Monday, July 19, 2010

The dealio

First of all I want to sincerely say thank you to everyone for the kinds words, thoughts and offers of private venting. It is so great to know that I have such an awesome cheering section.

I know you're probably wondering what happened to piss me off so much and some of you may know because (1) you're a facebook friend (2) you know me in meatspace. I am going to reveal what happened because (a) almost everyone at school knows (2) for any grad students that may be reading.

I was angry because my PI pulled the plug on my comps. She gave me the choice, but didn't believe I would pass and didn't want me to go through that experience. I'm no idiot, so when my PI strongly advices something I tend to listen. But I was pissed. I've been busting my ass trying to get the mock grant ready, studying my ass off and not spending time with my kid. I've been putting off personal life stuff until my comps were over and its just going to be delayed more.
I am angry because I am embarrassed that I couldn't get it done. Others have gotten ready for their comps in 6 weeks and I couldn't do it. I see this as a failure. I don't deal well with failure very well.
I am angry because I was not aware of all the different subjects I had to study. I know my shit. I know the shit that my committee told me to study. I don't know the "other shit" my PI expected me to know. She never told me that I needed to know that shit. I know she never told me because I take notes at every meeting. "Other shit" was not written down.
I am angry because there was a communication breakdown and ultimately its my fault.
I am angry because every week I was reviewing with a postdoc and a research associate, and they thought I had a solid understanding but they didn't know I needed to know this "other shit".
I am angry because its not their responsibility to know what I need to know - I know its my fucking responsibility.
I am angry because if I don't know I'm going down the wrong path, how am I supposed to ask for help.
I met with my PI we made a plan and worked my ass off. Except she didn't mention "other shit" I need to know. So when she realized days before (because she never attended the review sessions until I asked) that I was missing stuff, she pulled the plug.
I am angry because I thought I was being responsible. I talked to her, met with committee members for detailed breakdowns and pushed hard. Except when the time came to show I was ready, I wasn't because I didn't know "other shit" that I wasn't told. I should tell you that I know some shit because I realized that although no one mentioned it, it would be good to know. But not being told I need to know "other shit" is not an excuse because (according to PI's I have spoken to) it was my responsibility to know that I needed to know the other shit. Which makes me feel likes it a circular arguement, in that is my responsibility to ask or I'm supposed to just know, but if I don't know, how do I know I don't know? How do I know I"m supposed to ask?

I don't hate my PI. I really like her and I know she looks out for me. I also know that most PI's believe graduate students need to be responsible for their own shit. I try to be a responsible independent, mature grad student. But sometimes its just too fucking much. This whole attitude of its the graduates student responsibility to be in charge of their own degree pisses me off. Why are you there as a PI if everything is my responsibility. When I ask my PI friends what the fuck their responsibility is, they have no answer. When I ask for an explanation of what I did wrong, they say their is no point in placing blame. Which makes me angry. I am angry because I think my PI thought she didn't need to hold my hand and I proved her wrong.

In case you haven't figured out. I just basically angry at the whole fucked up situation. Yes I'm trying to look on the positives. Yes I know its for the best. Doesn't make me any less angry.

Yes I have met with her again to outline what I need to know, wrote everything out and gave it back to her to review. I know 90% of what is on there, which makes me even more angry.

I am angry everytime I sit down to study. I don't think I will get over my anger.


Ambivalent Academic said...

Aw, fuck SciMo. I'd be really fucking angry too. At the whole situation. I hear your frustration and I know what you mean about that breakdown of communication. Sometimes there is an expectation of mind-reading. Sometimes we really should "know" and see that coming, and sometimes it's impossible to do so. Sometimes we should have asked the right questions sooner and sometimes we don't what questions we're supposed to ask. Fuck!! It sucks so fucking hard to get bitten in the ass over something like that. I'm sorry. Take a break. You have every right to be angry...but even though you're right to be so, you won't be angry forever. Come back to the studying then. You deserve a break.

