Sunday, November 4, 2012

Brannigan, begin again

I want to eat because I'm stressed. I'm stressed NOT because I have six million things to do, but because after nearly five years in graduate school and hours of therapy, I can now handle having five million things to do. No, I'm stressed because for some inexplicable reason, everyone seems to think that THEY know how to do my job better than I can.

My standard operating procedure is as follows:
1- Observe how undesirable situations arise
2- Do not repeat actions that yielded undesirable situation.

If my mother is reading this, she's raising vehement objections. Mom, it's one thing for you to tell me life lessons that you've learned and expect me to take them on faith. It's another thing for me to suggest the way to do something during a lab meeting, politely defer to others' (these are junior others) and then waste countless hours of my life discussing endless other ways to do whatever it is we're trying to achieve. Usually it's something completely asinine, like the division of work, or setting up meetings. Lately, I've just given up on being nice and bark out my suggestions and stare down dissenters. I know that barking isn't attractive, but neither are the giant bags under my eyes from working until late because the time that I had reserved for reading an article, or doing analyses or WHATEVER was eaten up by some sophomore with an uncontrollable desire to help by suggesting increasingly unhelpful possibilities of when to hold meetings.

Growing up, I wasn't much of a leader. I marched to the beat of my own drum (more like, the toot of my own Star Wars intro theme) but wasn't much for getting others to do it with me. I knew I had good ideas, and was passionate, but I never felt the need to be in charge.

But then I entered grad school.

One of the most overlooked and potentially devastating downfalls of higher education in science is that young scientists get zero training in management. Have you ever sat in a room full of professors and graduate students and tried to pick a theme for your discussion-based primary literature course? After 10 semesters of this, I seriously don't know if I can stand another round. Seriously. I may have to inhale some toxic fumes and get rushed to the hospital on purpose to avoid it.
It's not just that everyone has different opinions. It's that everyone is polite enough to (grudgingly) listen to everyone else's suggestions, even long after the time that you've accumulated far more topics than are needed, even if everyone votes twice. No one ever steps in and says, yeah ok that's enough. I don't know if it's because no one wants to be "that" person, who doesn't let little Rhiannon get in her oh-so-important fourth recommendation, or because they're afraid someone else will step up and ask who put THEM in charge, or because they enjoy the screechy melody of our young, caffeine-fueled voices. All I know is that no one ever stops it until I've spent 15 minutes imagining ways to kill myself inside the conference room without anyone noticing. (Note: it wouldn't be very hard to keep them from noticing.)

I'm completely off topic. What was my point again? Ah yes. People mysteriously insisting on taking the path of greatest resistance. Here's another example. Last year, I applied for a grant from a national institution. Roughly a week before it was due, someone mentioned to me (surprise!!!) that the grant actually had to be submitted to my university first, and then the university would "OK" it, and do the actual submission. It was still nearly just as much work for me; the only thing the institution needed to do, besides read over what I had written and click "submit" was to fill out the overhead costs section. All this was pretty annoying though, because they wanted to have the grant 4 days in advance (apparently they're slow readers!) and since I had been informed of this at a late date (don't even get me started on THAT) this was, to say the least, a time crunch.
But after a hell of a lot of work, and revisions, and not sleeping for a week, I submitted! I was so proud of myself that I opened a bottle of wine I'd brought back from Argentina and had been saving for three years.
Two days later, I got a message from the grant institution. A bit apprehensive, I opened it.

I had been disqualified because the overhead costs on my application had been filled out incorrectly.

Some people think I'm bitter. Others think I'm bossy, and I bet some people even think I'm mean. But really, I'm just trying to get shit done. Right.

1 comment:

  1. I just found the image that I included in this entry, and it made me feel worlds better. For those of you non-geeks out there (why are you reading this?) it's from an episode of Futurama where the crew think that Leila is too mean of a captain because she never lets them take the easy way out. In the picture, they just broke the hoversled loading pillows onto it, which Leila told them not to do because they're on a high-gravity planet. This makes me feel better because everyone might think I'm a hardass like Leila, but that doesn't mean I can't be hot.

    ...and you thought I was going to say I was feeling better because in the end the crew learns to appreciate Leila, didn't you?