Thursday, February 24, 2011

And you all said the Mayans were crazy!

Gather round boys and girls. I’ve got a secret to share. I, (Ex)Neuro(Ex)Science(Forever)Geek, have discovered the secret to instant and continued success in the laboratory. This highly volatile secret was discovered yesterday evening as I stumbled my way through an experiment. 

First I discovered that I failed an exam. An exam that I hadn’t studied all that much for, but that’s not the point. I prayed to the exam gods before taking the exam and did they come through? No! Apparently the other students got there before I did.  Though, from a philosophical perspective – my F was such a great F, my score so low, my F so magnificent in its F-ness, that it could technically be described as an EPIC F-ing WIN. (Think about it….)

Second, after returning to lab and discovering that I had enough cells to perform my experiment, and successfully navigating my way through the murky mire of methodical (love the alliteration) steps, I had a wonderful morning. Well…wonderful if we hop in the DeLorean and erase that F from existence (and ignore my astonishing foray into philosophy).

Third, I discovered that my successful navigation would’ve put Christopher Columbus to shame. Let’s face it – the man had no clue what he was doing. HE THOUGHT HE WAS IN INDIA FOR CRIPE’S SAKE! A TOTALLY DIFFERENT FREAKING CONTINENT! So, in paying homage to the big (or little – I don’t know how tall he was) C.C., I discovered that I’ve been using the wrong solution in my cells for about 3 weeks now. To add insult to injury, some of my samples weren’t treated properly – and naturally those samples were the samples that I absolutely needed.


For those of you not in the science world – trust me. It’s frustrating. I’ve done three rotations – count em. Don’t worry. I’ll wait – and not one of them has turned out ANY results. I know, I know. It’s science. Shit happens. But does shit have to happen through three rotations? I would like, for once, for something to work. I’m in the second to last week of my rotation. I’m literally out of time to get this right. But hey, now that I know The Secret – Purdue will be calling Einsteinisha before the month is out.

Which brings me to The Secret.  My mentor, seeing my frustration, shared with me something only the absolute best first year students get to learn. Apparently – The Secret to success in the lab is SACRIFICE! My mentor said that they typically sacrifice mice, but I say – go big or go home! Think about it! Are you a graduate student? Do you want to spend 5 years toiling in a dungeon-like lab to churn out a degree? I’d say no. So, rather than sacrifice mice – I say sacrifice the undergrads! They’re in the way anyway. Clogging up the buses, taking our spots in the Starbucks line, guffawing about what they did over the weekend with all of their “free time” (whatever the fuck that is) and fucking up the grading curve! Sacrifice an undergrad (or two, maybe three to be safe) and you’ll be out of grad school in no time. If nothing else, you’ll feel better. I do.

But let’s just keep this between us, okay.

And, remember, with great power comes great responsibility. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

My tax dollars don't pay you to hate and discriminate.

It’s 1 o’clock in the morning and, as usual, my brain assumes that’s the perfect time for writing. It’s one of those nights when “more tired than Katherine Heigl in a romantic comedy” just doesn’t seem to cover it.
 I find myself awake pondering the plight of the world – its incessant need to hate, its undying ability to spread that hate.  I wonder how we got here. I wonder how we ever get to a point where hatred is acceptable. Especially when it’s sheathed in the name of God.

The Indiana House of Representatives voted to pass an amendment banning same sex marriage.  This decision has had me quite perplexed for a few days, and I’m only just now finding myself calm enough to adequately respond.  Representative Eric Turner has been quoted as saying, “The basic unit of society is the family, and the cornerstone of the family is marriage. Marriage is and should be between one man and one woman."

Who gets to decide what marriage is or isn’t? Is that a power that “we the people” have given to our government? To define what makes a marriage and what constitutes family? If so, can someone please point out where the U.S. constitution allocates that right, because I damn sure haven’t seen it.

The people that voted for this amendment say that they are NOT writing DISCRIMINATION into the constitution. IF you are saying that marriage is EXCLUSIVE to one man and one woman, does that not exclude any other sort of relationship? Is that not, therefore, discrimination? Apparently our elected officials have a different grasp of what constitutes discriminatory activity. It was once acceptable to outlaw interracial marriages as well. But, maybe I’m comparing apples to oranges and I just don’t realize it. Maybe the prevention of marriage between two people who clearly loved each other in the early to mid 20th century is totally different from the prevention of marriage between two people who clearly love each other in the 21st century.

