We're a little crazy, about science!

The best laid plans…

The full quote is “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry” and is from a poem, but also inspired the book title, “Of mice and men”

Well this week has been a serious rollercoaster of emotion. There have been incredibly high highs and extremely low lows. It’s so bad I’m not even sure what’s going on at the moment and it’s throwing my entire life into chaos. I wish I were exaggerating, but unfortunately I am not. So what has me so out of sorts? My academic plans are entirely up in the air now. For the next few months (up to 6 months) I will have to sit and wait to figure out what I can do about it. Let’s just start at the beginning.

It’s no secret! If you’ve read my blog on even an infrequent basis you know I’m a planner. My life has been a void of chaos since I was born, it makes sense that planning gives me some sort of comfort. Planning has become an essential part of my stability and my mental health. I cannot emphasize enough how much my life has improved thanks to my to-do list app on my phone and my incredibly organized (and color coded) calendar. If I had to point to a single thing that has helped keep me alive for the past few years it is those few things. The things that make me feel like I have some control, even if it’s not real.

For the past few years I have been comfortably planning my life in the PhD program. I’ve set goals and milestones, we’ve even talked about those frequently around here (like this for example). Trust me when I say these things really do help me and who knows if you’re finding yourself in a mental health struggle you may find some comfort doing these too. The calendar and to-do lists are super stress reducers for me since I don’t have to keep track of everything I have to do anymore, I get reminders to do the stuff. I still stress that I’ve forgotten to add something to my calendar/to-do list or worse I entered it wrong (and let me just say I check that frequently because if I’m not panicking, I’m panicking about not panicking, seriously).

Long story short, I’ve been planning, re-planning, and re-re-re-planning my future basically every few months. The big things don’t change, but the little stuff gets adjusted and sometimes my dates need to be rearranged, but for the most part I have a clear end goal and I know what I need to do to hit it. The goal of course is to finish my PhD and switch over to a postdoc position. Interestingly enough, my Co-PI is dying to hire me on as a postdoc and has made it incredibly clear that I should do so when I get my degree. He’s also gently nudged me to finish as quickly as possible, both things I’m grateful for.

I never committed to doing a postdoc in his lab and he’s never pushed me, but he’s made it very clear that when I graduate if I want it, it’s there for me. As the time to graduation ticks nearer I’ve been cautiously planning what I want to do once I graduate. The ironic thing about a postdoc is it “looks better” if you go somewhere far away for it. No, really I don’t know what privileged ass came up with that, but it’s true. I don’t know about other grad students, but I do not make enough for that and frankly I have moved around so much I am not thrilled about packing up again and going some place new just for a job that will last at most a couple of years. So yeah, the postdoc sounded like a perfect solution.

However, yesterday during a meeting with my Co-PI I got some news dropped on me right away. Things had been hectic for him and it turns out that another hospital started courting him… and he’s thinking about taking it. It wouldn’t be anytime soon, but it could happen as early as the end of the year if he decides to take the jump. I was and frankly still am in shock. I don’t know what to think, what to do, and it’s causing a lot of anxiety and panic. For one, even if I didn’t do a postdoc, he is and has been an important part of my education. I have a lot of respect for him and I would genuinely miss him if he took the job.

On a more practical level he is already part of my PhD committee and I don’t know how or if his moving could/would/should effect that. Plus we have an R21 grant in review (should hear about it next month) and while it’s a longshot, if it were funded and he left I don’t even know what that would mean. He would probably have to turn it down. It also means my fellowship would come to an end, I would need to switch to a more academic/research lab based type study for my degree, and I would have to retool my milestones to get my PhD.

I mean I’m happy for him and it could be a good thing for his career. It might also convince the hospital he’s currently at to give him some incentives to stay, which based on our conversation it sounds like they are trying “too hard” as he put it to keep him. I don’t blame them, he’s one of a handful of labs doing the research he’s doing. It’s cutting edge and it has the potential to help a whole lot of people. I’ve been grateful to be a part of that and I don’t regret it.

I’m thankful he’s even told me. I’ve seen established (academic) PI’s close up labs suddenly to move somewhere else. No notice, progress towards a degree shot, type stuff. It was scary to watch and it happens enough that I know others who have had the same issue. So being given prior notice is just another reason why I’m sad to potentially be losing him as a mentor.

By the end of our meeting he asked if I had any questions because I looked a little distressed and I explained that it was a huge bomb to drop at the beginning of the meeting, but I would be fine. And I will be, that’s not a lie. It’s just a small reminder that I don’t have complete control over everything in my life. I’m trying to stay positive about this and I hope it all works out in the best way possible for everyone. There’s just a lot of unknowns right now and I need to figure out some backup plans for what happens if he does leave.

Yes, the way I cope with my plans being in flux is making more plans. It seems silly, but we all cope differently. When I started blogging daily almost a full two years ago now, I didn’t expect so much drama. I honestly spend a lot of time wishing for something to write about to keep this going and not have a boring blog.

I guess I should’ve been more specific.


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