Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Up for air...

I have been extremely quiet because, well, I have been extremely busy.  No shit, eh? Who isn't.  But writing four (yes, four) recomendation letters, a progress report for my fellowship, a section of the NIH grant our lab is submitting in a few weeks and keeping my noobie and not so noobie-undergrads in line these past three weeks has done little for my sanity, let alone for my progress.  That, coupled with the stomach ulcer diagnosis, finding out I was highly intolerant to penicillin (the hard way), a two week round of tetracycline/some other antibiotic and a four day treatment for a yeast infection (and not necessarily just where you were thinking-- ever have a fuzzy, yellowish-tongue? ya, not fun to say the least) has left me tired, worn-out and crabby.  I have been short with everyone at work lately.  I just want to be left alone to run some experiments.  Let me surround myself with bacteria and proteins and assays.  Let me delve into the piles of data and make some sense of it all.

I am an introvert who plays an extrovert on TV.  I need to recharge if I have had people around me all day long.  Interaction with people all day is not in any way restorative to me, it's just plain draining.  I am perfectly content without talking to anyone all day long-I do not need to be the center of attention and quite frankly, it makes me uncomfortable if too many people are staring at me/putting me on the spot at one time. Things like that make me break out into a cold sweat.  When my mom and mother-in-law threw a wedding shower for me, I absolutely dreaded it.  I did not want to sit on chair in front of everyone and open presents, or give a toast or anything like that.  The wedding was the same way.  Since we got married in a very public place, there were a lot of people there who stopped to watch.  It was, probably, one of the most uncomfortable things for me. 

So, you are probably thinking "Uh, Dr. Zeek, that does not bode well for your career as a scientist.  How can you give talks at meetings and stuff?"  Well, here is the thing, when I give a talk it is not Dr. Zeek giving the talk, but Dr. Zeek the Scientist giving the talk.  Wait, let me explain.  I was into drama big time in high school.  I loved being in character on the stage.  Why?  Because I was no longer me-geeky, nerdy high school student- I was some other person.  And I loved it.  I didn't mind being on stage having everyone stare at me, hang on every word because I was no longer me, I was "cowgirl #2" (when we did Oklahoma) or bitchy "Aunt Jenny" (from I Remember Mamma).  It was the same sort of thing when I was a bartender.  No longer was I the somewhat awkward nerd trying to get through college, I was "the sweet-flirty bartender".  I played a role.  And it made me money.  I quickly learned that I was great in front of a "crowd"--weather it be acting, behind the bar, or giving a talk as long as I treated it as a "role", rather than just being myself up there.  As long as I don't have to play the role of "myself" then I find that the panicky feelings go away and I am confident, smooth and totally at ease. 

When I give a talk, I am no longer Dr. Zeek, the go to person in the lab who can never say no.  I am now "Dr. Zeek the Scientist"  and it works.  Now, mind you, I don't completely loose my personality, my wit, charm, grace (wait, grace I can't loose because I don't have to begin with), but I just throw all that into playing the role as the scientist giving a talk.  I can play the role well.  Now, does that make me a fraud?

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