I don't love the feeling of doubt. The feeling when you wake up in the night and options keep circling around in your head. And I especially dislike the fact that when it comes to actual career options, you can rarely ever compare options right next to each other like ice cream flavors, it's more like trains at a train station where you choose one that goes somewhere without knowing if 10 minutes later a train to a much nicer destination will leave.
I would really like my brain to be a computer in that way, where I feed information, the computer compares it to the criteria I've set for a decision and then it spits out a yes or no answer.
So what I've tried to do this year is make a clear list of things that I would want in a job and things that I particularly don't want. Some things are easy: I don't want to commute for more than an hour on a daily basis. However, other things are less easy to turn into a clear list to feed into the decision making flow chart.
And a computer would never be flattered when someone suggests a job that they hadn't considered before just because someone suggests they might be good at it, whereas my brain starts to doubt whether to change the criteria when something like that happens.
Or maybe I'm overthinking this too much?
I started writing as babyattachmode online just after BlueEyes was born. I felt that in the competitive academic world, where I was trying to establish myself in a position with a bit more permanence than a post-doc job, I needed to hide a part of my identity. I felt that it was better to hide the part of me that was a tired new mom and to only show the competitive postdoc who would stay productive no matter what to the real world. At the same time, as babyattachmode I could talk about things I thought could be different in academia, like every day sexism and the position of women in science.
After a few years with these two identities - babyattachmode online and my IRL identity offline - I realized that I wished I would be more like babyattachmode IRL. I started to speak up when someone would for example make a sexist remark in a meeting. At first, this made me highly uncomfortable, but the more I did it, the more normal it felt.
And in the beginning of this year I grabbed the opportunity to become involved in the inclusion and diversity group within the company I work for. I have a permanent position where I am now and felt comfortable enough to become more vocal on this topic. However, as Sara Ahmed pointed out: "When you expose a problem, you pose a problem". I tend to want everyone to be happy and posing a problem is the opposite of that.
I realized that some people would respond annoyed when I told them I was working on this topic and for example told that they felt that this was unnecessary ("we already have women, right?"). Last week, I gave a talk about this topic to over a 100 colleagues. I was 90% excited about this and 10% afraid it would not be good for career advancement if
the 50-something white men in the company people in leadership positions would see me as 'the angry feminist'. So semi-consciously I dressed as elegant as I could to avoid this as much as possible*. Perhaps babyattachmode wouldn't care what she wears and my IRL identity does, but slowly I am merging these two identities in the real world and it feels really good.
What about you? Are there parts of your online identity that you wish you would use more offline?
*Writing this and the title for this post makes me realize the privilege of my situation: I am white, cis, thin, heterosexual and able-bodied and I can choose whether I feel comfortable enough to be an activist when it comes to diversity and inclusion at work. I realize that this is not the case for everyone and that sometimes the way you look or the life you live almost automatically makes you an activist.
For a long time in my life, I looked at other people for guidance about my own boundaries: I thought that if they could do something, I should be able to do that same thing. If they worked for 50 hours, then so should I. If they partied until 3am, then I should also be able to do that.
It has only recently dawned on me that everyone has their own boundaries. And it is weird that it has taken me so long to consciously realize this, because as someone who tends to get migraines, partying until 3am often meant the next day in bed with a migraine for me, while the others would happily go about their day.
And that was the other realization: that I usually only felt a boundary when I hit the proverbial wall, for example in the form of a migraine attack. But I also think that all the crying at work that I have done meant that I only felt a boundary when I really hit it and tension had built up so much that the only way out was crying.
So I'm trying to be more conscious of where I am in relation to the wall, as opposed to only noticing it once I'm hitting it. And one of the steps I took this morning was to block TWO WHOLE WEEKS in my calendar before the end of the year to finish a task that I need to finish. I know that if I don't do this, more urgent stuff will come up. So when I cycled to work this morning I found myself wishing that I could just take a vacation to finish this task, and it occurred to me that I can actually do that. Now let's see how good I'm going to be at keeping those two weeks free to work on that task....
