Monday, May 09, 2016

You can't always get what you want

...but you just might find that you get what you need.

It's graduation season.

GVSU is already done, Calvin finishes up soon, Unity will be a little bit yet. Fine.

...but it's the Penn State graduations that are giving me intense, conflicting feelings.

This is the time and year that my cohort begins en masse to graduate with their PhDs.

I'm very happy for them and extremely proud of what they've accomplished. It's a big deal. They've done groundbreaking research that matters and have done it brilliantly, with excellence. They're the smartest, most resilient folks I know, and I miss them--they solved some intractable problems with patience and intelligence. Some of them have even been recognized by their government and by ChE's American Institute.

It's incredibly painful too though, because I also entered the program at the same time they did, with PhD aspirations. I earned my M.S. after three years and left almost two years ago. I left because I wasn't sure how much longer I'd be able to take the anger, coupled with verbal and emotional abuse, from my advisor. I was worried that it would affect who I was as a person and that was non-negotiable for me.

I'm not walking across a stage this month and no one will call me Dr. I won't lead a fancy pharmaceutical lab or drive a fancy car.

But I also don't wake  up with an immediate, deep sense of paralyzing dread every morning. I don't have to face the sneer of a supervisor who with every glance, breath and word tells you that you're scum and get different treatment. I don't have an eye tick from the stress of facing another human being.

Most days I'm very content to be doing what I'm doing--I love it in fact! It's the infrequent reminders that bring pain.

Naming the specific opportunities and good, good things in my life helps. I just re-read the documentation I made of my former supervisor's behavior for the first time in over a year--it was surprisingly helpful to remember the former days of insanity that I dealt with. I don't feel like a failure after reading it.

The beauty of the consolation prize M.S. that I earned (most days that's how it seems to me), is that I can teach college, and maybe even lead independent, novel research with undergraduate students in a new direction--one without the former baggage of a past research life. I can teach science to high school students and walk alongside others, talking about the things that matter. Even if a person decided that I wasn't worth their time, I learned the art of research and studied ChE with some of the best in my field--that can't be taken away.

Mine is not a prestigious life. But it's mine to give, and I'd rather give it to people who are deserving.