If I told you that marriage should only be between people from the same social class would you accept that? No, you wouldn’t. Why? Because it’s arbitrary and, as we all know, you can’t help who you love. 
Marriage is what you make it. Marriage, for some, is the ultimate testament of love. Marriage, for others, is a death sentence. But at least they get to make that choice.

Who does “same-sex” marriage harm? Is it murdering your child? Is it stealing your most prized possessions? Is it selling drugs at the local high school? If my gay friends get married, will a deadly earthquake occur halfway across the world and somehow wipeout 6 million people? Will it somehow prevent you from living your day to day life? 

How about a little perspective people. Marriage is not a gift to be doled out like candy on Halloween. It is a right, as inherent as the right to vote.

So, dear Rep. Turner – if you want to maintain the cornerstone of the family, you should probably start by realizing that families, like marriage, are what you make them. Family is what I choose it to be, not what my government tells me it is. Family is born from love and love does not only exist between one man and one woman. The Indiana state constitution is no place for your prejudices. Please keep them to yourself. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

You've got problems? I've got solutions.

I feel like every word I type here is under scrutiny. Which is odd, because I only have a few (dare I say loyal?) followers. I hate that the words of one, single, too scared to put a name to the face person make me hesitant to do something that I love – write.

I started this blog because I wanted to share my experiences with future and current graduate students. I found that when I had nothing else to turn to, this became my outlet.

When the stark reality that I was officially in a long distance relationship hit me, I wrote about it. When I realized that the person that’s been by my side for the last 5 years was no longer there – I wrote about it. When I started failing my classes and FUBARing lab – I wrote about it. When I realized that I didn’t quite fit in – I wrote about it. And I put my name and face to everything that I wrote.

I stand by it.


I’m making a very difficult decision in my life. And I’m displaying it for all of the world to witness. I don’t know if that’s ballsy or not – but I do hope that someone out there will benefit from this.  I hope that someone out there will read something that I’ve written on these pages and walk away with the firm resolve to be whoever they were meant to be. Someday, in the potentially very near future, you will be faced with making a life altering decision. And that very same decision will be influenced by the (often unsolicited) opinions of others. And those opinions will make you stop and question everything that you’ve done and said up until that point. Finally, when you think you’ve weighed every option, every pro and con, Some Random (dare I say negative? Unhappy? Eager to spread the misery around?) person will come along and offer their “expert advice,” and you’ll be back to square one.

Don’t let it happen. You are who you are and you have to live with the decisions you make.  Naturally, we seek the counsel of those that are closest to us, but at the end of the day the decision is yours and yours alone. Do you want to wake up 10 years from now and have to say “I did xyz because Some Random told me I should?” That is a recipe for regret.

I came. I saw. I conquered the “what if” beast. When I leave, and trust me I’m counting down the days, I won’t have to ask myself “what if I’d gone to Purdue?” I’ll already know what it was like. I won’t be so busy agonizing over my past, and I’ll be able to focus on the here and now and on the future.

It’s very easy for Randoms to offer their opinions when they aren’t the ones that have to deal with the consequences. It’s very easy for anyone from the outside looking in to say what is or isn’t right or wrong. Whatever happened to live and let live? If you don’t like it, then don’t YOU do it. But don’t begrudge me my right to do so. Don’t believe in gay marriage? Don’t marry a gay person. Problem solved. You don’t believe in abortion? Don’t have one. Problem solved. Don’t like the content of a novel because it’s too racy/violent/whatever? Then don’t read it. Problem solved. Don’t like the idea of dropping out of grad school?





Problem solved.

Let’s stop making controversy where there is none.  And let’s stop believing that the facelessness of the internet somehow gives you the authority to act like a complete asshole.  

But, most importantly, let’s have a little more compassion for one another - for those that we do and for those that we don’t know.

If you’re reading this, and you’ve got a crazy difficult decision to make in your life – I hope you find the strength you need to do it. I hope you find the resolve you need to do it. And, most importantly, I hope you do it for you because you’ve got to live your life. No one else can do that for you.

I leave you with a quote that a friend recently reintroduced me to:
"Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man's nose begins. Oliver Wendell Holmes

Friday, February 4, 2011

Egg, Face. Face, Egg. Acquaint yourselves with one another.

