more. I am using my more introverted self to write more and speak up when I can, but I still prefer to be quiet and by myself a lot of the time.

I don't tend to talk on the phone. I've started tweeting a lot- I like twitter. I write. I don't tend to leave voicemails. My big fear is actually getting through to someone on the phone and having to talk to them. Of course, if it's a good friend, I'm happy to talk. But strangers is hard. For job interviews, etc. something I ought to get over, ASAP. Exposure therapy perhaps.

I was out at the pub last night after doing a trial run of this weekend's Shamrock Shuffle  with the running club I'm a part of last night. I talked a little bit on the run and a bit after at the pub with a beer. But I had to force myself to smile and when I did, I relaxed and had an OK time, even though I still felt out of place and awkward.

I'm not going to stop what I'm doing as far as my nettiquette. I'd like to talk on the phone more, but it's a thing I am not really able to conquer easily in my head. I don't know why, but I'd better get over it.

Expressing gratitude is one of the things that has helped get me out of major depression. i'd hate to stop now.

March 10, 2013


I got an injury in lab today. Probably not my first, but this one hurts a lot. And this one is unique. I cut my back on that key that sticks out of some models of -80 freezers. I was squeezing past an open incubator door across the way, something I do routinely, but this time I caught my back. 

You'd think I'd have stopped as soon as I felt it digging in. But no, I was in a hurry for some reason and just pushed through.

Just pushing through even when something hurts might be the MO of scientists. We deal with rejection, negative feedback, criticism from ourselves and others ,and experiments that don't turn out well. 

Too much adversity in the lab has lead to scars in my mind. While I love science, it hasn't been a great source of self-worth. And disconnection, depression, and distress have followed.  

As Science Careers post points out, the job of a postdoc is to find a job. The article is full of practical advice about taking full advantage of your postdoc experience. Network. Collaborate. Make good decisions. Get lots of feedback from mentors you cultivate. Learn. It's an exciting time...

In the current time of limited budgets, limited jobs and an overpopulation in STEM Ph.D.'s, it is hard to be an optimist in the face of what seem like increasingly long odds of 'making it'.  The "postdocalypse" appear to be unprecedented. It has always been hard to get an academic job, or a job. It just seems worse now. It is widely acknowledged that preparing Ph.D.'s for the job market that includes not just academia, but industry and even things beyond the field of science is woefully inadequate to the times. Job search criteria continue to increase. Just needed a resume and 3 references before? Now they'll Google you, call your immediate colleagues (not just your reference writer), check your credit score, FBI background check, anal probe (OK, I made up that last one, but I'm sure there's a job somewhere that requires that too...). In academia, the long CV (including multiple, brilliant first author publications that change the face of a field...) and teaching statement are now ubiquitous, along with the research statement. I was thinking the other day that there must be another thing they could ask for...perhaps a 'broader impact' statement that talks about not only teaching, but how your research, integrates with teaching and interfaces with the community to tell the story of science and scientists who do the work and how you'll implement it all largely on your own in a 5 year time frame. To boldly go....

Getting off on the right foot is obviously very important. As is taking an entrepreneurial attitude towards our careers. And of course it all comes back to connecting with people.

I can deal with the physical scars from lab incidents, which are hopefully limited to rare and minor scrapes like the one pictured above. The scar inside the brain of someone who is (and can still be at times) depressed are less obvious. It doesn't mean I can't be a scientist. Or that I'm not intelligent. Or capable of having a successful career. However, at times when depression is pervasive and long term, it prevents seeing opportunity or connecting to people very well. This is due at least in part to the fact that it made me feel less than anyone else, not recognizing any strength that I did have and feeling like no one would understand. I also felt that keeping anything 'heavy' to myself would prevent me from bringing other people down. Isolation plays right into depression's hands. 

It's still not easy, or comfortable, for me to talk about, but speaking out I hope will help others as well as myself. Sunshine- connection to others- a therapist, close friend or family member, or writing a blog- all help alleviate depression's grip. Having things outside the lab and getting over perfectionism are quite important. Both are things I still need to address more. I am making slow progress in the right direction. Taking more action. 

No matter what the scars are or where they come from, they're part of all of us. The best I can do is exist in the present, plan for the future and hope for the best. And maybe, just maybe I'll land on my feet after following the long and winding road to whereever I end up. I hope well connected to people I care about- and seeing those people in person on a regular basis.

For now, my minor bit of good news is I am 2nd author on a paper that I just found out was accepted. Step in the right direction after being in the fight of my life to heal the scars left by depression, anxiety and perfectionism. 

March 6, 2013



"There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."- Leonard Cohen

I haven't done the best job about letting light in. Or showing my cracks. 

I continue to feel isolated in my own world.

Pushing my comfort zone with calculated risk doesn't seem to be my thing. And it needs to become a habit of mine.


Where does the smile go? It doesn't come out often enough. I don't go out often enough. 

It's an indicator that I might still be fairly depressed about things in my life. 

The easy distractions still get to me. 

I ruminate.

Don't laugh.

I numb my emotions. 

I don't always have a lot of energy. Or feel like being out in the world.

I want to feel more light more of the time. Laugh more. 


Maybe there is some light at the end of my tunnel, even if it appears millions of miles away.

Can you see venus through the rings of Saturn? 

That's how far the light at the end of my tunnel feels a lot of the time. 

At least it's visible now. I truly didn't think it was before. 

I must keep writing. Doing. Asking. Talking. Deciding. Finishing. Learning. Lightening.

