There are several reasons that made me start blogging. One was to share some of the hard-earned wisdom as a hard-STEM faculty over the tenure hump. Another was to connect with people whose lives and interests are similar to mine. But perhaps the most important reason is that I simply thought writing would make me feel better.
The last one hasn't really panned out, perhaps because I let the advice-giving know-it-all set the tone for the blog. So I actually censor myself as though I owe something to my ivory-tower cruising, advice-dispensing GMP persona. She's quite a lady, isn't she? Well, fuck her.
So I am warning you: the following is a rant. There will be some profanity. Stop here if you visit this blog for my academic pearls of wisdom and do not care to gaze into my navel with me. What I will write next is not balanced or well-thought out and is written solely for the purpose of venting. If you end up disappointed, appalled, or offended, don't say I didn't warn you.
Here's the deal: I have a wonderful family, the job I always wanted, security in every aspect of my life. And I am miserable most of the time. What the fuck is wrong with me? The Web says it's burnout.
I actually am so bored by my job that I want to cry. Or pull my brain out so I would not be so goddamn bored any more. I do a lot of "service" collaborative projects where my expertise is needed and appreciated, these papers are read and respected, but I am soooooo bored by all of it. Bored by what other people care about. Bored by what the rest of my scientific community cares about. WHO CARES ABOUT ALL THAT SHIT?! BOOOOOOORING!
I have some 10 students who all hold on to my skirt; there is nobody with similar expertise in the whole university, so I have to teach them every single thing they need to know in order to get things done. So I am into the nitty-gritty details of every single project. Yes I have a postdoc, but he's not much help really; he's basically another senior student. And senior students are not as good at transmitting knowledge to junior ones as they ideally would be, because they are kids and they want to get out of here. Have I mentioned that there is no one with the same expertise? Ironically, that's why I accepted the offer from this university when I was job hunting -- no one here who did what I did, and plenty of opportunities for collaboration. You know what -- I was oh so right. All these opportunities for collaboration panned out. And then some. So be careful what you wish for, 'cause you might just get it. I sure did.
I went on vacation, and of course all hell broke loose. I have so much work piled on that I want to strangle someone. I can never go anywhere. If I go away from family, I kill myself cooking for the week ahead, making sure everyone's laundry is done, that all forms have been filled out, playdates scheduled.
If I am away from my group or my work, I come back to a pile of stuck students and a shitton of paperwork. All these papers that need to be looked over, white papers for the gazzillion of impending proposals, abstracts, paperwork for students who came back from conferences... And always at least 2 or 3 papers being written.
And there are the collaborators. They are the most fuckin' exhausting of all. I wish we'd move from the same old, same old, and do something exciting and new for a change. Sooooo fuckin' booooooooored. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaa!
And don't get me started with hype. Everyone in my field (at least people considered successful) is a hopeless slave to funding. Which means this: Nature or Science publishes a paper with some earthshattering measurements. Everybody and their brother drop everything that they have been doing and jump on the new shiny object.
Funding agencies funnel all the money into the promising topic, the funding milieu changes significantly. You cannot afford not to flock to the hot new thing as that is where all the money is. For several years people try to repeat the hyped experiment or actually materialize on some of the promises put forth; after a number of students and postdocs working around the clock throughout the world keep failing for years, the truth starts to emerge: the hyped experiment had a flaw -- usually a too liberal/optimistic interpretation of measurement -- and the fabled effect is nonexistent or much more modest. And yeah, in the meantime a number of important but less flashy problems are abandoned and underfunded while everyone is busy being hypnotized by the shiny new shittopic.
So the job is a giant downer, all the time. And it affects my family life. Which is quite demanding. And have I told you we get no breaks? I am not comfortable about babysitters so we never go anywhere without kids. Never. Ever.
Yes I am burned out. But, if you are going to tell me to eat right, get plenty of rest, cut back on work, and exercise, I want to tell you straight up to go fuck yourself. I am exhausted, I am not mentally challenged; I can google too. Unless you are going to come babysit for me while I cook or do dishes or (gasp!) go to the gym, you cannot give me advice on how to relax.
People constantly want stuff from me, from all directions -- my husband, my kids, my students, my collaborators. No one ever leaves me the fuck alone. Which would be OK if I could recharge by lying on the beach alone sipping a cocktail (never happens) or doing interesting work. Except that I cannot, because I am completely enslaved by stupid uninspiring collaborative projects and the need to perpetually go after new funding. There is no fun left. The stuff I like to do I never have the time for, and there is no money for it. Yes, I play the academic game well, but my neurons are dying along the way -- being faculty makes me more and more stupid at actually doing science. On the upside, my plan to get an ulcer in my late 30's is going just swimmingly.
So there. I actually do feel a bit better... No, not really.
Oh, yeah. If you are going to tell me I am a whiny spoiled little bitch who has everything and is so self-absorbed that she does not appreciate what she has and is thus a despicable ingrate, get in line. I was the first one there.