Monday, October 03, 2005

What I Want: Part Whatever

Once Upon a Time,

I failed to take full advantage of a tremendous opportunity. Or, at least, I took advantage of the opportunity without realizing it at the time, causing myself a lot of unnecessary angst.

You see, college wasn't entirely a wash for me. I learned that I loved writing, policy, and politics. I loved Marxism and theology. I loved hanging out with the international studies majors and having lunch at the "language" tables (my minor was Spanish). I liked rapidly learning novel information and being exposed to diverse ideas. Moroever, I loved combining everything into interdisciplinary concepts--kind of like making old things new again.

The people who could place my name with my face would tell you that I was an X major, but the X was never Biology. I think some people kind of knew that I was a science major because I found a way to include science into every discussion and almost every debate. One professor actually pulled me aside after realizing what my major was and told me that I was wasting my time with "this whole science thing". He believed it was shameful to waste my talent by going into research. I told him "uh, thanks?--I gotta run." At the time, I didn't understand what the hell he was talking about...

So, you may be wondering, "Why didn't people know you were a science major?" It's probably because I avoided the biology building like the plague. It was filled with obsessive premed majors who wanted to sit around in groups memorizing facts--I hate groups almost more than I hate memorizing facts. I didn't join a sorority but I might as well have given that being a science major had the same kind of lack of independent thought--everything involved working in pairs or teams or with an advisor. I'm not knocking that kind of environment; I just don't believe that is necessarily the best way for certain people to take root and grow. Some of us were made to be a little more...solitary...independent...I don't know.

The biology building was filled with people who argued over every point on every exam--people who were so worried about seeming smart that they didn't have the cajones to actually be smart (if the cream rises to the top, then it shouldn't need to argue over points). It was filled with classes that jammed information down your throat, that threw the information at you in chapter-like packages. There was little thinking done in that building; it was instead like some sort of factory production line, pumping out little Poindexters who could do PCRs and synthesis reactions all in preparation for the MCATs or some big internship with Researcher X. Although the exams were meant to exemplify "applied learning", they weren't much better than multiple choice. Just because you are requiring essays as answers doesn't mean that you are requiring intellectual excellence.

I just didn't get it.

I don't believe in learning anything unless you are going to use it to take some sort of action or to form some new idea. I guess that's why the only science courses I looked forward to were lab and psychology/behavior classes.

I decided that it was a reflection of the university, of my forced choice. I did what I was supposed to do to complete the job and waited for the next step to come free me--science would be different at someplace "better".

I spent so much time "existing" that I neglected to see the first signs indicating that it may be time to reshape the clay ever so slightly.

Thank god for introspection.

As I now look around at my peers in graduate school or postdoctoral postitions, starting out in hunt of the white tenure-track whale, I see my former self in their eyes.

8 Comments:

At 12:35 PM, Blogger sue said...

Thank god for introspection

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Once again, thank you for sharing.

 
At 1:35 PM, Blogger Jessica said...

Well written, dear - beautifully stated.

 
At 2:50 PM, Blogger Murky Thoughts said...

I spent so much time "existing" that I neglected to see the first signs indicating that it may be time to reshape the clay ever so slightly.

Thank god for introspection.

As I now look around at my peers in graduate school or postdoctoral postitions, starting out in hunt of the white tenure-track whale, I see my former self in their eyes.


I'm sorry: I don't understand, but I'd like to. Who introspected and what result?

 
At 3:29 PM, Blogger she falters to rise said...

I am the one who is going through the introspection, and I'm not sure what the result will be yet. I'm sorry I can't offer more, but this is kind of real-time decision making and self reflection going on here. You guys are hearing it at the same time I am.

As far as my peers:

I see a lot of people sitting around "waiting" for something to happen, waiting for things to get better. They think "Oh, in the next post doc I'll get that extra publication I need for a faculty position" or "when I get my PhD, everything is going to be more A,B, and C and less X, Y, and Z". I see a lot of people really unhappy because they are waiting for this elusive "thing" that they really want, but really haven't stopped to evaluate if what they want is really what they want. They are reactive, but not really proactive. They are so many things...next post, I promise.

 
At 9:36 PM, Blogger Murky Thoughts said...

I feel like saying "Ah yes, been there" about that period of scientific dues paying (as well as your "X major" experience) but in the prior posts you sounded so goal-driven in your big life decisions that I have to be skeptical that I really have been there.

 
At 10:10 PM, Blogger Piece of Work said...

Huh. I feel dense here. But I can't quite get at what you're saying.

 
At 11:20 PM, Blogger Edie said...

I have been reflecting on my relationship with my mother along a similar line. In fact, one of my earliest memories was of her being critical of my coloring skills. Pushed, pushed, pushed, until it is hard-wired into one's brain that being goal-oriented is the goal. Too bad for moms and advisors we brains are slippery and fickle!

 
At 11:43 AM, Blogger trisha said...

I understand completely.

 

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