this is it (sort of)

This is it. My last week of work.

Well, sort of.

My boss told me he’s going to go ahead and pay me through May regardless. He said that’s what his postdoc boss did for him, so he figured he’d do the same for me.

And while that’s a pretty damn awesome thing for him to do, there is no way I could take the money without feeling incredibly guilty, so I guess I’ll be working at least part-time through May.

Dammit.

It’s funny though; a thousand dollars isn’t a whole lot compared to my boss’s total budget so I can see why he didn’t feel like it was a big deal, but that’s still a heckova lot of money to me, and I’m definitely pretty appreciative.

Of course, he is getting something for his money. I told him that even after I’m long gone I’ll still always be happy to edit any papers written by him or any of the other research group members. And if this doesn’t seem like a big deal, I’d just like to point out that papers can fail to get published—even if the science is of high quality—if the quality of the English fails to meet the journal’s standards.

I think that’s one of the most important things I’ve learned in my year and a half as a postdoctoral researcher in China; while I’m not actually that great of a researcher, I am a pretty good writer. Specifically, I’m good at taking complicated concepts and explaining them in a simple and straightforward manner.

And if that sounds like bragging, well, yeah it is. But it’s also true. A few months ago, my boss asked me to write a book chapter with him on “How to Benchmark Methods for Virtual Screening”. And if that phrase means absolutely nothing to you, then you know exactly how I felt when he first asked me to write it. Because while technically it’s in my field, it’s way outside my area of expertise (my primary area of expertise mainly consists of video games and porn, but that’s not the point). Regardless, I was able to read all the relevant background material, understand it, and then condense it into a single book chapter that was accepted for publication without the need of subsequent edits.

Yeah, I’m pretty awesome.

But seriously, as a researcher I kinda suck. I hope to submit a paper based on the actual research I’ve done over the past year and a half to a pretty well-respected journal this week, and I’m seriously worried that it’s going to get rejected. I’m proud of the quality of the writing, but slightly embarrassed by the quality of the research I wrote about.

Hopefully I’m just being paranoid.

Still, if nothing else this merely reinforces my feeling that I’m doing the right thing in leaving the field of research. But that doesn’t mean I’ll be leaving science entirely.

A paper written by a good friend of mine was published recently. He listed me as second author despite the fact that I did none of the actual research. What I actually did was some of the writing, a lot of the editing, and I was the one who actually found an appropriate journal that was willing to publish it, and I was the one who jumped through all the hoops to make it happen.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that while I don’t really enjoy doing research, I do love science, and I particularly enjoy making science accessible to others. What’s more, I’m actually pretty damn good at it. And while I would love to have a lucrative career writing fiction and narrative nonfiction, I suspect I’m far more likely to have a successful career as a writer of scientific articles.

Take this article for example. I actually cringed when I read it. What’s more, I knew for a fact that I could do a lot better job of writing it myself. Because even a great writer can’t explain a scientific concept if they don’t understand the concept in the first place.

As science becomes increasingly complex, I think there’s an ever-increasing need for people with a solid understanding of science and scientific research to explain the work of scientists to everyone else in a clear and comprehensible manner.

And I’m all about satisfying needs, baby.

Or something. Yeah, I should probably go to bed. It’s late and I still have a lot of sciencey stuff I need to do this week…..

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growth and maturity

Today I want to write about growth and maturity. Not in an economic or financial sense, because I really don’t have much personal knowledge or experience with any of that, but rather in an individual sense; the growth and maturity of an individual.

Of course I don’t have a lot of personal knowledge or experience with that either, obviously, but I’m going to write about it anyway.

Apparently, some people out there are of the opinion that men today are not very mature. For example, this silly bint claims that men today in their 20s are in some sort of lamentable post-adolescent but pre-adult phase where they would rather play video games and hang out with their friends than have a so-called “traditional” life.

Which of course is pretty stupid. Stupid that she considers it lamentable, I mean.

Because so what if guys want to actually enjoy themselves? What she fails completely to mention is how many of these guys are gainfully employed. Because yeah, if they’re just living in their parents’ basement and being human leeches, she probably has a point. But if these guys are hard-working and taking care of themselves and their obligations, she really has no right to object to how they spend their spare time.

Well, if you look closely, what she’s really criticizing is the fact that these guys don’t seem to be interested in getting married. That seems to be her single criteria for “maturity”.

As a 31-year-old who has absolutely no intention of getting married any time soon, I find that pretty funny. Because I know myself pretty well, and I know for a fact that I am definitely not in a good position—emotionally or financially—to get married any time in the near future, and for me to marry someone now would actually be an extremely immature and irresponsible thing for me to do.

