We're a little crazy, about science!

Day 349: A story in three emails


I was awarded something, we’ll get to the what shortly. I was awarded something and I was excited because it felt like validation of my work. It felt good to have people take notice of my accomplishments. There are precious few times in my life where I’ve got to feel like someone selected me out of a group as exceptional. Here I was being nominated for something! I was walking in the clouds. I could do anything, be ANYTHING.

The first email took me by surprise, my PI and department chair recommended me (ME!) for the future faculty program at my university all I had to do was say, “yes.” This was surprising for several reasons, one of which was the future faculty program to my understanding had gone away for several years prior. This was a highly competitive program and out of an entire school of students (meaning to say thousands) only ~ 30 of them would be selected for it. I just happened to be one of those students, what were the odds?

“I jumped at the chance to be part of the program.”

Aside from the fact this was extremely competitive there are other benefits. You also get a travel stipend to further your education, you get to attend specific lectures in the program, and you get one on one mentoring from faculty to help you along the way. Now, I am not certain I even want to work at a university when I have the chance. Right now, I’m leaning more towards working in a research hospital setting. To be fair, there is still teaching involved working in a research hospital and I do love teaching (and mentoring). Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to be part of the program.

“The second email came and took it all away.”

Two days ago I got the second email and I thought there was some mistake. I had been dropped from the program because I was not actually on the list. The second email came and took it all away. So I CC’d my PI to help resolve the issue and the response from the head of the program was that I had not actually been nominated. There had been a mistake, I was dropped, and the program was full. Not even a better luck next time, just a we didn’t really want you.

As usual, I was reminded I was mediocre even at my best. I’m used to rejection, I’ve made a career out of failing, but this hurt. Maybe it was my flair-up that made it hurt so bad. Maybe it was the fact that I didn’t even apply to the program, I was nominated. Maybe it was because for a brief moment, I had honestly thought that I could be something more than average.

Whatever it was, my PI hadn’t even responded before I had the door firmly closed on me by the head of the program. Another failure to the incredibly long list of failures. I was already dealing with failure and with my flair-up. Why not kick me some more? I can take it. I. ALWAYS. FUCKING. DO.

That my dear readers was the end of the story, the same lifelong song that I am used to hearing. I wasn’t going to show my disappointment, I wasn’t going to tell you all this story. Why bother? I have a million other examples littered through this past year for you to read. Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, then came the third email.

Before we continue, I need to say both of my PI’s are amazing. Neither read my blog, so I say that with honesty and without fear. Yet, at this point I was starting to wonder about my main PI though. It felt like he never actually followed through with my nomination. He was a busy guy running a whole center so not a whole lot of time for our lab, this just felt like a sign that his students weren’t actually his main priority. Very rarely do I blame someone like that for my shortcomings, but the second email made it perfectly clear that he hadn’t actually done what he told me he did. I had been lead on, tricked even.

“A bittersweet end to the rollercoaster…”

The third major email was yesterday from my PI. He CC’d the department chair along with everyone else in the email and said some more than kind things about me. Told them that he had nominated me and maybe he didn’t make that clear to the department chair, but it was true. He told them that I would make an excellent addition to the program and that I already had a lot of the things they were looking for. Of course, there are limits to what even he can do.

The kind email ended, “with if there was a cancelation that they should consider me for the replacement.” A bittersweet end to the rollercoaster that was these emails. On one hand it was nice to hear him say those things about me to the people in charge. On the other, it still felt like I wasn’t good enough.

My dear readers, it has been almost a year since I started this project which was born from my failure. A glimpse into a year as a then PhD student and now PhD candidate. I didn’t want to end my first year of the 365 days of academia project the same way I had started it. It doesn’t feel right, but then again my life isn’t exactly a fairytale.

“Then today a fourth email came”

I lied, there is one more email. Today a fourth email came and it’s brevity belied its significance. In lieu of typing it out, I’ll just add the screenshot.




Yep, I was as shocked as you. After all that, I got a happy ending after all. Or as I like to think about it, slipped through the cracks yet again! (only semi-serious)

Things are far from perfect, the world is still on fire, there’s a pandemic, I still have something weird going on with me that I need to see a doctor to figure out, and despite the lack of news coverage, we’re still out protesting. For today though, I think I’m going to enjoy this little victory.

To my readers, this was only possible by the support and kind words I get from all of you, so thank you. It’s not a fairytale ending, but I’ll take it.


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