The dark, seedy underbelly of blogging makes my timbers shiver. Trust me, “the blogosphere,” as people like to describe it, is no place for the faint of heart.

Freedom of speech is a dangerous, dangerous thing – like icy hot; you think it’s great at first, everything’s going smoothly, you’re starting to feel good, and then –WHAM – your ass cheeks are on fire. (But that’s a story for another day…) This freedom, much like the right to bear arms, must be wielded with great responsibility.

Everyone doesn’t like what I write, and some make their opinions known more than others. I’m using this post to send out a very special thank you to all of those friends, both new and old, that have been valiant enough to come to my defense. It is very much appreciated.

That being said – self-reflection is a bitch. I’ve said on many occasions that I haven’t found friends here, and that’s honestly a gigantic, Chun-Li sized slap in the face to the people that I’ve met here at Purdue. They aren’t the tattooed, Japanese culture lovin, Super Street Fighter IV playin, movie goin, rhythm at the bottom of a bottle findin, hey – let’s get our toes done – on a whimmin friends that I have at home. But I’ll be damned if they aren’t people that I can depend on. I’ve done you, all of you, a disservice. I’ve undermined who you’ve been and what you’ve done for me in my time here and for that I am truly, deeply, honestly sorry.

I was so xenophobically focused on finding and forging relationships that were the same as the ones in NC, that I couldn’t see my new forest for its new trees. And yes, I know, that makes absolutely no sense – but let’s just go with it shall we?

I do have friends here. Not the same friends, but new friends. People that I can depend on to grab a quick bite to eat with me. People that will spend their gas money to swing me by the grocery store or pick me up from the shuttle stop. Friends that I can grab ice cream with. Friends that offer their time to listen to my woes. And, what’s truly impressive, is that I’ve got friends that will come to my defense, send me hugs, embrace nicknames like “R. Matey” and use words like “Schadenfreude,” even when I don’t deserve it.

I appreciate you guys, and I’m sorry I didn't give you the credit that you very much deserve. This post is for you. 

And this is just because I think this picture is hilarious. Stare at it. It gets funnier the longer you look. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Anonymity is the best form of flattery...or something like that.

Let me preface this by saying thank you to Anonymous for being so candid with his/her response to my previous post. This is mine. 

I appreciate your desire to help. But, never fear, my standards aren't too high. My "life plans" as outlined here are not my life plans in their entirety - merely a dumbed down (or overly inflated, take your pick) version of the highlights. I knew coming here that I wouldn't be successful at everything. Does that make it easier? Of course not. I knew that I wouldn't write kick-ass grants from day one - that's just not how life works in general. What I thought when I came here was that I'd have a new home. Not necessarily a better one, but a new, fun and exciting one. I'm unfulfilled in my classes and largely unimpressed with the quality of teaching. Purdue has plenty of money and plenty of labs - but this is not my home.    

I've attempted to force it to be so for 5 months now. I've had issues here from day 1 - some that could've been avoided, some not so much. How much longer am I supposed to be unhappy? What time limit do you recommend? How much time is enough time before I've done everything that I could've done in everyone's opinion but my own?

I don't find your comments abrasive. I honestly appreciate a fresh and different perspective. But, please understand - this is not a decision that I've come to lightly. I've talked to my peers, my superiors, my family and my friends - at the end of the day they all pretty much said the same thing - the decision is yours.

If I wanted it bad enough, I'd fight for it. If I thought it was worth it, I'd fight for it.  In my opinion, what I have (or don't have) here is not worth fighting for.

I miss my family. I miss being 5 hours away from my parents. I miss my friends and our all night gaming sessions and pizza parties. I miss waking up to my boyfriend. It's hard. It's even harder when you haven't been fortunate enough to make those same sorts of connections in a new place. This is not something that I can simply endure for another 5 years. 5 years is a long time to be in a place where you are unhappy. Have you ever seen Office Space? That is what my life is quickly becoming. I really don’t want a poor defenseless printer to bear the brunt of my frustrations.

Purdue is one school of many. West Lafaytte, IN is one city of many. Leaving this place does not somehow prevent me from being happy AND getting an education elsewhere. It isn't the end of the world. It’s just the end of my time at Purdue. Your school, wherever that may be and assuming that you are in school, may seem like the bee’s knee’s to you, the cat’s pajama’s, the alpha and the omega. Purdue has not become that for me.