I only watched the beginning of the Kavanaugh hearings yesterday. I don't live in the US anymore and the process of supreme court nominations are not something I would normally follow. But of course this wasn't about that. It was about somthing that touches all of us. To me, these hearings symbolized what it is like to be a girl and a woman in a patriarchical society. Where from a young age, you become aware that boys can do things with you that you have to carry with you for the rest of their lives while they laugh about it.
This thread details how that happens ALL THE TIME:
And Christine Blasey Ford's incredibly moving and couragous act of speaking out and uncovering all those feelings that she has carried with her all those years inspires me tremendously.
But it also makes me sad that apparently you need to be white, academic, blonde, have a PhD, etc in order for people to MAYBE believe you. You need to have exactly the right tone and say the right words. It's not like because we know that assault and date rape happens, we easily believe women who come forward and say this has happened to them.
And then Kavanaugh's statement started and I had to switch the livestream off. Not only because it was bedtime for my kids here, but also because it was hard and painful to watch. It made me wonder: what if he actually didn't remember that this happened? I guess it is very possible that an event that haunts one person for the rest of their live is 'just another party' to another person. And that is what is the most horrible part of this to me: the complete lack of empathy that this indicates. And that by making it so hard to talk about this for the victims, it automatically makes it difficult to spark empathy in (potential) perpetrators. And that's when this morning I found this comic that hits the nail right on the head about why we need a #MeToo movement and what it can bring us if we use it well.
And if - like me - you're fantasizing about what all the rage of women in the world could do, @scicurious calculated that for you in this thread:
Earlier in the year, I wasn't very happy with where I was in my job. I wanted to make a next step which seemed like a real possibility but in the end it didn't happen. I vowed to myself (and the people around me), that I wanted something different and that I intended to move somewhere else (either in the organization or outside) in the middle of the year. I interviewed for a position that I didn't get and I sent a couple job applications, all of which did not lead to a job for various reasons. But I also decided not to apply to a bunch of opportunities that I saw, because they didn't speak to me enough to apply.
And then I changed my mind.
I decided that I was going to stay in my current job AND be happy in my current job. After I came back from vacation, I told my manager that I was going to retract my statement of wanting to move within the year.
So what made me change my mind? In the first part of the year - during the time I was looking for change - within my role a couple things changed: I got more responsibilities within a project, and I got involved with Inclusion & Diversity within my organisation. And I realized that for the latter, it was good to be in a place where I felt comfortable in my work, in order to find the confidence and stability to be an activist when talking about topics around diversity.
And at the same time, I became more aware of who I am without my work role. I realized that when I was in academia, a really large part of my identity came from my work. And still a large part of my identity does, but for a while I felt like I almost didn't know what the other parts were. Also, I retrieved most of my hapiness and fullfilment from the output of my work and not so much from the actual doing my work. Now, I try to approach work more like I (try to) approach running: I enjoy it WHILE I'm doing it, not only after I'm done and sitting on the couch (I will need to remind myself of this sentence the next time I'm in the middle of what feels like an endless and difficult run).
And as usual when you think you have all sorts of unique feelings and emotions, this morning I came across an HBR article that describes nearly EXACTLY what I felt. Except that I surely hope I'm not in my mid-career yet.
This is one of those posts where I would be fine if nobody reads it because it's scary to hit publish on this one.
I was teased in school.
Or maybe a more accurate sentence is: I was bullied in school.
And when I was being bullied, my coping strategy was to vow to myself that I would become awesome, so the kids that bullied me would see me on TV for example. And when they realized how awesome I had become, they would feel bad about having bullied me.
I only recently realized that this promised I made to myself as a kid is still a promise I wish to keep. This realization came when I reacted really strongly (ie. ugly cried) when talking about my career and the struggle to find a path that fits me after leaving academia. It shocked me a bit to find out that part of what drives me is to please myself as a kid and keep my promise. The kid-version of me doesn't exist anymore, so how much sense does it make to try and keep a promise to someone who doesn't exist...?
It's been a bit quiet here on my blog and one of the reasons was that we took a short trip (4 nights) to Barcelona recently. My husband and I had both been to Barcelona before, but this was the first time for the four of us, and also the first vacation where we only visited one city with our kids (4 and 6 years old now).
