Caution: under pressure
For a third week in a row I’ve been instructed by my main-PI to give our lab virtual presentations on the work I’ve been doing. It’s been a point of stress now for almost a full month and doesn’t seem to be letting up any time soon. After every meeting I get a list of things I need to do before the following meeting and this time was no different, so today I guess we’re going to take a look at what exactly is next on my to-do list.
When I started my PhD I already had my masters degree and thought it was just going to be a longer version of that. In some ways it is, there’s almost zero structure to the work you do outside of the classes you take. You’re free to work as much or as little as you want and the result is up to you. Okay, to be fair you are pretty much forced to work a lot, but you have the option not to if you want to get kicked out of the program I guess. The point is that there’s a lot of layers to a PhD that you only really get a glimpse of when you’re doing your masters and your masters and PhD is nothing like your bachelors degree. Undergrad is very structured and is basically high school style education. It’s ridgid, you are typically given a pretty narrow pathway to the degree (especially in engineering), and after your homework you’re free to do whatever you want. I miss having clearly defined work and home boundaries.
At this point I’m pretty sure my main-PI is either torturing me because of all the R21 grant stuff or he just doesn’t like me much. Actually now that I think about it, I’ve always gotten the feeling that I did something wrong somewhere and just annoyed him to the point that he doesn’t like me? I’m not sure and it could just be his personality, or my disabilities rubbing him the wrong way. Among all the things wrong with me, I have a hard time hearing, I have mild aphasia, and for the past 4 years I’ve had two surgeries every year like clockwork.
Now, post surgery I’ve always returned to the lab quickly (sometimes the next day… ouch!). However, being hard of hearing and having trouble speaking are always awkward issues. The aphasia isn’t so bad, but when I get stressed out it gets worse, so public speaking, presentations, meetings, etc, I tend to lose words I know or worse, replace words with other words and not notice! My qualifying exam for example I mentioned Makoto’s pipeline, a preprocessing pipeline we use for EEG data, but I apparently kept calling it macchiato’s pipeline and the funny thing is right afterwards someone came up to ask me about it and I went right back to calling it Makoto’s pipeline before he could let me know I was pronouncing it wrong.
Basically the two together are a bad combination. I have to ask people to repeat themselves or maybe I don’t understand what they are saying or worse I can’t find the right words to respond with even though I know them. I know for sure it’s annoyed my main-PI on more than one occasion and trust me it annoys me too. So I think he avoids talking to me a lot because of it, but it could just be that he’s busy. I genuinely am not sure and could very easily be projecting my own insecurities about those particular issues on him. I’m pretty sure that’s why I’ve been giving talks for the past three weeks. I’m not sure he realizes that I have a TBI and hearing loss so it’s not something I can outgrow with practice. I mean he knows the TBI stuff, but I don’t think he realizes the implications.
Like I said earlier, for the whole month (or at least the past 3 weeks) our lab meetings have consisted of nothing but presenting on the work I’m doing and getting feedback on the things I’ve done. We finally got to look at some of the finished data and this week wasn’t too horrible. I made a few figures, was asked to modify them, I was also asked to make a few other figures which will involve a lot of late night coding. Unlike previous weeks I got some actually good responses about the work I’ve done and the way things look so overall I’m happy. If not a little (a lot) tired of all the work I’ve been doing.
Well that’s the update for the day, I’ve got some bad (non-school related) news, but we can talk about it tomorrow.