Which is why I proposed to a hot 21-year-old girl a couple of weeks ago. But that’s a whole nother story.

For what it’s worth, I don’t consider myself to be particularly mature. But I also don’t have any desire to be mature. I especially don’t have any desire to conform to someone else’s definition of maturity. I do, however, consider myself to be reasonably responsible. I always try to take responsibility for myself and my actions, and I generally do my best to not excessively inconvenience others with my immature antics. And yeah, I don’t exactly go out of my way to take on additional responsibilities, but I don’t shirk the ones I do have either.

But while I may not be particularly interested in maturity, I am interested in growth. Spiritual and intellectual growth, and the continuous expansion of my knowledge and experience. I have great plans for the places I want to visit, and the books I want to read, but I can’t help but observe that there’s a very specific chunk of human experience that I may end up missing out on, and as I get older the odds of me missing out on it forever are only going to increase.

Then again, sneaking into the UN building and rearranging all the countries so the representatives of the ones that hate each other have to sit next to each other and then run away before security catches me is kind of a stupid goal anyway.

There’s also the thought of getting married and having children. Because I have absolutely no doubt that I would experience a whole heckova lot of personal growth, and gain a lot of human experience, if I were to do either of both of those things. Hopefully in that order, too.

And I don’t know if it’s necessarily a good or bad thing, but I think a lot of men around my age aren’t experiencing this because they’re not forced to. With the increase in the variety and prevalence of birth control, along with the decrease in weapon-toting fathers, we’re seeing a lot less unexpected and unwanted pregnancies, and by extension a lot less shotgun weddings. So guys like me are no longer compelled against our will to “grow up” and “take responsibility” and all that other crap.

I can’t help but wonder if by not getting married and starting a family I’ve simply exchanged personal growth for a sort of hollow and empty freedom. Unfortunately, the only way for me to know for sure would be to get married and impregnate my wife, and there’s no way in hell I’m going to do that until I’m absolutely sure that I’m ready.

Plus, you know, I’d still have to find someone I actually want to marry—and who wants to marry me.

Still, despite my worry that I’m missing out on something profound, as an abstract concept I do not find marriage the slightest bit appealing. And I mean this in the kindest way possible, but all the wifey/mommy comments I see on Facebook only serve to cement this feeling. Because while I am absolutely and genuinely thrilled by the happiness my friends are experiencing, every single comment serves to confirm that it’s not something I want for myself.

At least not at the moment.

I was in love once. Well, I thought I was, anyway. Back in 2003 I proposed marriage to the girl of my dreams. Well, actually I just told her I was thinking about asking her to marry me, in order to gauge her reaction, but that’s not the point. The point is, while they were never things I’d wanted before, suddenly I wanted to get married because I wanted to marry her, and I wanted children because I wanted to have children with her. So yeah, marriage as a concept doesn’t appeal to me, but I have no doubt that if I got together with the right girl I’ll feel differently.

On the other hand, when I think about all the stuff I would’ve missed out on over the past eight years if I’d gotten married in 2003, I am so fucking glad that girl flew out of my life before I had the chance to do something really stupid. Even more stupid, I mean.

And yeah, I mean that literally. A couple of weeks after I asked her to marry me, she left the continent. Not the town, or even the country, but the freaking continent.

A simple “no” would’ve been sufficient.

no offense

Have you ever thought about how fucking silly it is to get offended by shit?

Obviously I haven’t.

But seriously, when you allow yourself to be offended by something, you give someone else a power over you that they really shouldn’t have. I mean, if someone can come up with a well-researched, logical, reasonable argument detailing how you’re wrong about something, but you can reduce them to speechlessness and thereby win the argument by default simply by calling them a “fuckwit” or some other such nonsense, isn’t that, well, kinda stupid?

Now for the record, I make a distinction between “hurtful” and “offensive”, because sometimes when someone attacks you verbally you can’t help but be hurt by it. But when I think of the term “offensive”, the image that comes to mind is a small child on a playground, face scrunched up in outrage, foot stamped, accusatory finger pointing, declaring with typically childlike indignation, “You can’t say that!! That’s offensive!!”

To which my response is generally, “………so?”

Which is not to say that I take pleasure in saying (or writing) things purely for the sake of causing offense. I don’t. On the other hand, I do often choose particular words because of the effect I want them to have on the reader. And yeah, I don’t always get it right, but that’s all part of the learning process. The point is that I’m not interested in limiting myself or my vocabulary simply because I’m afraid of offending someone.

