Independence Every Day
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was given a list of prompts and asked to write down my wishes for her. Here is what I wrote.
I hope you learn to trust your inner voice
I hope you laugh at yourself
I hope you respect that life is fleeting
I hope you aren’t afraid to go all in
I hope you grow indomitable
I hope you never forget that life is as meaningful and joyful as you make it
Looking at these hopes, they can be more concisely written as “I hope you will be independent.” I have been thinking a lot about independence while reading blog posts about women in science, women in a room full of men, graduate students considering alternate paths, and professors so overwhelmed with administrative burdens that they don’t have time for science. Anxiety abounds. PhDs whisper about jobs outside academia. Female scientists whisper about wanting children. It is all terribly backwards, isn’t it? These are our lives!
Though the pressures and expectations of academia certainly do exist outside of our imagination, we should not let them determine the course of our lives. I have a sneaking suspicion that these rules for behavior are not rules at all. Do what you want and people will have to respect it. It may take a while for people to adjust. Some probably will respond negatively, especially if it makes them question their own life decisions or increases their work load. In my own experience, I have found that after an initial knee jerk reaction, people are generally supportive. If they aren’t, they are not the right mentor or friend for you anyway.
One unexpected but welcome outcome of openly exploring other possibilities for my future is that science is fun again. The anxiety and guilt have lifted and I can enjoy my time in lab.
What if we all lived without apology? Or, as Sheryl Sandberg said in her Barnard College commencement speech, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” Being subdued by others is discouraging, but realizing that you are effectively subduing yourself is completely demoralizing. When considering your own lives and how you can be more independent, I hope that you all grow to be indomitable.
definition: impossible to subdue or defeat
synonyms: invincible, unconquerable, unbeatable, unassailable, invulnerable, unshakable, unsinkable; indefatigable, unyielding, unbending, lionhearted, strong-willed, strong-minded, steadfast, resolute, determined, adamant; unflinching, courageous, brave, valiant, heroic, intrepid, fearless.
Apple Inc. Dictionary