Every year we write Individual Development Plans in grad school. It’s part of being on NIH grants or something. Classified into career goals and specific goals and annual goals and all different categories.
The thing I need to work on the most is fear
the thing I WANT to work on the most is fear
I am afraid
like legitimately afraid of so so many things
walking and talking to myself to write down on a sticky note a question to ask
preparation still took me probably an hour for a 5 minute task
this is why i can’t use my time efficiently
and that will improve my career the most
by allowing me to communicate
reach out to other scientists
talk to my PI
(Of course I did not write that on my IDP. I wrote things about professional goals and improving my writing ability and my ability to communicate my research as well as my ability to develop a project and other such reasonable goals.)
I wrote this first part months ago when I was actually filling out my IDP but it never turned into a full post.
Because I can plan experiments decently well, over short and mid-term ranges of time. I had a thesis proposal relatively well thought out, if not written yet. I had preliminary data. I can edit my scientific writing into something which is very consistent with how an early graduate student should be writing (there’s struggles with transitions, which all my writing and presentations have, but enough copies and those can be added). The hard part–where you pick a project–was already painfully done over a horrible few weeks of crying long long long ago.
But now that my thesis project–or at least what was to be my thesis project–has been apparently already done–I have to restart.
Which also wasn’t planned
not part of my plan
But that’s science
And at least I found out now only a year into it instead of in two or three years when it’s published and I’m halfway through a thesis that’s already been done
Restart the awful awful part of finding and choosing a project from the infinite possibilities of things that can be done in zebrafish development. I’m still in the same lab, but I have to switch my focus to something almost completely new, so that not even my months of reading will be all that helpful in writing up my thesis proposal.
and absolutely terrifying
try not to panic
or to spend all day writing scripts to talk to my PI so that by the time I get to one where I am able to ask for help, he isn’t in his office anymore
ask for help
because I don’t know how to ask for help
instead I spent all day trying to write a script down to ask for it and by the time it finished I missed him and writing the word panic down in different shapes (as you can see at the top of the page)
And my apartment has unopened envelopes piling by table and dishes piling on the stove and counter and my dog gets walks and that is about it in things get managed. My fridge has milk and cheese in it and that’s it.
We’ve been doing puzzles in lab in the break room. Little pieces slightly different shades of blue to sort through and put back together. That’s the sort of thing I know how to do. That’s the sort of thing I know how to sort through and rearrange and fix. You have all the time you need to sort and organize the pieces by color and shape and slowly put them back.
But real life has time limits. And you can’t lie out all the pieces on the ground in order until they match up. The pieces of real life don’t sit and wait there until I can sort out where they go. The longer real-life pieces wait, the farther they fall out of place and the harder they are to put back together.
I know this is jumbled and messy and doesn’t really make sense. But lots of everything is messy and jumbled and doesn’t make sense and full of fluff and stuff and mess so that’s the state of being anyway.
Some more choosing-a-lab/grad-school-struggles randomly and when that happens I am not very good at writing at paragraphs or capitalizing or even really going back and editing it but also because I am still sort of mush on this topic and ideas right now. So sorry about that because I know lack of capitalization and even also inconsistent capitalization and punctuation can be distressing to read to me at least so here’s a heads up that it is all sorta meltymushy.
