Every single session with my therapist is just rich with wisdom. She listens tirelessly and then she just bubbles over with biblical, straightforward, encouraging, uplifting support. Yesterday was just especially so. She started by asking me about work, and allowed me to just dump all of my stress into the space between us.
It seems that every time I tell someone I’m in grad school, the response is always a well-meaning “Good for you!” or a “Keep it up!” And then when I say the magic word chemistry, cue the “You must be so smaaaaaaaart” comments. It’s encouraging, and that type of support does give me a push. I find that encouragement to be useful fuel at times. But for the past two years or so, those comments have contradicted everything I feel inside.
Because my reality — what I feel so deeply inside — is that science research is isolating and depressing. The number of times my reactions and experiments fail so greatly exceeds any expectation I ever had previously. The number of times I go back to the drawing board to think up Plan B, C, D, E…..is exhausting. I know every job has struggles, and I know that the results and the outcomes of our work is never a guarantee. But in a research lab, I swear it’s different. There’s a grand canyon of uncertainty between the hours I put in and the outcome I hope for. And all of this is done as a solitary researcher. Alone, isolated, with no one and nothing to “blame” for experimental failures except myself.
It’s depressing me. It’s like taking a bucket to the seashore every day in an attempt to empty out the ocean. I’ve come to see no connection between the work I put in and the outcome I receive.
Instead of telling me to just keep going and I’m so close, she said the words that I’ve been yearning for: You don’t have to keep doing this forever. It’s OK to redirect. I’ve discovered such a love for teaching and communicating over my time at the Univ of Pittsburgh, and when I think of filling all of my work day with tasks surrounding teaching I get a little giddy from excitement. For years, I thought that research was my end-game, but it’s OK to change that plan!
I’m taking it one day at a time, one hour at a time when I need to. I have a committment through the end of this semester, and then I’ll re-evaluate. If what my advisor says is true and I really can graduate in December 2014 or shortly thereafter, then of course I’ll stick it out and finish. But if 2014 ends and I find myself exactly where I am now, it will be time to move on and that’s OK. Life is about people — my sweet husband, our future children, and the students I will eventually be able to impact. It’s not about accomplishing a goal out of sheer compulsion once the passion and the purpose has waned and the direction has altered entirely.
Praise God for a sense of purpose and a change in direction!