Sunday, December 05, 2004


Today is my day to mentally ramble. In truth, I have little to say today because I was not able to participate in yesterday's adventure that I had looked forward to all week. I had planned to walk across the George Washington Bridge on Saturday morning with the Shorewalkers and to write an essay about some aspect of that experience for my blog (and for their newsletter). But I was not able to participate and I am still disappointed today.

Instead, I spent yesterday morning working with S, one of the college students whom I tutor, because she rescheduled her Friday afternoon session for Saturday morning. Considering that she already owed me a large sum of money from a previous tutoring session, I happily made the appointment with the hope that I'd finally have some cash in my pocket so I could go food shopping for my birds and myself that evening (I was down to my last $16).

But approximately 20 minutes after our arrangements were finalized, I realized with some dismay that I had mistakenly agreed to meet S at the same time I was supposed to meet my Shorewalking pals for our bridge crossing adventure. Because S had rescheduled this particular session five times already (yes, I am patient) and also because I needed my money, I did not bother to reschedule our tutoring session for later, reminding myself that unemployed people are not entitled to have fun anyway, even if it's free fun.

Despite the flurry of rescheduling to fit her schedule, S arrived 35 minutes late on Saturday morning without making the effort to notify me first, adding insult to injury. While I waited and wondered where S was and whether she would even show up, I also wondered how far along my pals were on their bridge-crossing expedition at that exact moment -- it was such a beautiful day but was it windy on the bridge and were they cold? I also speculated about potential networking opportunities I was missing with them, anecdotes about the history of the bridge that I would never hear, interesting personal updates and entertaining stories that I would never be told. I gritted my teeth, resolving to charge S for those precious lost minutes.

Our tutoring session was tedious. During our sessions, S often questions me repeatedly about concepts we've already covered as if she's never heard about them before. This is primarily due to the fact that she rarely attends lecture despite being an auditory learner who must hear information and concepts explained aloud several times before she has the confidence to believe that she properly understands them (does she even know this is her learning style?). To make matters worse, the textbook is so poorly written that it is not very useful.

"You already know this material, you just don't realize it yet!" I stated flatly as we worked through an old exam for the second time. She awoke from her mental torpor for a moment and regarded me in surprise. What was she thinking? Fortunately, she did seem to understand my hint and began formulating reasonable answers to the exam questions. After this session, I realized that S is one of those odd people who is self-absorbed yet simultaneously lacking in self-awareness so she is oblivious to the effects of her deeply rooted insecurities. I wonder if she lives with that uneasy feeling that she is missing something crucial.

I understand S's troubles with insecurity because I have been fighting (and sometimes winning) my own battles with it, too. Most significantly, I am making progress with my writing. After suffering a post-employment depression that choked off all my nascent words, freezing them somewhere between the limbic system and Wernicke's area in my brain for 19 days, I am slowly and cautiously rediscovering my voice. I finally finished editing a scientific review paper that I wrote and now I am formatting it for submission to a peer-reviewed scientific journal. I am lingering obsessively over these chores, trying to postpone the inevitable slings and arrows of (outrageous?) colleagues. But at this point, I simply need to submit it to the journal and thereby let it go because I have several research papers that I must work on. Besides, I am sick of looking at it.

I have almost finished writing my book prospectus and fortunately, I am gaining momentum on this project. This is good because the publisher will actually pay a small advance for this book, an advance that will keep my rent paid for several more months after my unemployment insurance payments end five months from now -- provided, of course, that they approve the prospectus and sample chapters. Despite my reluctance to write a book at all due to my own inherent apprehensions, my current circumstances have transformed writing from a peculiar little hobby into a pressing occupation and a race against time, particularly since homelessness appears to be the next life-changing crisis ... er, adventure ... looming on my horizon.

Unfortunately, it's been difficult to work on this book because I mysteriously lost faith in the topic and for that reason alone, the book lost its appeal for me, so I worry it will not interest anyone, that no one will buy my book after publication and then my editor will hate me forever for being such an irresistable semi-literate scientific seductress, leading her and the publisher down the path to financial ruin. In spite of these worries, I have recently begun to suspect that my loss of interest in the book is a creative variation on Groucho Marx's observation; I don't want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member. So I now refuse to contemplate future book sales. And really, it's not my job to worry about potential sales of my book, is it? Isn't that the publisher's job? It's their money invested in this book, after all.

Since I have stopped mentally torturing myself about poor book sales, I have shifted my energies to worrying that my colleagues will attack the book mercilessly regardless of its quality because its author (me) was a poor choice (in their eyes) to write it. After all, they could argue, I am not the World's Expert on this Topic. But, I remind myself, the World's Experts on this Topic have had plenty of time to write this book but haven't done so. Additionally, many people publish books about subjects they know nothing about so in fact, I am doing better than all of them because I actually am unusually knowledgeable about this particular topic. And, unlike many of my peers, I can actually write, too.

I am so relieved that my editor knows nothing of my inner turmoil; she'd think I am crazy.

Incidentally, I know you anxiously read this silly little digression all the way to the end to learn the answer to your burning questions; Did my student finally pay me? Was I able to go food shopping? Yes, my student did pay me all the money she owed me -- but she wrote a check. I was happy that I still had my last $16 in my pocket otherwise, my hungry birds would have rioted.

tags: ,


Academic job applications sent last week: 4

Non-academic job applications sent last week: 2 (scientific assistant, proofreader)

Academic job rejection letters received last week: 3

Non-academic job rejection letters received last week: 1 (security guard)


© 2004, 2005, 2006 by GrrlScientist

2 Peer Reviews:

Blogger Joe said...

...reminding myself that unemployed people are not entitled to have fun anyway, even if it's free fun.Don't say that. Not even as a joke. Everyone is allowed time off from the daily grind, even when that grind comes from having no job instead of having one.

At any given moment, you might rightly choose to work instead of play, and that's probably what you did last weekend. But you cannot become more employable by beating yourself up.

Thanks for the great blog. Now go have some free fun.

5:33 PM  
Blogger GrrlScientist said...

That was a rather sardonic joke, wasn't it? I admit I sometimes have a rather morbid sense of humor. I do have several (free and fun) adventures planned for this week and weekend that will give me interesting events to write about, unless my brain shuts down again. But if that happens, I have learned my lesson and I will continue seeking adventure until the words flow again, instead of grimly trying to fight depression head-on, as I did last time.

Thank you for being such a dedicated reader of my blog. Your time and concern are a great compliment. In a peculiar way, I almost feel that you and several other dedicated readers of my blog are members of my chosen family (of friends, of course), even though I haven't met you.

9:18 AM  

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