This definitely qualifies as too much information, but I know a lot of people have been following my crazy journey through science.
Things didn’t go as well as I’d hoped with my committee. In fact, they rejected my dissertation. That means eight years and no degree. Here’s where most people get very indignant and say “You have to fight! How can they do that?” And I tend to think “Where’s the champagne? I’m done!”
More than anything, I think my reaction to the rejection probably says it all. I’m relieved. Yes, I’m disappointed, but the thought of never working on that project again has me doing the happy dance. It’s been two weeks since I heard, and I thought that after a while, I’d get more upset, but the only thing I’m upset with is that I don’t have a job lined up. But I didn’t have a job lined up before either, so nothing has changed except an urge to happy dance while folding the mountains of laundry.
The hardest part about all of this is that everyone is tiptoeing around me because I’ve suffered a major failure (and boy oh boy, I’ll talk about failure for the upcoming IWSG since I’ve managed to become something of an expert in the field). It’s like people think failure is contagious, and this has nothing to do with failure. This is about dreams and passion, and how one dream faded while others grew.
Some people get dreams that are solid and not easily shaken, fortresses of the mind. Some people have butterfly dreams, flicking from one thing to the next, and some people have more than one dream, looming in the distance like lone peaks in the mist. Some dreams are based on chance and luck, and some dreams require the toil of countless days, months, and years. Many dreams are elusive, and many more are illusive.
As I worked towards my lone mountains in the distance, some of them started to look, well, not so sparkly, their peaks not as rugged and beautiful as they’d looked in the distance. Other mountains were made of more substance. As I got closer to the other mountains, I saw that they weren’t what I’d thought they were either. They changed and morphed, but instead of losing their appeal, they became more alluring. But the first pass up those mountains were steep and filled with danger. I was already partway up the mountain I’d chosen, so I climbed that first peak. I climbed knowing that the prize at the top wasn’t what I wanted, what I needed. The peak no longer had my dreams, but it held safety and “the right choice.” I was, after all, so close to finishing. I continued to climb the peak ever just out of my reach, but I kept looking over my shoulder at the other mountains. I wanted to stop and take a break, to climb those other peaks, but something kept niggling in the back of mind:
Do I have the time? Maybe I should stick with this one and be sure of one peak. Then I’ll be able to say I made it up one of them. And I was trying to make other people happy.
Whenever anyone would ask me what I wanted to do with my life, the answer was never “To do more research.”
My dreams have always been a combination of teaching and writing (okay, so I really really wanted to be an astronaut, but that was more about running away than being an astronaut, I also wanted to be a professional hockey player, but not until I was already too old). Both writing and teaching are wrapped in the same idea. I write stories to bring something to people, be it closure, perspective, escape, or even just the knowledge that they are not alone in the universe. I teach because I want to share the wonder of the universe with everyone. I have yet to meet a person who could not grasp and understand the concepts of the universe, AKA science.** I’ve met some serious country bumkins who were smarter than plenty of the people I’ve worked with (one of whom successfully got a degree in Geology without being able to read a topographic map!). The problem is that those people have an opinion of themselves that doesn’t allow for them to be intelligent. I’ve always wanted to change that. I want to give people the ability to see themselves differently. It’s why I write. It’s why I teach.
This is why my reaction has been one of going for the champagne and the firecrackers: I don’t need a PhD to teach or to write. Crazy, but the things I like and that I’m good at, I don’t need a super fancy degree for. I don’t know if I would have realized that if I’d managed to get the fancy degree.
And as well as being done with a project I didn’t like, I can now say, “Those fools at the university didn’t understand me either.” ::cue the good guy’s ace up his sleeve::
**This does not include individuals with severe mental deficits (Angleman’s syndrome, for example), though most people would be absolutely rocked off their gourds if they knew what incredible work has been done by speech and language pathologists to communicate with people living with severe mental deficits.