28 days later…

30 days, the time period the submitted to Journal claims it strives to have decisions in by.

It has been 28.

Any day now rage-fueled bloody eyed reviewers will come clawing at the door, nitpicking the absence of undoable experiments and demanding followups made nearly impossible by the thousands of miles between where the equipment needed to do the experiments is and where I am now.

I have stockpiled nothing. I am unprepared.

On choosing a hill to die on

What’s your career breakpoint? Is there a line you won’t, you can’t cross?

Some of these lines are blindingly stark, obvious and ethical in nature. Depressingly, some people cross them anyways because there isn’t room for failure, for negative results or for risky yet time consuming experimentation. We have to succeed. The question is how much ethical flexibility people derive from “have to.” …But frauds be frauding. Let’s leave aside the egregious realm of nudging, fudging and fabricating ‘n’ and ‘p’ and tear our horrified gazes away from the carnage. Do you have a ‘fuck this, I’m out.” threshold? Have you thought about it, what it might be?

I found mine. When the notion of doing a second postdoc (not yet 2 years into my first) first came up, I smiled weakly and tried to game out the merits. I’m in a strange situation after all. There is no malleability, no forgiveness in the postdoctoral timeline where I am. It is stretched taut between a concrete start date and a brutal, inexorable enddate. And of course, you have to find a job before that enddate. So you have to get one of the few grants you can apply for (K99-R00) and really have your project wrapped up in 3.5 to 4 years. So 1.7 years in and I’m sitting on a pile of data that I think looks promising (hell, maybe even exciting) but somehow I’m still failing.

My personal calculations are ugly and confounded by factors I can’t change. But time, health and sanity are finite resources for everyone, and we all have our unspoken burdons.

I made it through the conversation nodding gamely and then went and locked myself in the disconcertingly warm darkness of the microscope room with a pile of sodden kimwipes and mascara that would survive a firehose (I seldom wear makeup but when I do, I make damn sure it isn’t going anywhere if my day takes a turn towards the verklempt.)

I’ve come to realize that this is my threshold. My own personal “fuck it I’m out” threshold. For my unique situation. I told my PI this (I’d love to say that I marched into his office and declared it in a clear and strong voice but I’ve already admitted to leaving wadded up tear-soaked kimwipes in dark places. It’s enough to say I didn’t cry, not when talking with him, or at least not much. That’s a victory for me. Obviously I love my job.)

So this it it. The hill I die (or succeed) on. I’m okay with that.