Because sometimes I forget

I’ve officially been away from my scientific career for 10 years this month.  I’m not as devastated about that thought as I thought I would be. I wrote this blog post in 2009 on my blog Raising Smart Girls, and I thought I would reprint it here:

I have to give my appreciation to Jenny from A Natural Scientist for having a button on her blog that linked me to other science mama blogs. Through a quick jump through a few other hyperlinks, I stumbled upon this gem of a blog called Motherhood, The Elephant in the Laboratory.

I am a lurker on a few “women in science” blogs, read some of the discussions facing women in science generated by the Scientiae Carnivals. I feel like a complete outsider, a bit of a charlatan, now that I’m no longer on the bench. In addition, most of the women in science hold academic positions and higher level educations than mine, and as for me, I just hold a B.S. and 12 years of clinical laboratory experience. Although, I do have something under my belt: the biology department director that hired me at Presitigious Private U told me that having the 9 years of experience in clinical laboratory work was the “equivalent” of having a master’s degree in their eyes, and they hired me for my technical strengths and my quality assurance experience. And no matter where I go next, I do have the Prestigious U’s experience to document on my CV, and no one can take that away from me.

As I contemplate the future, I find how I feel about re-entering a science career varies from day to day. Most days I’m thrilled to be at home, teaching my girls science and math (lately my first grader wants to know multiplication, so I’m teaching her at home). Some days I’m wistful for what I’m missing. Very rarely do I have a heartbreaking ache like I used to have.

I’m also extremely grateful I’ve been able to leave be an advocate for my middle daughter. As the acting supervisor for my small laboratory at the last position I had, I would not have been able to take off to take my daughter to her 6 neuropsychological appointments last year to determine if she truly had selective mutism and rule out more worrisome concerns like autism. I’d also wouldn’t be able to spend the time to go observe her in her schools, monitor her progress, and put the special needs teacher in her place when she disregarded a significant portion of my daughter’s IEP.

My former lab director, a mother of two herself, while understanding, would only have been able tolerate so much absence. Because our laboratory was so small (we were testing for rare genetic diseases), each of us was critical for the moving of samples through to completion (I wore a dual hat of acting supervisor and senior bench analyst). With the growing influx of new samples, working part time was not even an option.

Unlike her, who lived close on the campus and could take off a couple of hours if she needed to attend to her children, I lived 45 minutes by car, 1.5 hours by train away in the suburbs (no the train ride didn’t take that long, the walk to the train, the wait for the train, then the ride home in the car took that long) . There would be no “oh, I’ll be gone for 2 hours and I’ll be back” for me.

I appreciated this story from Nan Padzernik on Full-Time Scientist VS. Full Time Mom. I understand that feeling very out of place. I am a content for the moment to live vicariously through other scientific mamas and read their trials and tribulations of finding work/life balance as I sip my coffee and consider whether I should get started on making a doll blanket for my girls like I made for my niece over the weekend, and how I should stop blogging/reading blogs and go make the zucchini nut bread I’ve been wanting to make the past two days with my 3.5 year old to help me and seriously considering running to the dollar store to pick up some workbooks on multiplication (my oldest daughter loves workbooks) before we have to pick up my 5 year old and 7 year old from school.

I am in the thick of parenting right now, and have no screaming desire to go back to the bench, just yet, but perhaps I will. I like reading about other mothers in science who face some of the same decisions I faced and see how they are dealing with the complexity of feelings that are placed upon their hearts and minds.

I feel some day I will get to the place I want to be, and I feel I will know it when I get there which is why I haven’t had a strong commitment to returning to work or school at the moment. Until then I am enjoying my time at home with my girls. I’m at a point where I crave quantity time with them, not just quality time. They are teaching me a lot about what I value at this point in my life.

***

A lot has happened in the 5 years since I wrote that post.

Ego-wise, I’m not clutching onto my career as a measure of my personal worth as a human being.    I’ve had a series of ‘attitude adjustments’ over the years that have humbled me enough to lose the arrogance I once had.

Career-wise, I’m still floundering.  I do have part-time work as a substitute teacher.  I get called less and less to substitute teach, mostly because the days I don’t want to or can’t work, I get called, and the days I want to and can work, I don’t get called.  I actually like teaching in small doses…but it’s incredibly draining to be in a classroom of 23-28 kids and keep them on task, not to mention needing to help them resolve conflicts or soothe them when they cry.  I’m not sure where to go from here, yet.  I hope I can resolve this pretty soon.  I am thinking taking a few classes might be in order for me.  I might even take a biology class this time.

