Thursday, April 15, 2010

Proven Wrong

Yesterday was one of those days where I question why I'm even pursuing a career in academia. Mr. JP says that everyone has those days, and he reminded me that it is just a job and we work to earn money to support our family. But still... it would be just so much easier to work in industry, be a mystery novelist, vegan baker, or just anything else.

During a weekly meeting with my graduate student, he disproved his entire last year of work (and possibly our lab's one and only publication?). I was impressed that a second year student had so conclusively debunked his own work, but I was also alarmed that we had 'lost' a year - or maybe an entire project. The student was in panic attack mode because his prospectus is this summer, and he has just debunked his entire project. I said with genuine enthusiasm, "That's great! Now you can present in your prospectus the story of how you found the error, and how you will fix it!" He did not share the enthusiasm. We then devised a new plan of attack for the project, and he calmed down a bit.

Then he says, "And I have other bad news. Our Very Expensive Instrument is broken." Arrrrrrgh!

As I drove home yesterday on my very very long commute, I sorted through the details of the day and felt defeated. 30 min into the commute, I realized, "Why am I doing this? I could do anything else with my life - anything." By the end of the commute I was determined that my best career path would be administration, because I like interacting with people and being involved with how universities work. So the moral of the story is that an excessively long commute engenders crazy thoughts and delusions. Mr. JP says that if my commute were only 20 min, I would never get to the career-crisis thoughts.

Oh, and my CAREER proposal was officially rejected yesterday.


Anonymous said...

All I can say is that it makes me feel so much better to hear that someone as successful as you has these thoughts too. I have them daily.

Bob in Boise said...

Long commutes are *terrible* for this! The worst days for me are long commutes after a paper is rejected, or I have a sharp realization that I'm not as smart as my colleague, or some such.

Since I turned 30 I've learned that immediately heading to the gym and working out until I'm exhausted is the best solution to this feeling.

Arlenna said...

Me too, I also have the dangerously long commute and I go through this all the time as well. It is way better to debunk yourself because of rigor than to be debunked by someone else on stuff you never figured out.

Anonymous said...

me too. and I have a 90 min commute so I know exactly what you mean about having plenty of time for negative thoughts to accumulate!

ScienceGirl said...

Sorry to hear about the CAREER... And long commutes are evil like that for me too.

JaneB said...

My commute is 20-25 minutes and I still have some of these thoughts after a bad day. I prefer the quality dark chocolate route to the gym route though it's no doubt less healthy!