one problem i’ve found that I have with autism
and why i don’t want to tell people
because for the longest time i would read stories of kids with autism–because its almost always kids in the stories
and i thought it couldn’t be real
because they sounded just like me–a bit younger often, and with a tendency to be boys—and I was not a boy no way who knows what boys were up to or how I could related to them
so i thought most of it was a new made-up craze
that things were overconcerned and overpathologized when it was just people being people
eventually i realized that actually in these stories these kids who couldn’t really have something Named, couldn’t really all be that different
because it was things I did
things my family did
things I didn’t think at all were unusual because they were woven into my everyday life
that these things were not actual Things That Everyone Does
but rather, unusually unique to me and occasionally family members
and this group of autistic
I would keep reading the stories before I realized
because I recognized something similar
but also reading them trying to figure out what exactly it was that made these kids different
sometimes jealous of the more-overtly-things that meant they didn’t have to talk to people
or somehow were allowed to do things in public I knew that were not allowed but they were ok for them
not knowing how amazingly lucky and accepting my life had been–which is probably one big WHY that no one noticed things about me
and now i’m struggling with some things in school
contemplating telling people to see if that would help
—by people i mean official school people—
(although i don’t know who i would tell since i am not even in a lab)
but I’m afraid they won’t believe me
because just like my family was slow to believe when i told (some of) them
because it was just things that everyone did
i live in a world of science and scientists
and a lot a lot a lot of the things I do are not all that uncommon–at least compared to the general population
there is at least one professor who I am almost positive (upwards of 90%) is autistic too
and there are others with hints
and so i feel like it would be less believed
because the straits stand out less–which is sometimes good
but makes asking for help harder
—well, that and the fact that I don’t have any actual official paperwork of any sort saying i was autistic. probably a flaw at that time that i should have predicted coming up in the future
maybe when i get in a lab officially
i will eventually tell that PI
and help figure out solutions
In general, i’m not very good at telling people
i’ve told one person who asked directly
i have told 2 close friends
i told boyfriend
i wish people would ask directly
that is why i didn’t even tell the therapist/pysch person
because it didn’t come up in any of the questions she asked me
but i think it is very rare that people will do that
it has only happened once
so i probably shouldn’t hope for that
I have to choose a lab and that is no fun because they don’t really tell
you the hows or the whats or the whys and whenever I go to try and talk to
people, they just ask be questions. When what I am asking for isn’t the
questions but the process. What is the process for choosing a rotation. For
choosing a lab to work in. I would like a protocol. I would like some
directions other than “find a lab”. How do we find one? Once we have
identified one that we think we would like to join, how do we go about it.
They say go and talk to the faculty, but they don’t say what to talk about.
So I go in and talk and end up just as confused at the end with no specific
When I ask how to choose a lab, how to join a lab, they do not tell me.
They ask me questions that lead down a different path. I want to know how
to contact people. I want to know the how about it.
Even if I get the strength and spend days and days making the words and
walking around outside the building to prep before going in with explictly
said words “I would like to join your lab” it does not work. It doesn’t
come out… the words don’t want to listen at all. So I just sort of go
there and nod and murmur along and agree to all the things and say
everything is doing great and run quickly quickly quickly through the
little bit of the script I can still remember. And we end up more confused.
Both of us.
Once I tried to write it down on a post-it note I brought in.
Sometimes they ask me questions I haven’t prepared for and I have no answer
for and I scramble for them in bits and pieces and try to make words out of
things that aren’t words.
I know it is because there are multiple of us trying for the same lab and
there is so much that depends on it on funding and who to choose and what
to do but I do not know how to do it. I do not know the how.
And I’m terrified I’m too slow. I sort of already had one person tell me no
because I didn’t express interest and I don’t know how to show I can
express interest in a clear and obvious way. I know how to do it in the
ways my interest and happiness works. Although the lab I want to join was
the first, when I was less skilled at digging into the problems and hiding
in the data and building a home out of it. I’m afraid the other person or
people trying for this lab will win. Because they know the words and the
procedures and don’t seem to have to prep with words on a post-it note or
walk around and lie down in the grass afterwards to process and figure out.
And they know the words and the ways of people and all I have is the
long-ago memories of the brownies and blondies and other treats I brought
into lab in October November December.
Processing is not my strong point.
People is not my strong point.
Choosing is not my strong point.
Fighting is not my strong point.
Processing processing processing.
Why do I want to join your lab?
I know in the patterns. I know from the part of my brain that doesn’t think
in words. With the following of patterns. Where all the things come from
patterns. I can tell somehow. I know I was happy. I know I liked the work.
I don’t know the how the why the reasons, at least not in words. The part
of me that knows things like this doesn’t know in words, not always, and
there aren’t words or translations leftover.
But that’s not an adequate answer. That’s not a coherent explanation.
That’s not a convincing reason to choose me over someone else. If I can’t
articulate *why* I know, just that I know, it isn’t particularly helpful.
