Sunday, May 15, 2011

going to ASM in NOLA

Sometimes I just love abbreviations ;)

I'm going to the American Society of Microbiology General Meeting in New Orleans Louisiana starting this Saturday and going til Tuesday. I'm quite sure it will be a blast - not only some interesting sessions and posters - but meeting up with some old colleagues and some newer ones.... and some parties :)

[some things redacted since it was a bit too much info me thinks]

Anyway, it's going to be hot and humid with the added thing of potential flooding by the Mississippi river. Although, I doubt it will happen since they've opened the spill ways to keep the river from spilling over that big city and Baton Rouge. It's hard to see those smaller towns getting flooded though, since the water has to go somewhere....

Now, back to the hockey game while continuing to plan the packing and clothes choices etc.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Easter times and reconciliation

I've been thinking a bit about reconciliation. The Easter time has been surrounded by some thoughts about reconciliation, forgiveness and resurrection (the last thing is sort of obvious right?). Partly due to a few classes, partly since a former fellow grad student contacted me a few weeks ago. He never finished his degree. In his words, he was forced out - "thrown away". I would agree to a point, and at the time it seemed like a bad situation turning worse.

I was still a naive person at the time and thought the people in charge of the grad program would take responsibility for the grad students. As time went on, I realised that it was more to the grad students to prove they wanted to pursue their degree and solve the obstacles in front of them, not really their PIs/professor or their committee. To a point I still think that the "older people in the game" have responsibilities to tell students when they are facing a turning point (or an end point). To a point, due to my own decisions and choices, I think that a lot rests on the shoulders of the student, simply because that is the way of the game (life). You have to look out for yourself. You have to convince the "others" you are worthy... all easy and probably pathetic to say, but still i find it to hold more truth than I might want it to.

The old saying of "if you don't believe in yourself, why would I or anyone else?" is very true to my own experience as a grad student (not to mention post doc). That even if some lucky ones have a mentor who can guide them through the darker times of self doubt and questionings, it's still your own decision to walk the walk and make it. It's harsh. It's not fair. And it certainly isn't easy but in the end, if you don't fight for yourself, it's hard to find those others who do it for you.

He contacted me and let me know in no uncertain terms that he was still bitter about the fact that he never graduated. Not got a PhD, even if he put in the hours and the effort. I agree that the people in charge should've done more to help solve the situation. However, and I probably say this since I had to pull a few odd moves in the middle of my own PhD, it's also your responsibility as a student to listen to your peers and try and solve things - however unfair you might think they are. I've tried for a long time to reconcile with the fact that my professor is only human. And that with being human comes feelings of guilt, frightenesss of loosing friends and spinelessness. It's not an ideal situation. However, it might have nothing to do with you in the end. It's just the way it is, and you need to make the situation work for the best outcome for you (while trying not to overstep moral boundaries of your own).

Although, for you as a student especially, it might affect your whole life and career and you are going to live with the outcome more obviously than your committee.

Anyhow, reconciliation.... it's a well stated fact that you need to reconcile in order to not be bitter about things/situations. And get stuck in time, rehashing the same thing over and over but to no avail, will not get you forward. After listening to an hour class of reconciliation and the need for you to be open to talk to the person/s who with whom you have an issue with and try and solve it, I was forced to ask the obvious - the one thing I've found being the hardest part of the whole deal. "What if the person you want to solve the issue with isn't receptive or interested in talking about it? How can there be reconciliation in that way then? Since we need to solve it on both parties?" As in the more clearer (I wrote shorter, but it isn't, maybe more succinate?) version "maybe you just need to reconcile with yourself that you've done all that can be done and you just have to live with it and forgive (or forget but that's partly another story) yourself about the situation and move on?".

That is to say that if the person you feel grievance towards have no interesting in "solving" or reconciling or admitting any wrong doing, but you still need to move on and not stay in the bitter phase. Because the bitter phase only leaves you in a hard spot and not moving on. (Like the saying of "angry only leaves you with anger and resentment, the person you are feeling this about probably won't know or care, therefore you are the only one suffering".)

The class slightly admitted that this part is a tough one, it's the thing we might not want to accept happens many times. That the fight/struggle/situation isn't honest from both parts but rather one party feeling hurt and the other one not admitting any wrongdoing. But still both parties have to move on.

My fellow former grad student is still, after more than half a decade, bitter and angry about the whole outcome. I am sorry for it, and especially that he doesn't seem to see his side of the conflict. Not that he was the main "faulter" - there is seldom that easy of a wrongdoing after all - but that he places all the blame solely on "the others". I would be the first to say that "the others" did a number of things wrong. I would also say that there was an obvious miscommunication due to the fact that the graduate student didn't understand when things were going south.... much to other's as well as my own view.... but again, I can't really blame him for focusing on the good parts and keep going.

However, I would've thought the people would've made it much more clear with it was the cross roads and he faced it. Then again, they didn't do it with me either. I was just more resilient, and to be honest - more connected and faced it head on forcing things like "what do I need to do these next months in order to be in the program" and listened to advice, bit the bullet and fought through it. He choose (or didn't really accept?) to stick his head in the sand and go with "they never asked me outright to do this". (They sort of did, but he didn't see it that way. Hence the argument from me that they should've been more clear.)

Anyhow, all this lead me to think again about the power of reconciliating with yourself and forgive the situations that lead to sad and bad outcomes. And that you don't really have to forgive the people who make it happen to you, but you really need to let go of the anger and hate and move on - and most of all, reconcile with yourself that you did the best you could during the situation and it is ok. Even if it doesn't feel fair, proper behaviour or even right. It's simply the best for you to let go. 

Not saying it is easy.