taking joy in human unreason


The newspaper finished nice and early-ish last night (just after midnight), and the Weir(d) One (henceforth abbreviated to “WO”) and I stayed in the office late to work.

Well, you can’t get two talkative people like me and WO together and expect us to silently and diligently work. It ain’t going to happen. We talked about a variety of topics, including my research with Dr. M, during which I revealed my growing desire to stop doing research because it didn’t feel worthwhile anymore. Not that I felt the work itself was any less important, but moreso that I felt that I was doing it for the sake of not letting someone (me? Dr. M?) down or to fill a spot on the ol’ resume. I’m also tired of needing to drop things from my schedule, and I’m tired of feeling guilty for doing so. I’m tired of being a lazy, inefficient bum this quarter (which lowers my maximum saturation level and therefore increases the number of things I need to drop and the guilt I feel, etc., etc.).

So WO and I talked through the night. In a quick snapshot pro-con analysis at probably 03:00, it looked like the “cons”–and not the Scheme procedure–for keeping research outweighed the pros. My frustration with the project–which I can’t even put into words, necessarily–weighs on me and leads me to feel resentful/tired/stressed/exasperated/something so much of the time I think about the project.

Around and betwixt conversation, I finished off (among other things) the final draft of my slides for my presentation at the Butler Undergraduate Research Conference today. I wasn’t really ready for the presentation, and although I knew all the things I should say, I hadn’t scripted it out well enough for it to flow when practicing. I decided to rely on my high school experience (oh so long ago) with teaching and presentation-giving to get me through. See above about slacker bumness this quarter.

WO and I halted conversation at 05:00, and I went back to my room to recharge, shower, etc. so that we could depart at 07:00. The conversation about research had brought to the fore my resentment regarding how I’d let myself be pressured into giving the talk at Butler, and by the time I ran to turn in homework preemptively just before 07:00, I was in full-on surly bitch-mode. I damn near barked at Dr. M when she said “good morning”. It didn’t help it was damned cold outside and that I hadn’t had the foresight to wear a jacket.

So I slept on the way to Butler, with headphones playing my Hindi music to tune out the talkative boys. On arriving, I growled my way through group photos and ate a donut for breakfast (bleh). Then I ran to my assigned building–which was different from that of the chemists, since my talk was filed under “Math and Computer Science”–and started to [nervously] script out my talk (since I’d listed what was on each slide before I left campus). Dr. M hunted me down a little later and I ran through the presentation once, but at that point I was feeling much more confident. I had good slides and I was fairly sure I knew how to say what I needed to say to get the necessary chemistry info to the computer science folks.

I watched a Comp Sci presentation by Butler students, then stood up to give mine. I was very vaguely introduced; it’s amazing how the term “UV/VIS spectrophotometry” can kink up even the most verbose introducer’s tongue.

Then I looked out at the people in the room, all watching me, all seemingly interested in what I had to say. So I started talking to them. Not presenting, not “giving a talk”, but telling them what I wanted them to know about the work I’ve been doing. Then I stopped talking and took questions.

It was so simple. I wasn’t nervous. I didn’t shake. No butterflies in my stomach. The audience remained interested.

Better yet: I loved it, as much or more than I loved it in high school (despite the obligatory bitching beforehand, of course).

Sometimes I surprise myself. This time it was a pleasant surprise. What it means for the future (of research, of career options), I know not.

  • Hannah

    Wow, that’s so interesting. I mean, you think of the conferences as the part you would dread about the research. At least, from my perspective–I’m always so happy to be in the laboratory, but I find presenting things to “colleagues” (who are mostly professors far advanced from me in their knowledge of what I’m doing) to be frightening. I definitely understand the joy of conveying what it is that interests you about a project, but I guess I’m always worried that I will say something and someone will just REALLY shoot it down. I guess in the archaeological thing there is a lot of contradictory evidence coming from our site to a lot of “established” theories, and so I’m always a little nervous about presenting our findings. Oh yeah, and in a foreign language. That’s also nerve-wracking.

    So, the joy of presentation versus the burden of researching. Which do you think will “win?” Is the elation of sharing your knowledge enough of an impetus to drag you through days and weeks and months and maybe years of work you don’t really like? I don’t mean to make it sound horrible, it’s just that research takes so LONG.

    Well, I should bring this comment to a close. Apologies, it’s just that this really hit home, and interested my silly curious mind. Thanks for the post.

  • Michelle

    Yay for pleasant surprises!