ScientistMother said...

AA - thanks AA. A good friend of mine (who happens to be a PI) said that I can be the most responsible and mature student, and still sometimes shit is not going to work out. Which is true. its just frustrating. Even though I did all the "right" things, it wasn't enough to prevent a breakdown.

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

I'm so sorry, ScientistMother. That sucks and you have every right to be angry.

I can't answer your questions about the student's and the PI's responsibilities, because the British system is so different. But I know lots of PIs who have a hard time remembering that the people around them aren't psychic and don't learn their thoughts by osmosis.

Alyssa said...

That really, really sucks - and I'd be really pissed off too. I mean, how can you know something if you don't know about it, right? You can be the most responsible person in the world, but would get screwed in that situation.

Anyway, I hope things work out for you soon - do you know when the comp will be rescheduled for?

Becca said...

On the one hand, sooner or later we all learn the "you can never know everything you need to know before you get there" lesson from research, if not from PIs. The real skill that you learn is not being psychic to prevent the problem, but learning to get over the anger enough to forgive yourself and bounce back from the problem. And it's likely really, really, really challenging to see this, but this is actually a sign you can trust your PI to communicate (albeit not in a considerately timely fashion).
All I can say about that is *hugs*

On the other hand, it's all just a bunch of bullshit hazing and to get anywhere in grad school PIs need to be positively impressed with you and they aren't fair or honest or objective or scientific or reasonable or logical or ANYTHING about it.
All I can say about that is don't let the bastards get you down.

ScientistMother said...

Cath - yeah I need to be psychic ;)
Alyssa - I'm not sure. I think I should've demanded / asked for more of my PI's time. I figured that b/c she wasn't worried, I was fine. Obviously I wasn't forcing her to know what I was doing/ not doing.

Becca - Hahaha! My PI can communicate because she saved my ass from humiliation. So far that is the best spin I have heard. Note the sarcasm? So not ready to hear your logical and sound advice. Brain and emotions are not in sync.

EcoGeoFemme said...

Oh blow! SOoo much better than failing though. You're humiliated now, but at least you're not humiliated with a big pile of paperwork to do to deal with a redo.

I wonder, though, if you actually would have failed if you really do know 90% of the material. Perhaps your PI was kind of caught off guard if she hasn't been up to date on your study and progress? I can't remember - is she kind of junior? A student going through comps or defense might be nerve-wracking for the PI too, especially if it's one of the first exams for the lab.

Anyway, I'd be super pissed too. I agree with the others who said you should take a nice long break. If you push hard now, you're probably going to end up pissed off at your work instead of just the situation. Lord knows you can't afford to be pissed off at the work at this point in the PhD marathon.

chall said...

oh that anger... it's hard to work through it when it's mixed with anger and disappointment. I hope you can get over it after a bit of a break and bite and chew down and make it all work.

That said, I whole heartedly agree with all the commentators about what you should know on your own and what not. If there is a way to make it grad students fault/responsibility - there is one... as always, some kind of hazing since "we've all been there and we got out with a phd in the end" (well, apart from the poor ones who probably were sane and left in the middle of it since they saw it for what it is - unhealthy) ;)

hang in there. give yourself some time and then review and go back. first - rest!! (and a good heavy bag to pound. Amazing how that works!!)

Mrs. Spit said...

So, there's nothing about that which doesn't suck ass.

I'm really, really, REALLY sorry. I know my friends are so ready to be done with their comps and get their lives back, and I can't imagine the thought that it might take another 6 months (Oh, please tell me it won't be another year?!).

I'm sorry. You were totally dammned if you did, and damned if you didn't.

I wish it were otherwise.

HGGirl said...

Aww, sorry that's so frustrating. I'd be really mad too.

That's the crazy thing about grad school...expectations are not at all clear. It's this weird subjective process that I'm not sure I'll ever get used to. It involves constantly checking in with people to see if you're on whatever track they think you should be on. I find this particularly difficult if the people I need to be checking in with act like jerks...makes it much less fun to get feedback.

