October 16, 2010

Trying Really Really Hard to be Brave

About two months ago, I left my job as an instructional designer to pursue my PhD in Chemistry.  It's been a dream of mine since I finished my undergraduate degree (9 years ago).  I'm just getting around to it now, and am really excited to be taking steps to accomplish my goal.  However, 9 years is a really long time to be out of school.  I've forgotten more than a lot of people know about chemistry.  I'm trying to get back into the swing of school, but it's hard when you have to learn all of the class material and re-learn all the information you've forgotten. 

On top of class work, I'm also teaching two lab sections.  I love the teaching part, and my students are really awesome... but the grading takes HOURS.  That takes away from the time I can spend studying and re-learning everything I need to know. 

As if I don't already have enough stress, I just selected my research group and advisor.  I'm really excited about my research project, and I think I'll be able to make real progress during my time at FIU.  However, I am now spending hourse each week doing lit searches and reading articles I don't really understand (then spending even more hours trying to figure out all the words/topics I don't understand so I can re-read the article and hopefully understand the article).  I'm also trying to learn how to use all the equipment in the lab (I just found out I'm in charge of maintaining all the equipment in the lab... and I don't yet know how to use it) and how to conduct polymerizations and simple synthesis' which are skills I need to master before starting work on my project.

I love what I'm doing, but I'm terrified.  I'm terrified that I'm not smart enough to be a PhD chemist.  I'm terrified that I'm not as good at this stuff as I thought.  I'm terrified that I'm going to fail and have to tell everyone that I couldn't cut it.  I'm just terrified... all the time.  I want to cry.  But, instead I smile and pretend everything is going well.  In front of my students, I act like the authority on everything dealing with Chemistry.  In front of the other students, I pretend like everything is going well and I'm as smart as them.  But inside I'm wondering if they will still like me if I fail out after one semester.  I'm wondering whaty my husband will think of me if I fail out.  I'm worried about the economic impact on my family if I can't make it. 

It's really hard to step out of your comfort zone.  When you find something that you do easily (for me, it was instructional design), it is easy to become complacent.  It becomes easy to just do that thing and make the money you need and just settle.  I didn't want to just settle, so I jumped... without a net... and it's terrifying.  I hope I catch the bar.  The alternative (a big messy splotch on the ground below) isn't an option.  So, I will continue to be brave.  I will continue to reach for that bar.  All I need is to get my finger tips around it... no fancy flips... just get my fingers around the bar.  In the future, I'll work up to flips and twists.  In the future, I will do more than just hold on... but for now, I just need to not fail.

Here's to everyone who has jumped.  Here's to everyone who has been terrified, but has continued to try.  Bravo to you.  It is not easy.  You are to be commended for your heart, desire, hard work and dedication.  No one can take your successes away from you.  They are yours alone based on your hard work.  Congratulations to you!


Lisa Crone said...

Congratulations to YOU! I have only jumped a little, not the major jump. Way to go! :)

marsspyder said...

Kelly you are braver than many people could ever hope to be. I have thought about the jump, I've gone so far as to creep to the edge and peek over, but then I scoot back and can't do it. The knowledge will come back, and new will follow. Congratulations for taking the jump and I wish you all the best!

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