The hows and the whys and the words and the work and the reasons.
I want to drop out of grad school
I want to just go home and never have to do anything again
I don’t want to think about getting married
I don’t want to think about picking a lab
I don’t want to talk to professors
I can’t go home I have so much to do
I can’t miss a flight I already checked in for
I can’t stay here
I can’t function properly
I can’t eat or make food
I can’t talk to people correctly
I want everything to stop
I want everything to stop
I want everything to stop
Normally I do well in grad school. Now is not one of those times.
Grad school is self-directed which means I don’t have enough direction. I don’t know how to choose and how to convey my interest appropriately in joining a lab. And when I did, there were not-clear-things that resulted from the conversations (and from me crying in the middle of conversations) and it is all a no-good mess, still. And I talked to advisors and people I rotated with and they just kept asking more questions and not answering anything explicitly because it is up to me to decide so I have to make the decisions. And because it took so long for me to talk clearly enough that people understood what I was actually saying (on the order of weeks), now I am leaving for 2 weeks without knowing what I am doing when I come back. And without having joining a lab until who-knows-what or if people want me to join or WHAT because it is all an awful NO GOOD HORRIBLE BAD MESS.
Eventually I calmed down a bit and talked to people and wrote out the steps for the current life-grad school-rotations-communication dilemma. At least I’m not in the meltdown-crying-every-hour-awful-mess-state that I was earlier. I have a plan. Well, sort of a plan. A plan to figure out a plan. To fix all the big horrible mistakes that I have made and have gotten behind on. To make up to all the people I have disappointed. To stop disappointing people and stop making mistakes.
Normally I do well in grad school.
But I am going to go home (which was already planned) and my parents are going to take care of me for two weeks and I can e-mail professors about things and do everything except meet-in-person which is something that I need a lot of preparation for anyway. And I can focus only on the tasks I need to do and break them into steps and hopefully figure out how to do things.
Maybe going somewhere safe will fix it. Seeing if hiding from my problems will fix it. (Or “taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture” if I put it in more friendly terms).
Messy mind, messy writing, sorry about the blurry thoughts.
There’s been finals and papers. I’m going home Monday.
I have to figure out which lab I am joining at some point.
I HAVE TO FIGURE OUT WHICH LAB I AM JOINING.
AKA WHERE I AM GOING TO SPEND THE NEXT 5-7+ years of my life doing science.
Scientists are bad at communication
but so am I
(because I am a scientist)
so that has all been a stress-mess of no one knowing what is going on
Every time I have talked to someone it has become a bigger mess. So I will be leaving Monday for two weeks probably with no real idea of what I am going to do when I get back.
For the last week or so, I have had to step evenly on every crack on the sidewalk on my way to work or else my feet get uneven and that is bad. Even when I wear my big thick running shoes, even when I don’t look down, I can tell. (And the sidewalks are horribly sized sections so there is no good way to walk… it’s about one and a half strides per block no way to make it even ever). So it’s been a tough week.
So in the midst of procrastinating on this work, I have been posting some posts. But then I’ve also been reading other ones. And I got worried so incredibly worried about hurting other people. I would rather a million times be forced to the point of hiding and stress and bad things than hurt someone else. I contemplated deleting everything I have ever written. I contemplated just deleting some posts. I contemplated adding disclaimers to everything ever. So in this panic, I decided that the easiest temporary solution was to just hide it all. Not to delete anything or edit anything that I might regret later. But to just block it all from everyone but me.
So I changed my privacy settings, and tried to forget about it, because I had other things that I needed to worry about this week.
So I hid from the internet for a while.
Because hiding is one of my favorite defense mechanisms. It isn’t really the best one, in terms of effectiveness or long-term-effects or really defensibility, but it is easy when things are hard. And it is a way to postpone things until brains can work again.
This morning, I realized that maybe I should have said something about why I went away, but I didn’t know how to have just one page publicly available. I tried initially when I hid things, but it was too much and I just needed things to be hidden and safe. Because if no one can read what I write, no one can get hurt. So this morning I posted on facebook a rather delayed message about my hiding.