Relationship-wise, I’d been extremely close to divorce.   I quit my job, in part, to have more time with family, which included my husband.  But 2 years after I quit my job, he lost his well-paid engineering job.  It was two years before he regained employment as a massage therapist.  Our income has been reduced drastically and our self-paid insurance takes a huge bite we didn’t have to worry about before.  Between his depression and his drinking, and my stress levels skyrocketing, we’d gone through a very hellish period.  We have been steadily, quietly improving.

Family-wise – I can say that my selectively mute daughter has been doing very well.  She has been able to give presentation and even perform on stage with speaking or singing roles.  Both she and my oldest are blossoming in their high ability classes in school and after school programs.  My youngest now is the one who I’m taking to the pediatric neuropsychologist – because she’s had anxiety that’s been impacting her during tests, and while one test qualified her for the high ability program, another one excluded her.

Creativity-wise, I’m very happy with what I’m doing – my writing, my photography, and my art-making fills a need.  I might even start getting serious about selling some of my photography or mixed media pieces (when I make some more).  We’ll see about that.

PTSD-and-depression-wise, I think I’m improving.  I don’t feel as bad as I did once upon a time.  My marriage is on more stable ground.  I’m glad for that.  I still have emotional bumps, just not as severe as they once were.  The biggest problem I have is in the friend-making department.  I really want and need some friendship, but when I think about how much I want to make new friends and how pretty much impossible it’s been to meet wholesome kindred spirits, I am very anxious.  I know I’m feeling desperate for friendship at times, and I feel that intensely when I meet new people.  Especially new people I really like.

I did manage to speak to the storyteller from last weekend, and we are conversing via email.  I’m feeling scared, quite honestly.   Yes, even though he’s a storyteller and actor, and he probably knows all about emotional intensity and has a whole posse of quirky, creative, intense friends, I’m thinking of all the other attempts I made at finding friends, only to have it not work out.  I hope not, but it’s on my mind way too much and it’s leaving me very tense.   I tend to overshare on my blog.  I know this.  I am trying to be cautious in my real life friendships.  I don’t want to people to know how very much I want and need friendship, lest that neediness scare them away.  I feel like I’m that extremely shy 6th grader I was all over again.

Especially since he said something very perceptive to me:

A storytime – whether on our own, or with another – is food for the soul. It sounds like your soul has been hungry lately, if you know what I mean.

Um, heck ya, I know what he means.  I’ve been famished.   I don’t mean for the written word, I’ve had plenty of that.  But for the spoken word.   When I’m not working at school, I spend 6 hours all by myself – either at home, or going for a walk, or going to the library, the craft store, or making art at the local coffee house.

I’ve lost confidence in myself…but I’m slowly trying to regain a sense of self-assurance.   On the one hand, I know I’m smart enough, I’m good enough, and gosh darn it, some people in the blog world like me.  I just wish I could have that ease and peace I want when I’m trying to go beyond the acquaintance stage in my real world.

 

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About Casey

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ~ Jack Kerouac, On The Road Again
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5 Responses to Because sometimes I forget

  1. ptero9 says:

    Hi Casey,
    Sometimes we do have to experience stripping down before we can be remade, yes?

    “I know I’m feeling desperate for friendship at times, and I feel that intensely when I meet new people. Especially new people I really like.”

    This resonates with me very much. My relationships with people have always felt flawed on my part. I either want or expect too much openness, or just don’t know how to talk normal-speak. I do have friends and am continually working on accepting people on their terms. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and finding some common ground and language is challenging.

    My strong need for intensity and passion manifests more easily here in the blog world and I am grateful to you and all those whom I am getting to know. It’s as if each person I engage with here is a piece of myself. The conversations here help me to not need that from offline friends and that has been a gift.

    Happy Spring!
    xxx
    Debra

    • Casey says:

      Hi Debra,

      Happy Spring to you, too!

      Most definitely, I can relate to what you are saying. I have quite a bit of acquaintances and don’t expect so much from them. I don’t expect to talk to them about living a soulful life. I don’t really enjoy talking about the latest sales at Kohl’s. I spent a LOT of time listening to one of my girlfriends prattle on and on about what great deals she got. These were like weekly updates. She ended up having an affair with someone. Her husband was my first love from years and years ago. When they ended up separating, she pulled away from me in a major way. And then, as I was still friends with her husband, I maintained our friendship, hoping they’d get back together (because we’d go on vacations together every year). But what ended up happening is that he wanted to have an affair with me, and I didn’t. I had to stop being friends with him.

