Here is a brief recounting of my journey before and since my PhD:
To begin with, I was coming off of a BAD breakup – which made me super cynical about everything in general.
To add to that, the lab I joined – although a very good one – was not the right one for me.
The place was (too?) chill, and people like me who fell behind – were left there. It was very much a feed-forward loop – get data, interact more, get more data, interact more, move forward. Needless to say, I was a little behind when I started. But, by the time 4th year arrived, boy was I behind!
“I don’t know if (my student) is uninterested, lost, confused or just plain dumb”
- said my PhD advisor to the other 4 profs in the room during the closed-door chat without the student after a committee meeting.
How do I know this? – I recorded (without their knowledge/permission and definitely without the intent to eavesdrop on the committee) my presentation, so I can go over it – to get over my stage fright - forgot to stop the recording after my presentation was done. Now I have stage phobia and a sense of utter failure underlining, practically, everything I do.
This only got worse. So bad that by the time I was done and was looking for a postdoc job the letter my advisor wrote essentially said “this person worked in the lab for the past 5 years.”
To this day, I think (more like I believe) my qualifying exam committee and my thesis committee let me go through because my advisor was a sort-of-a-big person in the field and on the campus (plus a very nice person too, in general).
At the end of 5 years, I was depressed, with suicidal ideation.
A few years since then, and into my postdoc – I still am not sure if anything I do is right/correct; keep second-guessing myself for the simplest of things in the lab, and at the end feel that I am wasting my (current) lab’s money. I feel like I have no interest in anything – not just science/lab work – Everything. I am lost and would be a misfit at any/all places of work.
I wish my PhD advisor was more involved, not just before/during lab/committee meetings, but more involved with – and observant of – things that didn’t feel or look right. At the very least tell me – that I was far behind everyone else – and maybe, provide/point to resources that would help.
I wish there was more thought – in fact, at least just a bit of it – about “what’s next for the student?” than “how does this make me look in the eyes of my peers?”
I only wish both my committees were more honest with me about my shortcomings – help me get that clearly into my thick skull, or if that wasn’t possible – tell me that I wasn’t made for this. Well, If only!
We thank the anonymous storyteller for their submission!