There's a show on TLC called "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant." If you're not familiar with it (!!), the basic premise is this. They tell the stories of women who, for one reason or another (e.g. negative pregnancy tests, continued menstruation, tubal ligation, and often but not always excess body weight), manage to remain completely unaware of their pregnancy until the very end. Sometimes up until the point that the baby is out and crying. Oh! Surprise!
Well, here on the occasion of the birth of my blog, I too am caught off-guard, surprised at the sudden existence of something I never really thought I'd have. But in hindsight I realize that it's been developing for many months, somewhere slightly below my conscious awareness.
My first symptom was a feeling of uneasiness -- vaguely but undeniably unsettled. I'm a person who likes to have big, well-defined goals and then work very hard to progress in a straight line towards those goals. I love it when a plan comes together. And my life has been almost exclusively based on one very specific plan: to become a principal investigator (PI) conducting biomedical research at a major university. The idea of advancing knowledge that might help humanity in some way, like curing a disease, was all the motivation I needed. A truly grand goal.
However, trouble began to arise when I honestly observed the realities of a PI's career. An increasingly competitive research climate, rapidly diminishing sources of funding, a system that seems to favor intense and aggressive personalities... Handling these issues is critical for success as a PI but involves an entirely different skill set than simply being a good scientist. Could I really be successful? And even if I was, would I be happy? I still don't know the answers to these questions. But in asking them for the first time, I was suddenly facing uncertainty. Nauseating & terrifying. If I wasn't pursing that one goal, then what on earth was I doing?
In acute pain & distress, I rushed to the emergency room. By which I mean I talked to friends and mentors about my career crisis. We quickly ruled out any terminal condition. Instead we focused on other possibilities: what do I enjoy doing and how could I use those skills to my advantage? I love science, obviously. But I also love writing, distilling information, performing (including teaching & giving presentations), and doing various creative things, especially music. So then what about a career in science journalism, or media, or teaching? These possibilities all sounded exciting to me. And the advice I heard again and again was to practice communicating about science on a regular basis. Translation: a blog! I'd already spent a fair amount of time preparing scientific info for other people, through various forms including presentations and even a couple songs. So it made perfect sense to collect ideas in one place and continue the practice in an ongoing way. A blog - of course. The symptoms had been there all along. How had I missed them? Now the images from the ultrasound (stick with me on this metaphor, okay?) were undeniable: there was something alive & growing that I couldn't ignore anymore. Shortly thereafter, I entered the labor of putting an actual site together.
So today I celebrate the birth of my science blog. Still in a bit of shock but excited about the possibilities! This is an opportunity for me to exercise some creativity and share interesting scientific info with anyone who wants to listen. Whichever direction I end up choosing for a career, it's become clear that a blog is a great place to start. It's good practice for so many skills -- writing about science for a broader audience, summarizing and explaining current research topics, exploring science outside of my specialization (neuroscience), presenting information in a variety of creative ways, etc. Like any good parent, I will try to feed my blog at least once a week. And who knows, maybe some day it will grow up to be president. Or at least be useful preparation for a career.
Now break out the champagne, smoke a cigar, and subscribe if you're interested! I promise, no more childbirth metaphors from now on.