Monday, January 17, 2005

Performance Art

A colleague of mine is visiting from beautiful Seattle this weekend. A colleague who was in graduate school with me, who shares professional interests, lab space and even the same advisor. In a sense, I guess we are family; sisters. In fact, my academic colleagues are the longest relationship I’ve ever had, except for my relationship with my parrots.

I am happy about this visit, but I am also quite depressed about it.

I know it is not healthy to compare my life to anyone else’s, that doing this is only asking for trouble, but at this point, it is difficult not to make comparisons because of our shared academic history. We earned our PhDs from the same lab approximately one year apart, but this is where our similarities end. Unlike me, she is gainfully employed in a meaningful job in the field, she has a loving marriage and still has her pets, her parents and family love her, she lives in Seattle in the loving embrace of her friends and last but not least, she is a talented writer.

This weekend has been excruciating because I want to show my colleague and her husband a good time, I want them to enjoy their visit to my beloved city and I want them to enjoy all the wonders that my former employer has to offer, but at the same time, I simply want to die. I want to die because it is obvious to everyone that I lack everything that makes life worth living: I fear I have nothing to offer.

Well, my office phone is ringing. They are calling, they are here. The curtain goes up. Bright lights burn my eyes, blinding me.


(108pm) NO! That phone call was not them after all, it was the chairman of a university search committee for a tenure-track position, calling me to set up a telephone interview for this week. Wha ... interview??


(530pm) They arrived, my colleague and her husband. They had a great time and now they are leaving. I watch them from my office window, four floors above as they put their luggage into their taxi. I am so sad, I miss them (how can I miss them? They were only with me for a few hours!), I don't want them to go. I wish I was getting on that plane with them, it would be so easy to go back, I want to go back to my former life that I painstakingly built, back to my former life where I had a flock of friends and a flock of birds and a community that needed and respected me, but if I left this, my other beloved home in defeat, what then? My former life is gone forever, I cannot reclaim it by simply returning to the place where it was located, I have to rebuild it the best way I know, here, in this place that I love.


© 2004, 2005, 2006 by GrrlScientist

13 Peer Reviews:

Blogger Marco said...

Take the advice of a much older (if not much wiser) person. I don't speak english that much, and I understand just part of it. Let's say, just to barely survive in Us. But, Hedwig, my job is writing science, since I'm a journalist, and I'm 51. By all account, my owl, especially when dealing with animals, you write beautifully. Maybe you didn't have the most fortunate of lifes, but your blog shines, definitely.


5:04 PM  
Blogger GrrlScientist said...

Thank you, Marco. Your English is beautiful.

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From JamesN:

They just left, you see them putting their luggage in their car from your office window, and you miss them already ... that's totally reasonsable, possible, and fine. I have no clue how many departures I've dealt with, after 22 years in the Navy more than I can count, but such as you describe happens all the time, is normal, and bespeaks a connectivity that should be cherished.

As for your situation --- just keep plugging and stop thinking about what could be, or what others have. Life unfolds chaotically and very differently for all of us. Keep yourself pointed with the wind, tack when necessary, and keep your eye on a final destination, but be willing to shift that, too, if something better comes along. You write wonderfully, you clearly have talent in that area, which would tell me you're likely well suited for much else, so give it time and just keep going forward. I don't doubt that you'll do fine, just don't lose confidence in yourself or what you think you should be doing.

6:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Today, I was trying to build up the courage to write about parts of my life--and then I happened to follow a link to here from pharyngula.
I admire that you write openly about the suckier parts of your life, though perhaps it doesn't seem like that big of a deal to you. Thank you.

9:27 PM  
Blogger GrrlScientist said...

JamesN: thank you for reading! It's odd because I visualize you as part of my audience now (how did that happen so quickly?) so I wonder what your response might be while I am writing these entries. Isn't it odd how a person I've never met in real life can suddenly become so important? The same peculiar thing has happened to me with my on-line friends. Are we "real friends" if we've never met face-to-face? What is the psychology of disembodied friendships? Is everyone susceptible to it, or perhaps only certain people fall under this spell? Maybe I should spend some time thinking and reading more about this phenomenon?

And to anonymous ... I am happy that you are reading my blog. I hope that you can find something here that you need or that you can use. I wish I could write about the amazing parts of my life, but they are currently on hiatus, but will happily reappear after I am no longer focusing all my energies on merely keeping myself fed and housed. I hope that this rough spot in my life can help other people out there to save a morsel of hope to tide them through the dark and stormy nights.

I write because I often think it is the last thing I can do to save my life. Like all writers, I want people to read my words, so I am always trying to write something that you might want to read, but I freely admit that I am often intimidated when I sit down to write. So many good ideas dawn on me when I am wandering Central Park, when I am watching people on the subway, when I am reading books or magazines or surfing the web .. but all these ideas fade when I am confronted with a blank computer screen. So I sometimes just ... write because I must.But more than my own writing, it is my readers' responses that keep my hope alive. My readers are the gift that I give myself by writing this blog.

