I have a relatively minor problem that has been eating me up inside for the last couple of weeks and I have finally decided to bring it to the blog, if only to just get some thoughts down somewhere about it.

Several months ago, I signed up for Science Online 2010, aka the science blogging conference, even though I’m not as into science blogging as I once was.

See, I have this problem.  I have no idea what I want to do with my life.  Nothing sounds good.  Things that once interested me, such as science education and outreach, have little appeal for me these days.  But then, nothing really appeals to me anymore.  I think, I hope, that it is a lingering symptom of the depression.  That possibility is more appealing to me than the idea that I have completely lost all the ambition I ever had.

Related aside:  This complete lack of ambition and motivation is distressing.  Wait, that’s too mild a term.  It is completely, absolutely one of the most fucking upsetting things ever in the worst possible way and makes me cry buckets everytime I think about it which is frequently.  Like right now, for instance.  It also makes writing my thesis terribly challenging directly and indirectly.  Since I’ve lost all of my ambition, I have no ambition to get a PhD and I have no ambition to get a job which means I have no use for a PhD which reinforces my lack of ambition to finish my PhD.  Frankly, just about the only thing motivating me to write my thesis at the moment is the horrifying thought of telling everyone who knows me that, despite being less than one hundred pages and one public talk and one private grilling away from getting my PhD, I have just up and quit.

Right, back to my dilemma.  So, you would think that, what with not being interested in science outreach, education, or just science in general (or anything at all for that matter), I would not want to go a conference about science online and science education and science journalism.  But, since I’m not interested in anything at the moment, I am holding out hope that one day I will again find things interesting and one of those things will be science outreach and education and in the event of that happening, it would behoove me to go to this conference.  In fact, I have been hoping that this conference would spark something in me and I would start to feel jazzed about science stuff again.  I am hoping that this conference will revitalize me and I will once again be a person who cares about science and outreach and education.

So, what’s the problem?  Money.

Ever since I found out I will need to pay tuition for my last quarter, I have been freaked out about money.  This has gotten worse due to medical expenses and being unsure of exactly how much our insurance will pay and there is a high deductible.  And, of course, going to the conference is an unnecessary expense (I’m paying for it out of my own pocket, of course).  So, now I wonder if I should be going or not, knowing that I have no real interest in any career at all and maybe once I do have an interest in a career, it won’t be science-related (though, logically, that seems unlikely).

So, I worry.  I think about whether or not I should be going to the conference every morning when I wake up and every night when I go to sleep (if you think I’m exaggerating about that, I assure you I am not).  I am filled with anxiety because I know that if I am going to cancel I need to have done it yesterday because there is a waiting list for people to attend.  If I cancel, it will still cost some money because it will cost money to change my airline tickets.  And, if I cancel, I will lose this opportunity to potentially become revitalized.

If I don’t cancel, then, of course, it will cost more money than if I do cancel.  My husband assures me that we can afford for me to go to the conference.  I should just accept this.  He handles the money matters in the marriage and he’s very money conscious (which is why he handles the money matters; please no comments on whether it’s appropriate for a liberated woman to allow her husband to handle all of the money concerns for her, I have enough to deal with).  So, I should just believe and trust him and stop worrying, but I can’t quite bring myself to do that.  What if there is an unexpected medical expense and our insurance won’t cover it?  What if there is a problem with the car?  What if we get pregnant and we need the money for the baby because, well, babies cost money?  What if we really should put that money into savings or a retirement fund because I have almost no money set aside for retirement and when I get to be 65 I have no money to live off of because I never was able to get a job because I never recovered my ambition and there’s no family to take care of me because we were never able to have kids?  What if I go and I have a horrible time and I have so much anxiety, I can’t leave my hotel room?  What if I don’t go and I never recover my ambition and I always wonder if I could have been revitalized by the conference?  What if I go and regret it?  What if I don’t go and regret it?  What if, what if, what if???????  The What Ifs become more and more far-fetched and unrelated but they just keep popping up in my mind over and over and over again until I go crazy from it.  Literally.

So, I worry.  Should I go, should I not go?  Every night.  Every morning.  Most afternoons.  I make a decision and then am immediately filled with so much anxiety that it’s the wrong one, I think I’m on the edge of a panic attack.  So, I have to calm myself down by not thinking about it.  But, I have to think about it because if I’m not going to go, I need to tell someone now.

God, I am so screwed up.  Somebody stop the crazy train.  I would like to get off it.

11 thoughts on “Dilemma

  1. YOu should totally go.
    1. It might motivate you.
    2. You might be inspired.
    3. It will be good to network.
    4. It’s probably a tax deductible expense.
    5. It could be fun.
    6. It would be something that you wanted to do if you had unlimited funds, and even though you don’t, you still can go. It’s a do-able thing.
    7. You won’t know if this is your missed chance for xyz, if you don’t go.

    I have no idea what I want to do. Somedays, I think that I could be at the lab bench forever. Other times I want to write about science. Still others I want to be management in biotech. I occasionally think about giving it all up and opening a bakery. Still, I know that I am a scientist. Doomed almost to be one.

    Go, really.

    I don’t know where it is, but if you find yourself not being able to leave your hotel room, you can always call me, and I will tell you hilarious stories about my cats, and hot glue-ing my hands to a table, or how you shouldn’t shake a beaker of hot agarose up and down when it doesn’t have a lid on it.