You may be able to endure a long distance relationship (if that is the case) and be away from all that you’ve come to know and love. I thought I could, too. I thought being a military brat would make it easier.  It didn’t. What’s right for you and what’s more important to you is not what’s right for me and more important to me. We’ve all got different priorities.I can have my cake and eat it, too – right there in NC.  

So, to bring this long response to a close, as someone who tries very much to improve upon the person that she is - yes, I do believe that I've learned and that I am still learning from my mistakes. Mistake #1 was sticking with something because I was good at it. Mistake #2 was succumbing to the fear that I would never be good enough to do anything else and would wind up at McDonald's for the remainder of my life.  Mistake #3 was ignoring my heart for months and months and telling myself that I wasn’t working hard enough/trying hard enough/being outgoing enough. From the outside looking in, and from this blog alone, it may seem like I haven’t. But only I can know what I have and have not done and only I can determine if that is or is not enough.

And if all of that isn’t enough to assuage your worries about my decision – It's freakin cold outside and I'm sick of being a humansicle. 

Why? Because sweet baby Jesus told me to.


What’s that?

The prelude to death.

Geez that’s depressing. But, honestly, that’s how I feel. Since 2005 I’ve had my plans, my future, my goals laid out in a perfect row. I’ve had each task and subtask set up to fall like dominoes. 

First, I thought – I’ll make a great doctor. I’ll become a bio major. I’ll ace all of my classes, take the MCAT, go to med school, become a cardiovascular surgeon or OB/GYN and my life will be golden.

Then, I discovered that I hated medicine and pretty much all that the institution of medicine stood for. But I still wanted to help people. I still wanted to use my degree to help someone’s life in some fashion. My experiences with research during internships and mentoring lead me to graduate school.

I found that I loved teaching and mentoring. I decided, screw med school – I’ll get a PhD and teach at the college level. Frantically I searched for the perfect school. I found it. I dove in head first – but not before I revamped my plan. Go to grad school, ace every class, write some kick-ass grants and win some kick-ass money, graduate, do a post-doc, then become a kick-ass teacher.


What are those?

If nothing else, they’re almost exactly like ass holes.

My friend asked me if I ever had a moment where I had to stop and say “this is not my life.” I told her “every day.”

I’m afraid to leave because this is safe. My life up until this point has always been safe. I haven’t had to worry about money, about where my next meal was coming from, about bills. And I fear that leaving this place that has turned me inside out will thrust my world into a chaotic mess from which there will be no return.

Oooo the drama!

In all seriousness I worry about what it will mean if I don’t finish this plan, this task – if I don’t finish this. What will people think? What will they say? What will I do?  There are so many questions, so many other careers that I could pursue – and already I find myself thinking – I could do that – and making plans to get to whatever “that” is. I’m so worried about being a failure that I’m not taking the time to figure out what I actually want to do. I’m terribly single-minded. It’s a flaw. A curse. I wish I was more carefree.


Such a lofty little word, isn’t it? Though, it’s only worth 10 points in Scrabble.


I shudder to think of it. But then I think about all the people that are living their lives. All those people that are trippin’ the light fantastic in the homes of their hearts, living in cities with their families and friends and eating sushi and imbibing sake and I think – I want that back. I miss it so much.

I’m cold here and lonely. Worse yet, I’m incredibly unfulfilled.  I loved biology once. I thought we’d have a long and fruitful relationship. Now, I worry that if I don’t bow out, it’ll be too late and we won’t even be able to manage a friendship when the dust settles.

Some may read this and say, “you’re just giving up, giving in. You didn’t try hard enough.” I’ve got quite a few colorful words in my arsenal for you, whoever you may be. But, because I’m such a fuckin lady, I’m choosing not to share them.

I’m the only one who knows what I’ve tried and what I haven’t. And I’m the only one who knows what’s best for me, my life (or the lack thereof) and my sanity. And, fortunately enough for me, at 23 I’ve learned an age old lesson – people are going to think what they want, regardless of what I do. It is wholly unnecessary for me to prove myself to anyone but me, and baby Jesus. Cuz baby Jesus is awesome. Lesson learned. Can we fast forward now?

I’ve done a bit of soul searching over the last few months. I’ve been back and forth over what decision I would make. Should I stay? Should I go? I don’t know. (Hey, aren’t those the lyrics to a song?)

No more flippity flopping. No more whining. No more. I’m ready to go home. Failure and all.