Thursday, November 30, 2017

A glimpse of the elephant's ears...

(a little bit about what's on my mind these days)

I hinted at some work-related issues, and while I'm not going to go into detail here, I can share the gist of what's getting me down. On the research front, I had yet another grant rejection---this one on a proposal for which I was actually (despite all my best efforts to lower expectations!) becoming hopeful of receiving funding. It was a resubmission, was very tightly revised and I was actually quite proud of my work. It had moved on to the final round of review and I really started having HOPES and DREAMS and already had the IRB submitted and approved and then I got the rejection two weeks ago.

Beyond the initial sting, which I'm getting used to, I had the depressing realization that I've been working on getting funding on this particular area for SIX YEARS. Many many others have now surpassed me in this niche, which was BRAND NEW when I first started begging for others to take interest and let me explore. That thought is really sobering and is making me question my abilities to succeed in research at all. Enough so that I have completely zoned out and got nothing done for the past couple of weeks.

Of course, when the research part isn't quite working out, I usually console myself in envisioning a possible clinical career. But even this aspect of my job has been disappointing lately. I started working in a new area recently---something I was kind of excited about, joining a team of great people, working with a challenging population. But the reality is that I am all by myself on my days there, with >50% no shows, and patients that are indeed challenging but not necessarily rewarding to care for in this clinic. I feel like I'm unprepared, I've had no specific training in this area, and I have no one to really ask for help since I'm all alone. There are also lots of issues in how the program is run, and I was hoping to be involved in effecting change, but realized that there is a lot of administrative beyond-my-scope BS that is in the way of anything but the status quo.

So yeah, I'm not sure where I'm headed with any of this. I do know that the zoning out was not helping on a professional or personal level, since I then felt guilty and more depressed so I sat down this morning and made myself a very strict schedule for the day with 30 minute blocks and discrete tasks in several different arenas that I need to complete. When inspiration and motivation fail you, discipline and planning are the fall back.

This elephant has another ear that I'll give you a tiny glimpse into, as well. Things on the parenting front have also felt like constant failure and backsliding. I feel like I am failing as a parent. Like I am just not the right mother for this combination of very very challenging children, who need so much patience and acceptance and a form of guidance and nurturing that I haven't yet figured out how to provide for them. Despite my recent post, I've been over-reacting and making things bigger and way way worse. Evenings these days are so stressful and negative and full of nagging and sighing and yelling and then the guilt and zoning out once they go to bed.

A new month is here and that always fills me with optimism, no matter how artificial the "new start". I'm determined to do better. And now my "eat lunch/blog" time is up and I have to outline a paper.


  1. Academic research and grants are so tough! I'm sorry you didn't get the grant you were so close on. I'll also say parenting a different child can be super challenging! I wish you well and hope the holidays bring out more fun family time, stay flexible and keep doing your best!

  2. I've been thinking about this post trying to come up with something constructive to say. First, I highly doubt that you're a bad parent. Cut yourself some slack on this front. We all have our moments, and nobody is at their best at the end of a long day.

    As far as the career part is concerned, your post hit on the fundamental anxiety of every young investigator everywhere (except the pathologically confident aka my MD PhD class). I don't know what the answer is besides figure out what is really important to you, what you really want to accomplish, and what drives you and makes you happy, and go for that. We have this tendency in medicine to couch thing in absolutes (her research career "failed", he's a great/terrible clinician), and that simply isn't the way the world works. You don't have to stay at your current job, or in medicine at all. I know it is scary to think of the next step forward, particularly when everyone around you urges you to not take risks (I'm talking about my own situation here), but I think that is what you have to do.