  2. Oh please come!
    I know the feeling. I am also feeling a Need to Get Inspired from this conference (truthfully, I go to conferences in general for exactly that reason, and it *usually* works, although I am nervous about this one for reasons I can’t quite define). But even if I don’t get super inspired, I will settle for talking to a bunch of jazzed up science obsessed cool folks.
    If you go and find you cannot leave your hotel room, I shall give you my cell phone number (just email me!), and you shall call me, and I will bring cool people and chocolate to your room. And rejoicing will be had.
    Or I may be able to bring my Little Goofball, who is useful for the cheering up if you are a pro-baby person. He’ll be 4.5 months old and is, of course, the Cutest Baby Yet (on the other hand, if you are one of those who only likes the idea of your *own* kids, that’s totes ok too. I can’t promise this one either, cause it depends on my Carebear deciding to come and he hasn’t made up his mind for sure).
    Also, I only say this as someone who’s struggled with chronic depression at various times, but the ruminating nature of your thoughts sounds like a symptom to me. Granted, it also indicates that, if happy and properly focused, you’ve got a fine analytic mind. But still, sometimes I want to stuff my brain with gold weights to slow it down because it won’t stop, and it sounds like you might be in that kind of place.

  3. I’m with everyone else. You really need to go! For so many reasons. At the very least, the change of scenery will do you good – and make sure you get those phone numbers of all these nice people who are going. You’ll end up having tons of fun. Even if you discover you’d rather be a sheep farmer than do anything related to science. (That was always my alternate career, I don’t know why.)

  4. I’ve never commented before. I’m a graduate student in my last year, defending in May with no idea what I want to do either. But when I read this post, I can totally understand what you are going through, well no one can totally understand anyone else, but I can empathize. Here are some thoughts I hope will help, since I use them currently to analyze our money situation:
    With regard to the money matters of whether it’s worth it:
    – Determine the true impact of the finances of this conference by calculating it’s cost, determining how much you would actually put into a retirement/savings account if you didn’t go to the conference and then estimate what it will give you at the end of your career based on some value of expected return. This would be absolute worst case scenario, that the cost of the conference is a complete sinkhole and you get nothing from it.
    – Now calculate the tradeoff. Assume if you went to the conference you were revitalized in your career and you know take a higher paying job then you would if you weren’t revitalized and instead gave up science and became a knitting teacher or barista. Now accumulate the difference in your pay based on this over the lifetime of your career.. No comparison right?

    Btw, with regards to your husband and finances, you shouldn’t have any shred of shame about this in my opinion. That’s the beauty of a relationship, it’s a partnership. Why the hell should one person do everything or each person do everything. What a waste of resources! My husband also handles the finances and the trash/recycling. I communicate with the daycare about our son…so on and so forth. Redundant human resources is a complete drain on society.

    I wish you the best of luck. I hope to see a post some day about revitalizing your interest, but no matter what, someday you will again be passionate about something. It’s human nature. Ebbs and flows are part of our existence.

  5. Man oh man do I feel you. I don’t even have time to explain the depths of how I feel you. So, bullets

    1) Not everything is your fault. Depression may be a lingering factor in your feelings of no ambition, but jesus girl there are systemic factors at work here! You are feeling discouraged because the whole fucking country is really discouraging place to be right now, especially for those of us at that launching off point in our lives.

    2) When I lost my ambition, it was the most threatening thing that ever happened to me. My drive had been, for my entire life, the one most defining, central feature of my identity. When it went away, it both broke my heart and left me adrift. Still working through that. There is crying involved, uncontrollable.

    3) My advice: go to the conference. I mean what the fuck else are you going to do? And there is no point in worrying about the money. If you let money worry you, then you will never run out of worry.

    4) Also, art helps me. Movies, music, literature, even tv has gotten really good. This is an existential crisis, may as well let the other lost people show you the way. Last night we went and saw the movie “up in the air” and it was surprisingly good. NOt really uplifting, but sort of a little meditation on this in-between stage.

    {{{hugs, etc}}} drop me a line if need to chat.

  6. go to the conference, for all the reasons listed above but also because you might see/talk to someone about a new direction that helps break the hold of the adriftness. i’ve spoken extensively with our wise post-doc who assures me that motivation has cycles and that’s all there is too it. the key is finding a way to make it thru when it ebbs. i’m there right now (sounds like several of us are!) and i’m only trying to write my grant for my oral comps.

    re the what ifs…..oh they’re bad aren’t they? mine start because i switched fields (eukaryotes to prokayotes) from my master’s to my ph.d. and i have absolutely no interest in staying in my ph.d. topic (phage stuff) after i graduate. but i don’t know what i want to do either….maybe parasites again? maybe viruses? where to apply? etc etc etc. for me the key is to take the things one topic at a time. the fear of having to tell people you just quit might be enough to motivate to start writing, the conference might give you the needed direction change and all of it will eventually influence what you end up studying. at any rate, all the obsessive science talk at the conference might just get you thru the writing and that is worth the price of admission 🙂


  7. If I had the time, I would definitely go to the conference, it not just to hang out with the amazing people I’ve met online.

    And what you’re going through re your career is completely normal – everyone gets burned out while they’re writing their thesis. Just get the beast finished, take some time off and think about what it is you want to do.

  8. Go. And forget about the monetary worries, meet people, and have a good time. I’ve been in some similar situations before and when I’ve caved to the money beast, I’ve regretted it. If you go and make a point to talk to people and get a little out of your comfort zone, it will be well worth it in the end.

    I would love to go and meet all these great folks- they can inspire, they can introduce, and you might just find that all this rubs off in some unexpected ways.

    So go, enjoy it, and worry about the money later. If you can’t convince yourself to stop worrying, pick one way you can reduce household expenses by even the tiniest bit for awhile (downsize a coffee, be better at not wasting groceries, whatever) to off set part of the cost.

    oh, and Have fun 🙂

  9. I’m late to comment here, but I also think you should go to the conference. I can sympathize with your money worries but it also sounds like your husband has it under control and you might have a lot of fun doing something different and hopefully inspiring. I hope you decide to go, and then blog about it for those of us who won’t be there 🙂

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