But, I think overall this blog is a good thing. It’s good for me. I’ve made friends through it. (As boyfriend said in his infinite wisdom and good words ability) I’ve ” learned a lot about yourself and gotten good affirmation and confirmation over the blog.”So I will change the privacy settings back so that anyone can read it again. I will keep up my posts. I will be ok with the fact that some posts are messy, that some things I have are rough ideas, that the writing is not always perfect. I will try to come back from hiding, because avoiding good things does not seem like a way I want to come back from life.
“And if people get upset they don’t have to read it”
Everything is all in my brain. Because my brain is the filter through which I interpret the world. Everything is all in your brain. Because your brain is the filter through which you interpret the world. Everything is always in your brain.
In our grad school ethics class, one of the topics was science and religion, and the presenter brought up some brain scan studies done on religious people praying, and how they had specific brain activity when they were praying. One of the people in my class decided to take this to mean that therefore it couldn’t possibly be real and it was just a brain malfunction. That it was proof that all religious experiences were not real.
I did not like this conclusion. Or this logic.
Because it was missing the clear bit of information, which is that everything we experience we process through our brain. I’m not going to argue about religion or God or gods or personal beliefs, because in general those are up to you to decide. But saying that something isn’t real because there is specific brain activity associated with it is a horrible argument. Of course there is brain activity when people are praying or having religious experiences. The presence of brain activity does not make something NOT REAL. Because you experience everything through your brain.
That is sort of the point of having a centralized nervous system.
A while ago, I ran away from home. True, I am an adult. An independently living adult. So you might not strictly call what I did running away. You could call it “taking a walk to clear my head.”
But it was really running away.
It was a panic, that resulted in a pretty much nonverbal me running out barefoot into the neighborhood. After about half an hour, I was able to talk myself into going back to my apartment for shoes, a coat, and my phone.
Shoes, coat, phone.
Shoes, coat, phone.
Shoes, coat, phone.
Then I was off again.
I know to walk if I am able to walk instead of run. I know the ways to walk so no one asks you questions or if you are lost or asks for directions. I know how to wander aimlessly while looking like I am walking purposely. Because walking purposely protects you from the people that would stop and ask you questions that I would be unable to answer. (Admittedly, now that I live in a city, I suppose I am less likely to run into random people I know, or just nice other people who ask if you are ok, but that was a threat in undergrad.)
I knew to walk east and north. Always walk east and north. (This is a purely safety reason, because the neighborhoods south or west are not as nice of neighborhoods.)
So I walked east and north, aimlessly but with purpose, to get away, to escape my mind.
Eventually, I had calmed down enough to sit down on some steps and send a help message.
“Ran away but went back for shoes and phone so ok walking campus now not safe (physically ok) but cant go back home again tried once help maybe”
And boyfriend called and talked me through, even when I wasn’t talking, and talked to me about little things about the week until I had words back and was able to walk back home past the motorcycle crash and the angry people and the police back to my apartment back to my room and be safe again. And he stayed and talked me through to safety.
And that is why I love him.
If he hadn’t called back, I’m sure I would have eventually calmed down enough to get my words back. I am not sure where I would have been able to go, or hide. I would have kept walking east and north, until I hit the lake. And kept walking. Not into the lake, but somewhere. Eventually the cold might have reminded me to go home, but I’ve walked for hours while it was snowing before because of similar panic. (I usually loop around a relatively small area, though. So I won’t walk one direction for hours, but I would walk the same paths around campus for hours in the snow.)
When things get to be completely overwhelming, I hide or run. Hiding usually comes first. If there is nowhere to hide, then I will run. I’ve been in a hallway before for a professor-networking-dinner-event, then the next thing I know I am literally halfway across campus, running. At a certain point, it becomes something out of my control. That is why it is good I spent my first adventures into living alone in undergrad on a campus without a lot of streets criss-crossing it.
I am afraid that one day I will panic and run out of lab in the middle of an experiment. Or run out of a meeting or run out of my (in the far indefinite future) thesis defense. Most of all, I am afraid I will run out into the street.