      Another family we were close to, this kind of thing was happening too. Their marriage wasn’t strong, and he was saying sexually explicit things to me. He claimed he was just kidding around, but it got to be too much. He even did it in front of my husband, and I started feeling really uncomfortable. And it was hard, because this friend and I used to take our daughters out to the park, to the ice cream shop. He was a police officer and she was a nurse, so they had goofy schedules and rarely the same hours so he and I would meet up with the kids. His inappropriateness started really disturbing me. So I stopped being friends with that family, too.

      It was a painful thing, but they wouldn’t stop, so I had to lose the friendships.

      Yesterday, I spent quite a bit of time with the parents of my youngest daughter’s friend. I took two of my daughters, her friend and the friend’s sister, along with her mother to see the movie Rio 2 for my daughter’s birthday. Then we met up with our husbands (who, incidentally have the same name) and my oldest daughter for dinner at a pizza place. I came to find out that her husband was a chemist in a town I used to work as a microbiologist. It was really nice to talk about what I used to do and ask him about his work. I can’t talk science with too many people, and it was fabulous. Then afterward, the boys went home and we went to a local park for the kids to play. It was really nice to have a nice block of time with other adults…unlike the 5 or 10 minutes I have either picking my kids up or dropping them off talking about rather superficial things.

      But/and, when I make new friends, I always have tension. I want friends. I generally prefer male friends as they tend to have more interesting things to talk about (beyond kids and shopping). But it has not been safe to have male friends in a long time.

      The last time I met someone, I was crying outside a Panera bread. I was feeling very lonely. I get tired of taking myself out to eat. I do it all the time, but sometimes I just want company.

      And it’s painful.

      So after I was crying, a handsome man named Eduardo came up to me and said, “Oh, no, it can’t be that bad, come on, let me buy you a cup of coffee”.

      And after some hesitation, I did.

      Only when we started talking about WHY I was crying…things got very weird very fast. This was when my husband and I were having a LOT of problems, and he said he was married but unhappy too, that his wife didn’t like to travel. So, he invited me to go ANYWHERE in the world, all I had to do was name it and he’d take me. He told me I was beautiful and it was a shame I was so unhappy in my marriage and to make me feel better, he would take me anywhere I wanted to go.

      Imagine that.

      I’ve decided people have gone insane.

      And I thought I was the crazy one.

      When I meet new people, I expect one of two things – them not to want to talk to me beyond that first meeting…or want to have an affair.

      I did, however, meet with an old friend of mine a few weeks back. For coffee, even. And he told me he was in lust with someone else (thank GOD it wasn’t me for a change) even though he is married.

      So…as you may see…I have all sorts of anxieties upon meeting new people.

      And when I’m trying to befriend this person…I’m trying not to bring all my anxieties into it. It’s been a very long time when I have had a wholesome friendship.

      I no longer care WHAT we talk about, as long as it doesn’t involve crossing boundaries.

      I had a male friend who never, once, not ever, crossed boundaries with me. He’d been my friend for 24 years, but that disintegrated after he became really enmeshed with his wife and he no longer had freedom to see me without her and he could only talk to me for the twenty minute right between work and home. He always had to get off the phone when she was around.

      So…yeah…my friendships have been very weird and had some sad endings and left me rather confused and anxious about trying to make new ones.

  2. I certainly like ya, Casey 🙂

    While things may, on the surface, still seem unmanagable at times, when you lay it out the way you did, there is progress. Gratitude even. And that’s all we can hope for. As Debra there said, sometimes we need to be stripped down before we become reborn. Progress, not perfection as they say (I apologize for the twee slogan there – but sometimes that’s all I got!)

    What got my attention also was your description about friendships, or lackthereof. (In your reply to Debra especially). I have a hell of a time with friendships, Casey. A bitch of a time, in fact. I have written about it several times, but still find no clarity in it. I have my AA friends, but I keep them at bay like I do everyone else. I still fear someone getting too close to me, that they won’t like me, or God forbid, I would have to take them lock, stock and barrel. That is, I would have to commit, and I don’t like that very much. And yet, I crave friendship. I like when someone calls or texts me…but that is rare. Why? Because I don’t do that to them…so why would they do that to me? Ego! Oh dear…what a bona drag.