Now it may seem like people being overly sensitive and easily offended is something new, but I don’t think that’s the case. I have no doubt that for as long as the human race has contained various permutations of stupid people and assholes we’ve had stupid assholes getting offended by stupid things (like being called stupid assholes, for example) and we’ve doubtless had other assholes who figure out pretty quickly what offends the stupid assholes, and then intentionally do those things to piss them off because it’s funny. Not that I’m condoning such behavior, mind you, but I’m not exactly sympathetic either.

Because there is nothing in this world that offends me. Seriously. Nothing. Now I’m sure plenty of people could find plenty of hurtful things to say to me, but there’s not a single thing anyone can say that would make me so outraged that I would insist that they not be able to say it.

Because I want to know what people are thinking. I want to know who the douchebags are, rather than getting blindsided by them later because I wasn’t able to readily identify their true nature from the start due to their veneer of Political Correctness. I want people to be open and honest and direct, because if nothing else, it makes it a hellova lot easier to know who I’ll want to avoid.

And doubtless there’s at least one or two people out there who feel the same way about me.

But that’s fine. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me about everything. And if someone can explain to me how something I’ve said is truly hurtful, odds are I’ll adapt my language. But if someone were to bitch at me because according to them I’m offensive, odds are I’d just make fun of them.

Because when it comes down to it, it’s the person who claims to be offended who is really trying to take power from someone else, because what they’re actually doing is trying to control what someone else can or can’t say. And I think that’s pretty lame. At worst, it’s an insidious way to try and limit free speech. After all:

“If an offence come out of the truth, better is it that the offence come than that the truth be concealed.”

–  St. Jerome (347-420 AD)

So there.

my last month of work

This month is my last month of work. I’m pretty excited about that, despite the fact that this might turn out to be the worst mistake of my life.

The thing is, everything in my life up to this point has just kind of worked out for me without too much effort on my part, and I’ve always felt like I was doing what I was meant to be doing. Fate. Fulfilling my own personal destiny. Swimming with the current of Life, or whatever. Unfortunately, the scientist in me is forced to acknowledge that this feeling is most likely irrational and emotion-based, and has absolutely nothing to do with reality or my future prospects.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that just because I ran through a busy intersection five times without looking and managed to not get hit by anything, that doesn’t mean that this time I won’t get creamed by a bus.

But that’s ok too if my goal is simply to traumatize people. And it is.

But seriously, I’ve spent a year and a half now working for one of the top guys in my field and in a lot of ways I’ve set myself up pretty well for a future in academia, and now I’m just going to throw all that away?

You’re damn right I am.

Because I hate my job. Honestly, the only way I can make it through this last month is because I know it is my last month. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed it for the most part, but now I want to be done with it. For good. And yeah, it kind of sucks that I wasted $65,000 and five and a half years of my life to find out that I don’t really want to do this stuff for a living but hey, at least now I know.

And really, it wasn’t actually a waste. I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had and the knowledge I’ve gained for anything. Especially not five and a half years and $65,000. I definitely got the best end of that deal, I think.

Even aside from the vague concept of “life experiences”, I really feel like I’ve gained valuable skills that’ll serve me well no matter what I do. Things like knowing how to research a topic, how to summarize, how to work independently, how to edit, and especially how to spot when a report on a scientific “discovery” that’s in the news is completely full of shit.

That’s something that’ll be useful no matter what career I end up with.

But now I’m a little less than one month away from embarking on something that’s been a dream of mine for the past sixteen years at least: to be a writer. Like, professionally.

And honestly, it scares the hell out of me.

Because up until now, it’s always just been some far off dream I could use to console myself when I didn’t like what I was doing; a fantasy where I could imagine myself as a successful and well-regarded author who didn’t have to slave away at a job he hated just to survive. Which is not to say I’ve ever actually slaved away at any job I’ve ever done since I’m really not that hard of a worker in general, but the point still stands.

But a month from now the dream will be come a reality, and I’ll potentially be forced to confront the fact that I’m just not that great of a writer, both in terms of style and content. And if that ends up being the case, the dream will never again be possible. And once that dream is forever shattered, I could very well end up a broken shell of a bitter, devastated man.

Ah well. I’ll still always have beer, porn, and video games, anyway.

Honestly though, when it comes down to it I’d rather know for sure than always wonder. And this really is the only way for me to know for sure. And I still have a lot of other plans, and plenty of other things I want to do with my life besides writing, so hopefully I won’t be too disappointed if I end up being a miserable failure at that.

I’ve always wanted to write a book about someone who was a failure as a writer, but the only way for me to know what that truly feels like is for me to be a failure as a writer myself. But if I’m truly a failure as a writer, how will I write the book about being a failure as a writer?

These at the things I’ll be thinking about instead of doing work during my last month of actual work. It’s a good thing I’m quitting, or else I’d probably end up getting fired.