Casting Shadows

I’m in a right foul mood. It started after I gave that big career-defining talk. Since then, I’ve been a busy bee trying to write up the corresponding manuscript. I’ve been spending a lot of time alone and even more time in my head. Not always the best place to be. Especially when your an over-analyzer like myself.

Life is complicated. I’m not sure why I am constantly surprised by that, but I am. Do you remember the chair that I was re-upholstering? A lesson in patience, a thinly veiled metaphor for accepting that it just takes time to heal a broken heart. It’s been finished for quite some time now, but I haven’t wanted to talk about it or even share it with you. That’s the problem with pinning your hopes on a metaphor. It sometimes doesn’t carry all the way through.

 However, I do think I did a nice job of  returning it to a functional state and even making it into something pretty. I am proud of that. I did it. All with my own two hands (and a staple gun, screwdriver, tack hammer, blood, sweat and more than a few bouts of cursing). It didn’t take all that long to accomplish, but there was quite a long period of time, when the whole thing sat in the corner of my living room stripped naked, alone and dysfunctional. The most difficult part was figuring out how to de-construct the whole thing so that I would have some semblance of an idea of how to put it back together. I certainly didn’t want a humpty-dumpty situation.

That’s certainly easier said than done. It’s tough, demolishing something  in order while maintain its integrity so as to make something new. I certainly got hung-up in a few places. A giant mess made itself at home in my living room. I contemplated throwing the whole thing out. But one thing I am not, is a quitter. I finish what I start, seeing it to completion.

So I finished the chair. But here’s the thing – I don’t like sitting in it. I don’t even like looking at it. It just reminds me why I wanted to re-upholster it in the first place. I’ve even trained myself to not even glance towards that corner of my living room, although occasionally I spy the cats lounging in it.

It’s sort of the same thing with this manuscript. I threw myself into this project when the rest of my life had completely crumbled down around me. I am proud of the work that I have done and it has been the most exhilarating scientific journey that I never anticipated. Words are getting thrown around like ‘landmark,’ paradigm shifting‘ and ‘discovery of the decade‘  (at least for fungal biologists…). It’s a big deal. And I am an integral part of the whole thing.

But despite the bright lights, there are shadows and my demons are lurking amongst them. Would I have worked this hard if I hadn’t been thrown into the position I was in? Or if my life had moved forward like I had planned? Certainly not. So how can I be happy with my current academic success? Proud, yes. I did it. But happy? That’s a whole other story.

I don’t know if it’s too many days deep inside my head, in the heart of the science-writing cave, but I am sad. Sad in way I didn’t anticipate. It’s all the more wrenching because these cloudy days came after so many beautiful sunny ones.

I warned you I was in a right foul mood.

Intellectually, I know I am being silly and completely self-absorbed. But I’m single and I’ve been through a lot over the past six months. I get to be. No excuses and no apologies.


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