We're a little crazy, about science!

Out of my hands

November 2nd at 11:59 pm. That’s the deadline for this years NDSEG application. Which means that today is the last day for me to get my application materials ready, double check that I have all the boxes ticked, and that my references did their part (they did). Then we play the waiting game.

It isn’t just that NDSEG doesn’t give feedback, it takes months for them to make a decision, so I won’t know my fate until sometime in April (most likely) or due to COVID even later. It’s not even a matter of getting it or not getting it, it’s a matter of the unknown. We as humans hate the unknown.

I once read a study (which I cannot currently find) that suggested one reason we find comfort in rewatching movies is that you already know what’s coming. Your brain finds comfort in being able to reliably predict the future, thus by already knowing the future of the movie, you find comfort in these accurate predictions.

It’s like death. People are afraid of dying because it’s so commonplace. Yet we never know when or how it will come for us. More importantly, we don’t know for sure what’s coming afterwards. Is there gods that rule us? Is there an “afterlife?” What if you’re stuck in an infinite time-loop and just live, die, repeat? Can’t say for sure! So we find comfort in religion, ignoring it, just trying to live the best life you can, or some combination of things.

All this to roundabout say that applying for funding, or in fact doing anything in life, can be terrifying because you don’t know the outcome. Some do better under the stress than others, I don’t do well. After some time, I’ve come up with ways to deal with it, but stress doesn’t help me perform better or work harder, it has the opposite effect.

Today I will send off a temporal message in a bottle and hope for the best. I’m sure there will be a response, I just don’t know what that response will be. To be perfectly clear, it won’t affect my funding or my degree prospects, but it will benefit me if I get it. Besides the prestige that comes with being awarded a fellowship like that, you also get the chance to make connections. As someone who wants to win a DoD contract one day, I would benefit from these contacts substantially.

As much as I’m excited to see the result, I do wish I could accurately predict the future. I know I’m unlikely to be awarded, but you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, so I might as well try and see what happens. The worst case is they tell me no, but I already expect that so it’s not like it would be a shock.

In any case, the whole point of the post is that the unknown is scary. Sometimes you just need to dive in while hoping for the best because if you don’t you’re just standing still and in this life, you need to keep moving forward, or else what was the point of living?


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