Academia, Career, Existence, Philosophy, Problems to Solve, Thinking, Wisdom, Writing

Grants: A Complaint

I’m about to do a bad thing. I’m going to break a promise. (It is not wise to make promises, I’ve heard before).

I’m going to complain.

Grant writing is by far the most frustrating exercise I now have to master–look at that, a sentence that’s too long. It should read shorter:

Grant writing sucks.

It takes up an exorbitant amount of time with no guarantee of reward. It’s like studying for a test in college. Day and night, study, study, study, and you know for a fact that you will have a random grade at the end of the semester.

I love the writing part. I enjoy playing with words. But it’s worse than blogging a post. There’s a judgement at the end.

People hate writing, generally, because there’s that sense of judgement. The style, the words, the ideas, they are all judged in your mind, and those of your readers.

It’s much worse when the writing is a grant where you’re asking for money (i.e., funding) because the judgement is a tangible thing. It is a piece of writing that is judged not only on the writing aspect, but the ideas held within. The ideas must be clear and good.

And so, while you write a grant you are judging yourself.

The problem is there. How is there freedom in writing something when it is under constant judgement?

I don’t feel any freedom when I write a grant. It’s a weight bearing exercise, the burdensome knowledge that I will be judged. I hate being judged. But, I suppose this is the life we live in, where ideas and thoughts are not entirely free, but all come with a cost eventually.

In my field, ideas are cheap until you get paid for them. Wow, I sound cynical! But really, I’m doing this for another reason so it’s not that bad. I was designed/trained to do this job….at least for now.

Okay, back to grant writing.

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Academia, Existence, Faith, Grants, Neurological Disorders, Philosophy, Politics, Problems to Solve, Storm, Thinking, Wisdom, Writing

Ambition

It’s a hard job, being a scientist. This is not a complaint, but a mere observation in the spirit of scientific fashion. It is hard.

I’ve been in different jobs. At this moment, from this vantage point, the biggest difference I see between working in a lab in academia versus the world of commercial business is the competition, the struggle.

In commercial business, the main impetus appears strongest from the outside. Your boss, your client, your project demand your very best. And if you satisfy your boss, your client, and do a good job on your project, then you will most likely do well in your job.

On the other hand, in academic scholarship, the main impetus appears from within. While there are certain external forces that vie for your utmost effort and attention, it is within you that the most demanding pressure manifests.

In this world, there are no deadlines to meet, no benchmarks or milestones except the ones you make for yourself. Hence, if you do not self-motivate yourself, you could float around in the nether until you’re either fired or find yourself in a dead end, low-paying position (relative to your peers 10 years your junior) with no way out because you’re too old.

Now ambition says that relaxing and enjoying your life is a waste of time. Well, I suppose a glimpse into this world of academic science would help people understand how things are done in the scientific world.

There is that internal drive that must be tempered. That internal beast that says you must produce otherwise you’re a failure. I’m sure everyone who has wanted to do well in their career has at one point experienced this monster. I battle this thing so that I can get good sleep at night, enjoy time with my loved ones, and do what I like as a human being.

There is nothing worse than a worker with no soul.

© All rights reserved by Childish Dream

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Career, Existence, Philosophy, Problems to Solve, Thinking, Wisdom, Writing

Expired Air, Now

Yes, absolutely true. I’ve been a bit of a whirlwind of life circumstances, more than I’d have the energy to post on a blog (and perhaps don’t want to put out in public).

Suffice it to say, I’d like to yell at the top of my lungs and say to myself, “okay, whatever…”. Seriously, why put so much stress and anxiety into things when you know, beyond doubt, that it’ll be fine in the end.

Fine, fine, what’s going on?

Well, I’ve got two metaphorical fires I need to stamp-out at work. No problem, I can handle them with my hands tied. There are, however, some issues that require my utmost attention.

I’m like a computer that has used up its working memory. Bogged down. It’s not an issue of life difficulty; it’s an issue of life giving me too much to do. Going to stop writing now–

–and breath. Talk soon, friends.

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Academia, Existence, Missions, Philosophy, Problems to Solve, Prose, Storm, Thinking, Wisdom

A Day Off

I’ve slowed down my blogging to focus on priorities in my work schedule. I’m preparing to write a grant and rearing to dive into a new project. Also had a few projects end nicely with publishable results. So in all, April has been a perfect storm of activity.

I sit right in the middle of the eye of it right now.

Calm, but swirly, if I can call it that. That’s how I feel. Whew. Someone once said to me that “…in life, you’re either coming out of a storm, in a storm, or about to enter a storm.”

Brilliant. A bit cynical, but ingenious and true. So, I think I’m somewhere in the exiting part of it.

