Thursday, May 8, 2014

Days to laugh and days to cry

I never used to cry. I never used to get sick. When other people told me they cried or were sick I tried to be compassionate, but I thought of them as inferior. This was ten years ago. There are times I still catch myself thinking that way when I see weaknesses in myself and in others.
  One of my best friends from graduate school said she cried almost every day in our first year of graduate school and still often enough afterwards.  I thought it was ridiculous to cry for no "good" reason. The reasons that I considered worth crying for were (1) the death of someone in the family and (2) a serious illness or accident. This is how I was raised. I did not see either my grandmother or my mother crying unless something really awful had happened. Even then, they were always strong and always seemed to have everything under control. It did not make sense that someone who was in her early twenties, smart, beautiful, healthy, living in a city in the mountains full of gorges and waterfalls, and attending one of the best schools in the world would spend her evenings crying. My friend continued to be successful. She received her PhD a number of years ago, has a well-paid job in industry, and is happily married. She said that she chose to work in industry because academia made her unhappy. The office space in the various basements was depressing, and the cold, very competitive, and the sometimes unfair atmosphere was unnecessarily unpleasant. 

I stayed on. As a theorist I do not work in basements, and I do not feel my colleagues are too competitive, but I recently started to cry. Crying still makes me feel weak, useless and inferior. I am also sick fairly often with minor headaches and colds. Nothing really unpleasant, but I no longer feel a tower of strength. I have no good reasons for crying. Zurich is beautiful, and my family loves me. So, why did I cry today? the beginning of April I started a project with a professor I know well who is really brilliant. As agreed, I drafted a paper over the Easter vacation based on a calculation he did after joint discussion, and then I sent it to him. It's only been 2-3 weeks, but somehow the lack of communication makes me cry. I thought that we established we'd try to finish this project before he went on vacation at the end of May. A week ago he said he'll answer that day, but that day passed and so did 7 others. OK, maybe he thinks what I wrote is total crap and not worth answering to or he just does not have time. Given his one dimensional intellectual brilliancy, I am inclined to believe a combination of the two.  Yes, I know I am behaving like a teenager, and that research takes time, and patience and politically correct behaviour. I am likely upset about nothing. Things accumulate before vacation for many people, but I have several projects with this person which he finally told me will never be finished, and I did not want another one added to that list. I thought this project was short and relatively simple, and that we'd be able to finish it, but now I don't know. Of course,  I have so many other projects to work on. Yet I waste the time that I should be spending doing the many things I need to finish feeling unhappy. At times like this I so want to quit and leave and go do something else, somewhere else. Anything. Anywhere. Not because of this one particular project, but it is just one more thing that makes me feel that I am not fit to continue. 

Will I quit today? Not today or any time in the immediate future. Academia provides flexible jobs to relatively smart people. It's hard to be at the top of a pyramid and it's hard to stay there. However, I now conclude that one does not have to have a "good" reason to either laugh or cry. Whatever the profession, there will be some days when it's easy to laugh and some days when it is easy to cry, and it's ok to do both. Oh...and one does not have to have a profession to either laugh or cry. Such abilities come with being human and being alive

Will I quit in the next two or three years?  I am not sure yet. I see so many people who are more talented than I am who quit. Since there is no room for them, it often feels like it would be unfair if there was room for me. I am not sure that staying in academia is the "right" choice for me, but, then, is there a right choice? How is that defined?  I will not be too sad if I had to quit in a few years. As long as I am alive I'll find things to do and try to do them well (from time to time; nobody gets everything right all the time, right?). In the meantime, I will deal with the many immediate problems: moving to another apartment, paperwork, make an effort to finish some of the many existent projects, etc.

Plan: Today I'll go home to my family and I'll be cheerful. I should start working out. It might solve all my problems. Also, I'll practice being less angry with myself and with other people.

Update: I understand that working out & running would have a positive impact on my life, but I am still too undisciplined to do either on a regular basis. I am still not sure that crying for no "good" reason is good, but it's good to be able to feel emotions. To be happy, to be sad from time to time. After all, laughing and crying should make humans feel better. The latter does give headaches when prolonged, but headaches prove that one has a head with a brain with neurons and connections between them, which at times is important to be reminded of. 

No comments:

Post a Comment