choosing my battles

Remember the leaving science project I mentioned awhile back?

Yea… it’s dead. Before it even really started.

I still think it’s a good idea, in general… collecting information about why people choose to leave science, collecting stories. And part of me wants to be involved in making it happen.

I wanted it enough that I registered a site. And researched online survey applications. And brainstormed survey questions. And wrote multiple posts about it.

And then I went home for the holidays and put everything on hold, fully intending to come back to it when I got back to my normal schedule. And I just… haven’t wanted to go back to it. At all.

I’ve been thinking about why that is, and I realized two things.

First, to do this the way I want to do this, I would need to put in a LOT of time. And while I could probably find that time if I made it a major priority… damn it, I just started a new job, and I’m still trying to write, and I have friends that I like seeing, and I’m tired. Realistically, this is not a priority.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, I realized that a lot of the time, thinking about all of the things wrong with academia and PhD programs, whether in the abstract, or as they relate to individual’s stories, including my own… leaves me feeling like shit. Part of it, of course, is residual bitterness and pain surrounding my own experience, but even beyond that, science is just something I believe in and care about so much, and it just kills me to see the system built around it failing so spectacularly, wasting so much talent, crushing the spirits of so many people who love science as much as I do.

I don’t feel too bad about my first realization. There isn’t anything I can do about the limited number of hours in the day, and I’m not about to apologize for my need to make money and have downtime and pursue other goals.

The second one though, initially made me feel guilty for quitting. Doesn’t disengaging because the subject makes me feel sad make me weak? For awhile there, I was actually telling myself that I HAD to do it, because not doing it was just running away.

But the thing is, I’m not running away. I’m not going to stop reading about science or discussing it on the internet. I’m just recognizing that making it a focus probably isn’t the healthiest thing for me at the moment.

I had a shitty graduate school experience, partially for personal reasons and partially as a result of systemic problems with graduate school and how science is funded/done/etc. Talking about that here has been good for me, and has helped some other people who have struggled with similar things. That’s absolutely fantastic, and I don’t regret it at all. I’m sure I’ll talk about this stuff again in the future, when it strikes my fancy and all that.

But at the same time, that shitty experience is in my past, and right now I really want to focus on building a new future. And I don’t think that clinging to my old identity as a scientist by spearheading this project is a good thing for me right now, given that context.

So yea. It was an idea. I liked it. I really appreciated people’s input and support, and if anyone else wants to take it up, or if I see other projects with similar missions, I’ll gladly promote the fuck out of them. But for now, that’s all I’m up for.