So I look for hiding places, for safe places, for places that I can go in a panic. Ways to hide instead of run. I’ve found several of them. There are quiet rooms full of rarely used equipment. There are the wells under the desk (although people could find me there, but it is a small space). There are always bathrooms.
I wish that I could say definitively that one day I will grow out of the running. That I will be able to just stop it. That I will be able to manage things so that they are in control and so that it never happens. I’m afraid one day I might be watching my (potential far-distant) children and get so overwhelmed I run away, leaving them who knows where. I don’t think I will. I tend to prefer to hide, if at all possible. I want to be able to manage myself better, to know when I am close to overwhelming, to know when I can push myself and when I need to stop. I think I’m generally getting better. But these full-out-panic-don’t-remember-runnings didn’t happen all that frequently to begin with. (Possibly because usually I can hide.)
I need to be able to live somewhere that I am not afraid of leaving my room. I need to live somewhere that I feel safe in the whole living area. That I can go in the kitchen whenever I want to. I am paying rent for half an apartment, but I’m afraid to use most of it. It’s an irrational fear, and afraid might not be the absolute best word for it, but it is the best word I can find right now.
Often, I won’t leave my room if I know my roommate is in the kitchen/living/dining room. This has negative effects on my eating habits. I can’t schedule my meals because I never know if she will be outside her room that day and I will need to make something quick so that I don’t have to stay in the kitchen long if she is out there. Even though I know this is irrational and there is no reason why I can’t use the kitchen if she is in the living room, it is just something that cannot happen, except on the best of days. Even if it isn’t a physical barrier, it is still something that prevents me from eating. It is still a real barrier for me.
I want to state clearly that this is in no way my roommate’s fault. She is a good roommate. She respects my space and doesn’t come into my room ever unless she has something important to tell me (like the oven is still on, or the timer is going off, or I got mail here it is). She doesn’t eat the food that is specifically mine, and splits the bills on the food we share, like bread and milk. She pays the internet bill on time so that we have internet always, which is important. Admittedly, sometimes she doesn’t do the dishes, but that is something I also do. When I told her that I do better with initiating conversations written, she started asking me over g-chat or facebook chat about things like paying my half of the internet bill.
The things that bother me are things she can’t really help. For instance, she had a really bad cough for months. I recognized that was not something she was doing consciously to annoy me, and it probably was worse for her than it was for me. But that still didn’t stop it from hurting my head every time I heard a cough, from distracting me so that I couldn’t concentrate on anything.
But mainly, it is her presence.
And I feel absolutely, positively horrible for saying this, because she is a nice girl. She’s one of my friends from undergrad and she’s also doing a Ph.D here. And her program doesn’t seem to be full of nearly as many lovely, friendly people as my program and I know she is having a hard time with it. My time at school/work is full of friendly interactions with fun people and hers is not.
But I need to move out.
I need to live somewhere I feel safe.
Somewhere where I am in control of the whole living area.
Somewhere that allows pets so that I can have a cuddly, snuggly friend.
But I feel horrible about abandoning her. Even though I’m not leaving until the lease is up (or at least close to it. I can’t pay two leases on a grad student stipend.) Even though we lease through student housing so she can stay here and still pay the same rent and they will probably put someone new in this apartment so that will be good because she will not be alone and generally gets along well with people. And also just that we won’t live together doesn’t mean that we can’t be friends.
And sometimes I talk to her and it is nice and fun and good. And happy even. And then I think that maybe I could handle this, that maybe I am being selfish and antisocial and lazy and if I just started spending more time not in my room I would feel safe in those parts. That it is just me being a horrible, lazy, selfish person.
But it isn’t selfish to want to be safe. It isn’t selfish to want to be able to make myself food on bad or tired days.
It’s time for a Friday night update on my life. Why? Because I am still testing the hypothesis that blogging makes me happy. So far it has been another fairly good set of weeks, but it is sort of difficult to tell if this is because of the blogging or the talking to people or what, because I don’t really want to do the sort of controlled experiments necessary where I try weeks without any of the coping mechanisms to use as a control, so I am really trying to go with the methods where I throw all the new coping techniques or correlations up at once and try to maintain all of them if at all possible. But mostly right now I am working on the blogging regularly part. So I’m going to give an update on my life in list form, because list-format makes sense and is good.
