Saturday, October 06, 2007

I need my sunshine

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.


sd said...

Very nice post! A few days ago I had a similar thought: I realized that in the next year or two, I will truely understand who I am, since like you, I am outside "my world of sunshine".

Last year a famous professor from MIT had come to our univ. One question put to him was -what does it take to get a tenure. (Since I am a few steps to getting a tenure-track pos...... this is a relevent question) Anyhoo, his answer was very interesting. He said, to be successful in academia, one need not be the most brilliant bloke on earth, but one must be able to overcome all the negativity thrown towards them!

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

one must be able to overcome all the negativity thrown towards them

so true! the system selects for the most thick-skinned people over others..we all need to keep our inner sun shining. :)

qsg said...

Good idea to seek friends outside work.... I don't really socialize much with people at work, except as business networking.

In terms of negative influences - well, I also get bogged down by the negativity around me - so I vent - blog about it, and move on!

Try to not seek happiness and positive vibes outside - happiness is always within! :)

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

yeah, having just started, my only option to socialize were work folks, but i hope that changes soon.

so true, happiness is within- i don't think i was consciously seeking it from outside- i was just letting the negatives overwhelm me..but that is changing now. :)

Anurag Srivastava said...

That is the dilemma I always face, socialise or not to socialise; though most of the time I find myself sitting alone.

In both I feel disappointed and my quest is to lie somewhere between two.

Anyways, was my comment a negative influence :P

Veo Claramente said...

I think the older one gets and the deeper into one's career, the harder it gets to form friendships like in college or grad school. I don't mean to preach, really. It's a job, and you're never going to get the same affection and attention from your postdoc advisor like you got from a phd advisor. you're also not the lab cornerstone anymore, since you haven't been there long. You can listen to the negativity and not participate in it, water off a duck's back. But never countenance any anti-boss bitching, before you know it you will be labeled the same as the anti-boss person, and you don't want your boss to think you are anti-them.

Good luck, and I'm sorry its so hard.

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

hi anurag!
no, your comment was not negative at all :). i think an "in between" is what most of us strive for in cases when we're not too thrilled with the company, but don't want to simply keep to ourselves. i think the key is in being able to only put up with the company so long as it's doing us good, not when it begins to depress us or bother us.

yes, it is harder to make close friendships as one goes up. thanks for those words of advice. i am trying the water off a duck's back thing, and it's already getting easier. :)

Anonymous said...

Call me .. I am great influence... *hic*

Anonymous said...

no seriously, I have learnt it too recently that probably the only way to be social with ppl at work is to indulge urself in baseless gossip!
Doesnt work if u want to be a righteous bitch!! :(

Tachyoson said...

i was last sunny about a decade ago. since then cynicism and sarcasm have sunk in ... being part of the rat race and wanting to be a fatter rat is part of it. some of us dont take to doing it naturally, and trying to force ourselves leads to the gloom...hope you feel sunnier soon.

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

yeah i'll call you. :). you are right, its a part of being in the circle.

how you been? i am forcing myself to feel sunnier now- and the venting helps too.