That in itself deserves a kind of celebration, a day off, and thank goodness I really did get a cold yesterday–had an extra, extra excuse to take a day off. A day off to think, to ponder, to reflect, to gather myself up again; gain those steely eyes and the rock solid determination to slap the next project in the face and find out what’s going on in this nasty disease we call neuropathic pain and spasticity.

My day off… I think I’ll take another one tomorrow. It’s Good Friday, for realz.

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Compassion, Existence, Faith, Philosophy, Prose, Thinking, Wisdom, Writing

A Reflected Creator

Another day in the life of a neuroscientist. I’m sick with a cold. A viral infection that’s on extended vacation inside my body. How often do we get an illness and not realize that these battles within us are life-or-death.

Life for us, death for the pathogen.

This physical realm we live in is full of dangers and mortal threats. Our resilience as flesh and blood is only our ability to cope with these threats. The cells in our bodies regenerate. The immune system adapts to new invaders.

It’s war.

Then, there’s the psychological warfare with have within ourselves (ugh). This unrestrained need to survive and build ourselves up with emotional walls of stone and mortar. We are rocks unto ourselves with the single goal of making sure we aren’t ground into sand.

If all this strife is true, constant and never-ending, then kindly wake me up because this world sucks in reality.

No wonder I dream. No surprise I love stories and movies and all manner of created fictions. These fantastic tales and higher purposes we look up to are amazing and required for us to feel safe and secure.

As I am hungry, I search for food. If I am thirsty, I find drink. If I am sad, I find a friend. All physical realities that can be reached.

But what if the object I’m searching for is a fiction, an imagined thing? Am I in a fruitless search?

I suppose the only way I could find it, is to create my heart’s content. I’ll sculpt it out of clay. I’ll paint it with wonderful colors; azure, crimson, and sunshine yellows. Flesh tones and brown inks. I’ll make it beautiful and love it because I made it to fill up my longing for the simple desire to create.

My heart and mind is that of a creator. Ironically, this gives me joy.

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Academia, Compassion, Existence, Faith, Missions, Pain, Philosophy, Thinking, Time

Please, don’t jump

Life is hard: this understatement comes to my mind whenever I hear news from a friend about a tragedy in an individual’s life. There are some situations in which there appears no escape, like being trapped on the roof of a burning building. I guess you could jump off the side and end it quickly.

What would I do in an impossible situation?

I hear of a friend who has lost her job, she’s 58, single and has to stay home to care for her sick mother (who has dementia). She’s depressed and lonely, as many of us would be in such a situation.

I also learn of a colleague who has a broken family because of a husband’s mental disorder, and she is trying to keep it together. She doesn’t have control over the situation and can only grasp what she can, her kids and finances (maybe not the finances so much anymore).

So much, craziness in this life. I wish I could wave a wand and say it would all be better if they would “wait a bit longer”, but that isn’t a genuine answer. The truth is, I don’t know if a person’s situation gets better in this life. Suffering is the norm, not the exception for people.

I listen to them, more than speak, because it’s the best I can do. In general, I know my mouth can’t speak too much lest I give them something they can’t handle right away.

And that is the Truth. It comes back to the burning building. You’re trapped on the roof, the smoke is rising, darkness filling up all around. I would say, if I could, that the escape route is up.

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Compassion, Existence, Philosophy, Spinal Cord Injury, Thinking, Wisdom, Writing

Writing Prose-y

Of late, I’ve been writing a lot. These have been of the erudite sort, research papers and such. Hence, my predisposition to thinking about the process and how my toolbox of writing “utensils” has grown over the years.

A few years ago I read a book about writing that changed my approach to putting words on a page. The Elements of Style, by Strunk & White, opened my eyes to how BAD my writing skills were (not hitting greatness yet either).

To keep my ego in check, I’ll just say that I’m a lot better at seeing the errors I make. I can see where I make mistakes and know how to improve poorly written sentences, etc. As important, I know how to help other people with their writing, because of the tips and tricks that Strunk & White in their awesome wisdom have imparted on me.

Of course, as an academic, the things I write are (for the most part) very technical and, to the layman, boring. That is because we write to convey information in its purest form. I can be creative only in that I don’t sacrifice objective communication. No fancy prose. For example, I can’t say this:

“After spinal cord injury, neurons met a spectacular end, never to regrow again–that is, until we came along.”

I’d lose my job if I wrote stuff like that. Instead, I have to resort to mediocre stuff like: “We observed neuronal death following spinal cord injury.”

Yes, science is predicated upon good, wholesome facts from-me-to-you writing styles. I guess this is where this blog post comes into play. I have the freedom to write whatever about my work (or my life and opinions) without the editorial axe murderer chopping my head off for prose-y things.

Anyway, writing should be fun, refreshing, a place of security and vulnerability at the same time; and for many of us who like to do it a lot; somewhat painful in a very, very good way.

Writing sounds a bit like love. 

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