Anonymous said...

Spend some time with your kid, spend some time with your hubby or friends you haven't seen in a while and then come back to it.

ScientistMother said...

EGF - yes it does blow!:) and yes it is better than failing. Yes the humiliation of failing would not have been good...

Chall - is my anger familiar to you? Comps is some sort of sick hazing ritual, totally agree!

Mrs.Spit - the thing is I don't know if it was a damned if I did, damned if I didn't scenerio. Had I asked my PI to review on a weekly basis, I probably would not be in this situation....

HG - the unspoken expectations drive me batty. Batty!

Anon - sadly i wasn't the best company for the first few days. Slowly getting over it now

microbiologist xx said...

Holy freaking crap! I am so sorry to read about your frustrations. I would be pretty fucking pissed off too. I say, be pissed off and get it out of your system.
I hope you can take a small break before you start this process again. I don't think I could focus too well under these circumstances.
Do you start completely over or just delay the exam date?

chall said...

SM> that kind of anger (frustration) is pretty familiar to me yeah... I'm trying not to put that much pressure on myself and "live the life" etc... but it is hard, and I get sort of blocked feeling those feelings.

It gets better though, with some time. promise. good luck recooperateing and making it work.

ScientistMother said...

MicroXX - the exam date is delayed. Same subject areas, so what i've studied plus "other shit". It shouldn't be too bad, less stressful etc. I think i'm getting over the anger...or perhaps because I've taken the last few days off I'm forgetting my anger. I'll have to wait until I get to work before I know.

Chall - yeah the anger/frustration sucks arse!

Kate said...

You wrote: "I am angry because there was a communication breakdown and ultimately its my fault."

NO! It's not your fault... or at least not wholly or even the majority. And I think you really nail it when you ask why your education has to be totally your responsibility. Mentoring is hard to get right, it's true, and I have failed (and been failed by others) many, many times. But it's lazy for a mentor to say it's all your responsibility. It's not. You take some responsibility for a student when you accept her into your program, into your lab, when you explicitly mentor her or serve on her committee.

It sounds like miscommunication on your advisor's part derailed some very good work and studying on your part. And that totally sucks. My hope is that your hard work and sacrifice right now is not wasted by pushing back your comps so far that you have to redo the great work you're doing now, and just cover the "other shit" your mentor neglected to mention.

Kate said...

Also... can I just say that a simple apology when a mentor fucks up goes really far to fix this situation? Being honest about the oversight, and validating your completely righteous feelings, and agreeing that this screwed you over, is in order from your PI.

ScientistMother said...

Kate - thank you! I've been noticing that none of the PI's who read the blog have commented. You're the first PI on the blog or IRL to say, "yeah we screw up and drop the ball sometimes. Sorry, I"m human". I so appreciate it. Thank you.

Yes you are right, its amazing what saying I'm sorry can do.

Girlpostdoc said...

I want to say something Buddhist and wise but my mind just keeps repeating - FUCK.

But it made me think that in some ways disappointment during grad school is quite similar to going to the movies. Let's say you decide to see a movie that you have no information about. You've never even heard the title before and don't know any of the actors in the movie. If it turns out that you like the movie, it results in a pleasant surprise. If however, the movie wasn't to your liking, the most that results is mild disappointment. What's interesting is that it's nothing like the incredible anger and disappointment you might feel if you went in with the expectation that it was supposed to be worthwhile. Instead of "oh well", the reaction is amplified, "I'll never get those 2hrs of my life back."

And I have to agree with Kate that this is clearly not entirely your fault.

Anonymous said...

I definitely think your professor has a portion of the blame because it is in her best interest to produce a qualified graduate as much as it is in yours to become that qualified graduate. Her success, esp. if she is untenured, is partially tied to your success as well, esp. if you have shown yourself to be otherwise hard-working, industrious, and studious member of your program.