12:39 PM  
Blogger cazeria said...

Oh, I adore you. I wish I could do something more for you than simply offer you hugs. You are a wonderfully unique and amazing human being, even if you're not feeling like one right now. Try to remember that there are so many of us out there that believe you are amazing.


2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting blog glad I ran across it.

I dare you to make a big list of all the things you've got going right in your life.

5:42 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

I just want to point out one of the major flaws of The Yardstick Game. That assumption that everybody else is looking down on your life? It's usually wrong, because most people are much too busy looking down on their own.

Life gives more points for effort than a lot of people think. And I'm glad you have good friends and colleagues to visit from across the country.

5:58 PM  
Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Bonjour ma cherie,

I saw your comment on my site (I assume it was you, or one of your gentle readers).

All I can say is, we should flock together. I'm going to add your site to my list.

Hang in there!

6:16 PM  
Blogger Ms.PhD said...

I did a blog about Harvard. Let me know what you think.

Thanks for the tip!

7:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Odd, you thank me for reading when my inclination is to thank you sharing what you do. We're at an impasse on tihs one, so let's forgo the thanking on either score.

As for friends on here ... it's an interesting question, and one that I've spent no small amount of time pondering. I'm sure there are people I have met here, or am in contact with through this, that I would love spending time with in a real world fashion. My caveat to that has always been that you never know someone until you're in their space, wherever that space may be located at the time, and then you know your comfort level with that person and where you can take things. I don't mean their home, but rather there with them, co-mingling your natural exclusion zones --- i.e. that space that strangers are not expected to invade, either physically or psychically. That allows a measure of whether you could see yourself hanging out with a person, being a friend in more than a cyber-sense. While I don't belittle cyber-friendships I do appreciate their lack of dimensionality and limitations, which by and by are sometimes very much an advantage. But I do subscribe to the notion that for as much as you can ever know someone and want to be their friend, or anything else, it takes more than what occurs through keyboards and routers to get to that point.

Well, for all of that, I'm honored to be amongst those you consider in the course of what you write, and indeed, I also see you as a friend within the confines of the limitations that our shared venue allows, and am inclined to believe that had I the opportunity to meet you that you would also be a friend in all the ways that I believe that term has meaning.

9:50 PM  
Blogger - i said...

You have too many anonymouses (anonymi?) tripping over each other, and I had been mulling over the idea of making an account already. Now you can tell which crazy person is which! (I was the one who stopped by the other day via pharyngula)

12:22 PM  
Blogger GrrlScientist said...

Wow, so many comments ... that's what I get for ignoring this blog entry for one day! Thanks so much everyone for your kind words and for spending part of your day with me, reading about my silly life.

cazeria: the power of physical, verbal and emotional hugs are vastly underestimated in this society. Remember Harlow's poor experimental monkey babies clinging forlornly to their wire-frame mammas ... ? I like hugs. You also earn two valuable smug points for inadvertently using one of my favorite words; adore.

Anonymous (#1): hrm, your challenge sounds interesting. I will try to do this .. maybe this will be the birth of a new internet meme? I would love to be the mother of a meme, wouldn't you?

Joe: as always, it's good to read your thoughts because you have much kindness and wisdom. Your comments reminded me that making really wonderful and interesting friends seems to be a particular talent that I have somehow developed.

Ms. PhD: I am glad that we found each other, although I am still scratching my head over who set up this connection ... I am so delighted to know that there is another female postdoc scientist blogger "out there" who knows -- this makes me feel less isolated. Although, let me hasten to add, I felt the same way when I first discovered that there are other scientists "out there" who are bloggers ... a remarkable way to set up and maintain a collegial network.

Anonymous (#2 or #1 x 2): interesting thoughts about cyber friendships. I do think this is an fascinating topic and well worth exploring further. I do think that merging our personal compexities with another sentient being makes friendships multi-faceted, interesting and sometimes unpredictable. You know that all friendships have their strengths and weaknesses over time, that some friendships are best when mediated by electrons while others shine over a plate of home-cooked spaghetti -- although it can take years, I think, to get to that much-coveted plate of spaghetti. But I hope you realize that recognizing these limitations on friendship (whether real or artificially imposed), is not to say that I don't want all my friendships to encompass all these things ... ! But I am patient, too.

salmoncu: it's good to see you are back, with a shiny new name and as a baby blogger! Congratulations! I already peeked and plan to visit your blog regularly. (Choosing the proper template can be difficult, I have used several but am not happy with any of them. Alas, I may finally have to design or (HORRORS!) purchase my own template. But only after I can pay my rent again).

9:18 AM  

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