March 1, 2013



I had to present the department seminar today, the journal club of the plant labs, but postdocs present our current work. 

I have a lot of pain associated with the last few years as a postdoc. I'm trying not to dwell and I put together what I could in the time I had. But didn't have much time to rehearse, which is really a problem for me. 

So when I went up to talk, I was nervous. I talked too quickly, I felt incoherent and on auto pilot. I felt completely disconnected from the audience, who were more than kind enough to listen to me.

Part of this is content related- I am not engaged with it, but I'm trying again, with all aspects of my life. I'm just not connecting well.

I wasn't present in the moment. Something I struggle with even when I'm not speaking in front of ostensibly friendly audiences (I always feel on trial- even if that's not the case). 

I felt like a stand up comedian bombing on stage. Comedians like to talk about their bombs once they get to a certain point. I guess I just haven't reached it with presenting my work, or presenting at all. I do need to do it more often.


I still feel too often like I'm a mistake- an embarrassment of a human being. So whenever I'm in front of people or talking to them,  I have a high level of self-consciousness. I've felt that way for so long, I'm not sure how to change it even though I'm really trying to move past that mentality.

I am trying to show up. Be present. Do my work. And working on being compassionate to myself. 

That last part is probably the key to unlocking a lot of good things in life; passion for work, better relationships all stemming from actually liking myself. Which is a feeling I haven't had for a long time. Be a presence.


Will I ever put things together and figure out how to get the true presents of life? Not stuff, but normal relationships, a meaningful job, a significant other, etc. Will I declare my presence here and do things because I want to, live in my own authentic way and not worry what others think. Not try to be invisible. Not have to be perfect.

Declaring that it's OK for me to assert myself is a big step for me. Not feeling guilty. Blogging about things that matter. Learning something new every day. Being mindful. 

Be present.

February 27, 2013


Things I fantasize about.

Sometimes I imagine things. Probably silly things. Mostly.

  • A job. That I like. That doesn't feel too dead ended.
  • Being a professional wrestler. There's something about imagining you're facing your problems in the Steel cage and suplexing them into submission. 
  • Swinging like Spiderman through the buildings of NYC.
  • Getting a job interview.
  • Never having to switch off so I can get more done.
  • Performing the Jedi mind trick to get free coffee. 
  • Being as smart as The Doctor.
  • Moving.
  • Being normal.
  • Building a better world.
  • Giving a great talk. Or lecture. 
  • Introverting to inspiration. To my bliss.
  • Run a half marathon.
  • Traveling in the TARDIS
  • Publishing. (Maybe my research project will actually succeed or I'll write a great novel).
  • Vacationing someplace new I've never been before and not freaking out b/c of it.
  • Sleeping enough.
  • Becoming a beer brewing internet guru. 
  • Repeating my (mostly non-roaring) 20's.
  • Becoming a speed reader.
  • Falling in love.
  • Getting a hug. Every day. 

February 17, 2013


Engage is the command Captain Picard gives when a course is laid in and things are ready to go. Usually at warp speed. Warp speed is what I'm thinking I need to get to to get all of my things done that I want to, work wise. Of course, that won't really happen. A guy can dream.

I've talked before about how this blog is in part what not to do as a postdoc. Which is as much for myself as for any Ph.D./postdoc I can help not hit the floor (or if they do, how to bounce back quickly & be resilient). 

And something that's been on my mind lately is being engaged with your work. 

Feeling like your'e doing something that matters. Feeling like you're advancing something greater than yourself. 

It seems particularly important in a time when postdocs are having a hard time finding work. Academic jobs particularly. 

Being truly engaged and passionate about what we do is more important than ever. The postdoc who finds what they love will more likely be successful. 

I haven't been nearly engaged enough in my postdoc and besides getting depressed about my work and my life, I think lack of engagement has been a big issue for me. 

Choose your field/project well. And carefully. Based on what you love in science.

I love science. But I haven't found my thing or so it seems anyhow. Is it too late? It appears so some days. 

You also have to carve out time for things outside the lab that you enjoy. It will make being engaged with your work that much easier.

I'm starting to do this. Finally. Enjoy the present. Getting some space is good. Other people is good. Being an adult (and a scientist) shouldn't mean 'I don't spend time with friends, family and significant others' (I don't have a significant other, but do have friends and family).

I'm reading @ShaneMac's book 'Stop With the BS' which is focused on the business world, but has a lot of good things for scientists in academic labs to keep in mind too. Work beyond your title, network, pitch ideas w/o fear, push your comfort zone. 

I have been struck by the parallels between business, art, and science worlds; sometimes jobs are 9 to 5, but if you're creating new things, it's very similar (science and business cross all the time. Art and Science are starting to more and more- which is why STEAM (Science, technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) ought to be the acronym; we have a lot to learn from one another. 

Learning is of course the key to success. Never stop. Learn by research, learn from others, learn from your errors. It can be uncomfortable, but one good thing about being a scientist. We experiment, try things and see if they fit a hypothesis. Bring that ehtos to your life as well. Try, see if it fits or works. Change your mind if the evidence suggests the opposite of what you thought (like me w/ Twitter for a long time- I didn't see the point. Now I think it's amazing). 

I want to be in a place where instead of answering 'how am I doing?' with 'I'm OK' I say 'I'm f*cking great!' (a phrase from the documentary 'I'm Fine, Thanks').

Work hard. Know yourself. Accept yourself. Don't beat yourself up too much. And don't give up. You'll land somewhere (even if it's not a TT position at Awesome U.).

Things I'm trying to keep in mind.