    I do like my solitary time, and sometimes wonder if I was just meant to be alone in that way. Of course I have my darling family, and close family friends…but it’s not the same. Yeah, I suppose I could call up 2-3 guys and have coffee (and I do – I am not a hermit), but it’s not a true, deep friendship that some of the other people I know have (and that includes other dudes).

    Anyway, I have to just figure this one out…ask my HP for direction and pray on it and ask others what they think. I still have a hard time getting close to men, but that has come in leaps in bounds since I got sober…so like you, when I look back, I do see progress.

    Sigh.

    Thank you for sharing this my friend 🙂

    Paul

    • Casey says:

      Paul, thank you! I like you, too. In fact, from the very first time I read a post of yours, I thought, “wow, I really like the way he writes…so very honest.” That is quite refreshing.

      No worries on the slogan. That’s one that comes to my mind quite a bit. That, and “Easy Does It”. I would have sworn I’m not a perfectionist, but as it turns out, I am.

      Yes, it does seem to me that we can relate regarding friendships.

      I’m a little disappointed in my Al-anon group…because we don’t do anything outside of the meeting. I have lingered and almost asked a few people to go out with me to the coffee shop afterward, but they seem intent on leaving right afterward. They don’t exchange numbers, there’s no sponsors or anything.

      The ACA group is set up a little differently. We can have sponsors/cosponsors, though I don’t exactly know who I’d ask to be mine. We have telephone lists (and no way no how can the girls get the boys contact info and vice versa – though I didn’t know that initially and broke the rule, twice, lol), but there’s really only one I’d spoken to outside of the meetings – and she called me. I still have yet to call her. I want to, but I feel like I just can’t. They call it “the 200 pound phone”. I think I am going to call the one woman, to let her know I’ll be going to see my dad before he passes away.

      And the thing is, usually I can talk to anyone, anytime with minimal stress. But I get so torqued up inside lately when I want to actually spend some more time with a person. And because things have been so scarce in the friend department, I get nervous. And now, with a lot of failed friendships under my belt, it weighs on my mind. It’s not even rejection that I feel worried about. What if they accept my friendship? How do I maintain it? How long will it last before I do something that “makes” them go away (though, realistically, I know it’s not always something I’d done and it’s just my ego that thinks that)?

      Oh, solitary time is essential to me, too. And no, I’m not Kermit the Hermit either. Interestingly enough, one of my acquaintances is an EMT and a HUGE talker but his wife is more of an extreme introvert and kind of a hermit. He and I talk a lot together when we see each other at school functions. I’ll probably see him round the neighborhood park (he lives not too far away, I could knock on his door if I wanted to), but he’s SO depressing sometimes. He tells me about the accidents he’s treated, he gossips about everything school-related and politics, he tells me his financial concerns, etc. But he’s not a good listener. And, because he’s a gossiper, you kind of have to assume whatever you tell him might get around. He’s actually one of the few people that let me hug them (Hi, my name is Olaf and I like warm hugs…lol Frozen reference…oh, which reminds me…if you have not seen the movie Frozen, you should. I thought it was a clear example of something we learned about dysfunctional families in ACA – “Don’t Talk, Don’t Trust, Don’t Feel”. Besides, the song “Let it Go” is a perfect recovery song…

      Sometimes I realize I’m being a little bit picky. However, having had multiple boundary violations, I’ve had to change my criteria for friends. No longer can they just simply have a pulse, lol. I have to be a teensy bit discerning.

      I wish I could get someone to go out for a coffee with me. I have no idea what the big deal is when it comes time to ask people out for coffee. People don’t have time or don’t want to, with me. I have wondered if I asked people out for a drink, if I’d get more takers.

      One thing I forgot to mention, while it’s very edifying to speak to people online, I am getting repetitive stress injuries from typing so much and being on the computer I think is giving me nerve entrapment. Next month I’ll be going in for some tests to find out if I have nerve damage and what, if anything there is to be done about it.

      Thanks for sharing with me.

      Casey

  3. Casey says:

    Oh, yeah, in a new development, I was invited to go see the storyteller’s play he was performing in yesterday. Unfortunately, it was too late for me to go. In trying to play it cool, I didn’t reply to his last email from the other day right away. I had forced myself to wait 2 days before I replied, not wanting to seem desperate.

    Then he immediately wrote back and asked if I wanted to see his performance at a local theater. I was so happy…and bummed. I was totally not able to make it because I only had 2 hours notice.

    He is up for getting together for coffee sometime soon. And I’m both happy, and nervous.

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