We stayed at an AirBnB apartment in the old part of the city, which was really nice: we could walk to many of the sites and were close to public transport. Also, having an apartment meant that we could cook at home when we didn't feel like going out for dinner (although dinner with kids was quite painless at the restaurants we went to). In the days we were there we went to Park Guell (but book ahead if you want to go inside!), we took the cable car up Montjuic hill, we walked around the old part of the city, we went to the beach and we went to see the Sagrada Familia (also make sure you book ahead!). A big plus of Barcelona compared to some other cities is the great abundance of little playgrounds. Nearly every square has one and if you're lucky they are situated close to a terrace for a drink. What was nice about that is that even when our kids didn't feel like seeing sites any longer (BlueEyes' comment at the Sagrada Familia:"Oh man, ANOTHER church?!"), we could promise them a playground when we were done.
The view from our balcony
Inside the Sagrada Familia
The other day I had a bit of a conflict with someone at work and I talked to somebody else about it to get an outsider's perspective. One of the first things they advised was:"you should try and step in their shoes and see it from their point of view". I immediately thought to myself:"I wish THEY would step into MY shoes and understand how I feel". Of course I didn't say this and the reminder to look at the situation from the other's point of view did actually help me in understanding what the conflict was about. But this experience also made me realize that the only way other people can put themselves in my shoes is if I express myself well. And that led to the realization that for everybody the range in which they express their feelings is very different (see figure for a very rudimentary illustration). One person might easily share it when they are not feeling well, while another person will put on a brave face and pretend they're doing okay. And then when a third person asks both people how they are doing, the anwer "I'm okay" can have a very different meaning.
Some people are rather sensitive to where somebody else sits on scale of Feelings Expressions, while for other people, this may need to be made more explicit. Personally, I've come to realize that I am on the top scale in the figure, and I don't easily share if I'm not feeling well. At the same time I hope that if I say "I'm okay", people will immediately understand that I'm not too well. And that obviously leads to disapointment on my side.
Wouldn't it be nice if there was an easy way to calibrate these scales before entering into a conversation...?
Last week I wrote that a news outlet reported that Hans Clevers had said that Dutch women don't want to work hard. According to Hans Clevers, who came to my blog to reply, he hadn't actually said that.
Seeing the article on a Dutch news website, writing my post here and the discussion that followed left me feeling drained. I feel so frustrated that while I and so many others with me point out how this attitude of saying "I have done some things and there is nothing we can do to further increase diversity" is unhelpful and harmful, it does not seem to change the speed at which diversity increases. Outside of this blog, the LNVH ("Landelijk Netwerk Vrouwelijke Hoogleraren"; the Dutch society for Women full professors) wrote a letter to a large Dutch newspaper. And Athena's Angels (an initiative of 4 female full professors) wrote a reply in the same news paper today. But otherwise nothing happened. What could have been an opportunity to start a discussion on how to improve diversity in (Dutch) academic science, and increase the retention of women and minorities in the academic pipeline, ended in silence, at least as far as I can see.
I want to look into scientific literature on methods to increase diversity in STEM (or elsewhere) to write a post with suggestions on what to do and what works, but haven't had the time to do so. If you have links/papers to share with me, please do so in the comments or on twitter.
And in the meantime, I want to acknowledge the energy it takes to address these issues and take a deep bow for those of us who do this on a daily basis. I realize the privilege of writing here under a pseudonym and being able to go to work at a place with great emphasis on diversity. As Sara Ahmed wrote in her blog post titled "Feeling Depleted : "I think of social privilege as an energy saving device: less effort is required to pass through." So for those who still believe women aren't working hard: this is also where their energy goes: into the invisible void of challenging the status quo.
This morning, BlueEyes woke up with a slight fever and a bad cold. Nothing really bad, but he clearly couldn't go to school. My thoughts:
"Oh no, my kid is sick."
Immediately followed by: "I'm glad today is Wednesday which is husband's regular day home with the kids so we don't have to arrange something".
"But what if he's still sick tomorrow, then I have a really busy day, so I will have to negotiate who gets to work when. I really don't want to have to miss the meeting that I have".
"I feel really bad and guilty that my first thoughts are about MY job instead of my sick kid."
"What if I had a kid that had an actual illness? I would worry to death and would never be able to think about anything else, how do people cope with that?!"
And then these thoughts continue to go in circles, occupying a good 65% of my brain for most of the day.