(1) Told my roommate I was autistic. Mostly happened in passing in a conversation we were having about how we were good at teaching. That was fairly uneventful. Pretty much she asked, “really” to see if it was a figure of speech or not and I said “yup. for reals.” and then we continued our conversation.
(2) Also finally told my roommate about how I prefer text-based communication a lot of the time. So that if I am seeming quiet or non-communicative (because she said she was worried that I don’t talk enough) that she should try g-chatting me or something. Because I looovvvee g-chat. I am very talkative and friendly through g-chat almost always, even when I am non communicative verbally. And that also went well, I think.
|Yes, I will go play with animals all break.|
(3) When this lease is up in August, I am moving. And I am getting a pet. Hopefully a dog (I just need to work out a few details about Christmas, but boyfriend and family live in Chicago, so hopefully they can watch it) so I can go on walks and cuddle and because I love dogs, but if not, at least something adorable and furry and lovely.
(4) It’s spring break so I am going home to California! And I am going to go see these beauties. And also the sun. And warmth.
(5) It’s also finally starting to get warm here again. I can go outside without my parka. (Still wearing a coat, but not my giant, knee-length puffy coat!) Spring is coming. And spring means daffodils and tulips, which are my favorite flowers.
(1) My computer is dying, so that is no good. It decided to quit on me all night yesterday which is of course just what you want the day before the end-of-rotation presentation. So that presentation went not-all-that-great, as I hadn’t been able to practice it, but I didn’t actually cry during the presentation, and I bribed everyone with brownies that I made the night before, since I had a lot of time since I couldn’t work on my presentation with a nonfunctional computer… It hasn’t made funny noises since my presentation, though, so maybe it has decided to improve. I know they have limited life spans, and this one is 5 years old, almost, but I don’t want to have to replace it. Also computers are expensive.
|Why yes, this happens every time I try to
put my curtains up or take them down.
(2) My curtains hate me. I swear that they have a conspiracy designed to drive me into a non-functional state of rage. (That hasn’t actually happened, but that is just because I am smarter than my curtains. It’s close, because they are pretty tricky, but I think I am winning just slightly.) So my curtains actually spend a lot of time on the floor.
I think they technically aren’t curtains, but are shades or something like that, but that is probably a mostly-irrelevant piece of data.
Also, they are luckily close to my bed, so I can climb on my bed and the window to put them up every night when I go to sleep. But it is still super frustrating and also I am climbing on windowsills while sleepy a lot, which is not the best idea.
(3) I’m 23 now, so I’m technically too old to be on my parents car insurance anymore, so I am going to have to either stop having a car (which I could do. I don’t really need a car, but it is nice having one) or pay for car insurance myself soon once the insurance company realizes that I am too old. And that adds even more costs onto having a car I don’t really need but that makes my life a lot easier to the point where I am almost not sure I can justify it.
(4) I have to do taxes soon… or have boyfriend do taxes soon, at least, and this year I have to pay taxes instead of getting a refund, because my graduate school stipend won’t take the taxes out directly like most jobs (and they also only pay us 4x a year, which is stressful because you have to manage money well throughout those three months because you don’t get paid all that frequently.) So I am going to have to write big checks to the government, and that is no fun.
The neither-good-nor-bad, but just things that have been happening:
(1) 2048 is the best and worst game ever. I want to play it all the time. But I discovered it during finals/presentation week.
(2) I am not tired because I took a 4 hour nap today (which was good). But now it is 1:30 and I am still awake (which is bad). But tomorrow is a Saturday so it doesn’t matter too much.
I’m getting through pretty well right now, overall. The goods outweigh the bads, generally, at this time. (Admittedly, at this moment, my computer has also decided that it is going to function and has been for a while, so that is a big plus. Probably currently the biggest factor in my happiness is my computer’s inconsistent behavior.)
Well, that’s all that’s really happening here.