Sci was racing through the corridors of her MRU the other day, taking piles of papers hither and yon, and generally taking care of business. She was on her way out when she saw a girl (she was young and tiny, though probably over 21) come flying out of the bathroom and take up a position in a corner near the stairwell, where it can look like you’re just looking out of the window in an idle way. She had a tissue in her hand, and was steadfastly NOT looking at Sci, in fact looking the other way as hard as she knew how.
She was a grad student. And I think (ok, I know) she was crying. I wanted to stop, and I wanted to ask what was wrong, but she was turned away so violently I don’t think she wanted anyone to ask. So I did the antisocial thing and tried to salvage some of the girl’s pride by not looking.
But little grad student, I did see, and I did want to ask what was wrong. And this is for you.
Don’t cry. Ok, never mind. DO cry. You SHOULD be allowed to cry. I know you were probably hidden in the bathroom, and then hidden in the stairwell, in the hope that someone wouldn’t see you cry, and tell you sack the heck up and get back to work. But I know something happened. I know it probably sucked a nut. And you should be allowed to cry here, because probably you’re in the middle of something important, and can’t go home and cry there.
But I understand. I know how it is. Grad school is full of more huge moments, hours, and days worth of fail than anyone ever deserves to suffer. Maybe someone told you your data was terrible (or maybe it’s not terrible, but it doesn’t fit with their hypothesis). Maybe your PI yelled and screamed and ranted, maybe he/she even threw something at your head (it happens, it really shouldn’t EVER happen, but it happens). Maybe you just had something horrible happen personally, but can’t go home and deal with it, because duty calls, and you have to stay in the lab and suffer in silence as best you can. Maybe your computer/high piece of equipment just died and you lost a TON of data. Any one of these things is enough to make a good grad student cry, feel stupid, and wish they had never come to grad school. Who knows, maybe you had more than one in the same day.
Grad Student, you SHOULD have come to grad school. You are a smart cookie, no matter what anyone says. Stupid people don’t get in to grad school, or if they do, they don’t make it as far as you have. You love science, or you wouldn’t be here. You are a hard worker, or you wouldn’t be here, and don’t let anyone tell you different. You are young, maybe you made a mistake. Mistakes happen, when you’re young and even when you’re not. You’ll learn from them, and you’ll move on. Personal stuff happens, and makes you want to give up. But don’t give up. You are smart and you are strong. You want to change the world, you want to do science, and you can’t let other people stop you from learning and doing the best you can. And when you need some time, Sci has an office filled with chocolate, caffeine, and a box of tissues. And then we can get a beer. I’m sorry I didn’t ask what was wrong, and I wish I had. You’re not alone. We’re all in grad school together, and some day, we’ll all get out.
Don’t let the bastards get you down,
And to other grad students (and post-docs, this also applies to post-docs):
We’ve all been there, haven’t we. And when we have, we should be that grad student with the chocolate, the tissues and the beer, the one who will listen and who knows that there IS crying in science sometimes. Sometimes you see these people, and you think “stop whining! Get over it!”. But try and remember when that was you. Because we all go through it, and and some point, that crying grad student (or drinking grad student, or otherwise miserable grad student) was you. And even though in science these days it seems like it can be nothing but backstabbing and scooping and gossiping, we’re all looking for knowledge, we’re all looking for a cure. And we’re all slaving away through grad school together, and we’re all hoping to graduate. And everyone could use some chocolate, a listening ear, and some tissues.
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