Stumbling onto Satisfaction
There’s a level of turbulence that feels healthy to me. It’s an itch for more, it’s an itch for better. But it’s no longer looking for more or better in entirely new places. It’s evolving relationships, it’s leveraging skills I have to build or create something new; it’s pushing myself to make the most out of myself, the people in my life, and the resources/opportunities I have available to me.
At 27, I have this renewed sense of confidence — which grad school almost took away from me — that I am entirely capable of all the challenges I have immersed myself into. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have had the audacity to plunge in the first place. Getting a PhD is difficult, but it’s not the hardest thing I’ll do unless I plan on being bored for the rest of my life — so I have no option but to make the most of this opportunity and walk out feeling like I owned it. Graduation will feel anti-climactic, no doubt. But I have to walk away knowing I did some quality research, I brought new knowledge into existence, and I became a more effective communicator of complex concepts in science and medicine. At the beginning of grad school, I was shaky during oral presentations with Powerpoint. Now I don’t even need presenter view. Boom. Seems small, but most progress is. Many life goals take longer than a semester to accomplish, and good results don’t always seem proportional to the amount of work you put in. But some things come way easier than others. Grad school has taught me a thing or two about grit.
It’s helped me work on and for relationships that I value. It’s forced me to make hard decisions about where I place my time and effort. It’s helped me figure out who I want to be, and what kind of people I want to grow in the presence of. It’s helped me find love, despite my best efforts to become some efficient robot — and I feel more alive and human and a part of my world than I remember ever being. I feel like I feel from some place deeper, and I think from some place smarter and calmer.
I think science has humbled me by reminding me that very little is in my control, I need more patience with myself because the things I sign up for are difficult, and it has also shown me that I can aspire for things that feel entirely out of my reach because…I’m still young and I have the time and energy to invest in things that will take time and energy.
If I can give 6 years of my life towards studying a single protein, I can give 10 towards increasing science and math literacy. But this time around, I’m going to work on multiple flavors of projects simultaneously. Maybe I’ll cure cancer and improve high school graduation rates by 20%. Not by myself, of course, but aim big and then figure out how, and with who, to make it happen. And that’s how this introvert pushed herself out of her comfort zone to talk to more people. There’s value in this, among other things that don’t come naturally to me, even when it’s awkward and uncomfortable. So I keep pushing.
I feel real good.