It's soon going to be two months since I started my post-doc. I haven't been the happiest person in the past several weeks since coming here. I hadn't seen this coming- I expected myself to be excited and upbeat about all the things new, all the exploring, discovering awaiting me, science-wise and life-wise. But it didn't turn out that way, and I found myself slightly miserable and a nagging unhappiness overshadowing my daily life.
Every once in a while, I'd try to dissect out what was making me so unhappy. Some of the obvious reasons were missing home, missing my well-lived in and nice apt with internet and my car, missing friends, missing the familiar comfort of lutom, and struggling to learn and understand all the new stuff at work. I found that I had very little patience for the feeling of not understanding or not knowing- and I encounter this all the time thanks to switching to a whole new field. But those are all a part of the game, things I had come to terms with.
Over the past few days and in the course of writing a post about it, I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized that what I miss the most is a bright positive influence in my life. I always thought of myself as a positive person, but that positivity was always helped on by an outside influence: and I lack that here. Back in lutom, my biggest positive influence was my phd advisor. Her ability to always hope for the best, celebrate little successes and her endless optimism sometimes surprised me, but also rubbed off on me and goaded me on. Then there were some really good friends, who could always make me see the brighter side of things and continue to do so when I call them and pour out my woes. The presence of such people in my life ensured that I didn't let things get to me.
Here, folks at work are nice and friendly people, but I find a lot of negativity around. The typical struggling post-doc is high strung about getting papers out and finding a foot in the door to get to his/her next step (academia or industry: both terribly competitive ); struggling to find a work-life balance or trying to justify to a significant other why s/he has to spend weekends in the lab and have a sorry paycheck to show for it. To add to these frustrations, there is a lot of people politics: something I just do not have the stomach for. I realised that if I wanted to be social, I'd have to put up with the gossip and the bitching, else I could choose to simply keep to myself; again, something I cannot do. Ever since I came, I have encountered a lot of negativity, anti-boss propaganda, and one-against-the-other bitching, without even giving myself a chance to enjoy or find out for myself how good or bad things really are. The one person here whose company I quite enjoy because we level well and she has a great sense of humor also happens to be a very negative, bitter person, and putting up with that sort of attitude has been pretty draining on my energy. Even though I tried to guard myself against this negativity, it caught on pretty soon, I suspect because I was simultaneously dealing with all the issues of moving into a new place and trying to find my bearings.
Now that I have become aware of the reason for my nagging irritation, I feel a lot better. My old friends have put me in touch with other folks who also live in Philly, and I am hoping to build a better network of non-work friends to socialize with. There are still a few good sunny days left, and lots to explore in the city, even by myself. Above all, I need to remember to be my own sunshine.