Like other 800 PostDocs in Europe, last August I pressed the “submission” button for my first Fellowship to the European Molecular Biology Organisation. Although I was selected for an interview in Germany, on December 5th my name was not on the list of the 128 best researchers that got 2 years of salary covered by the Fellowship.

Given the confidence that characterises my way of living, I felt the victory at my fingertips. Like in many other instances, my brain “played the movie” beforehand: I could see the face of my colleagues, boss and ex-supervisor as I give them the great news. I saw the drinks and the cheers. My brain treated me with an overdose of unsecured happiness.

I bet not many confess this, but the seduction of success fails many scientists. I find this a very useful thing: as Daniel Kahneman says, optimists are those who rule the world, push economies and open doors. Scientists – in my imagination – are exactly that.

The reason why I expose my sorrow is to kill it. A friend once told me that she keeps no secrets about herself: something unsaid makes her feel more uncomfortable than something shameful.

I waited two weeks before telling my lab. As I didn’t get burned so badly for a long time, I thought my failure would ruin my career. An EMBO Fellowship is once in a lifetime, and it would have enhanced my chance of success. That was gone.

To make things worse, I found some friends whom got the Fellowship, and this made me feel jealous and angry. I never contemplated long enough the idea that the business of Science may turn me into a grumpy, envy, unhappy worker, who collects negative anecdotes about others – more successful people.

But tonight, my brain switched back onto its original construction. Spending time with colleagues and friends – people whose life is likely as complex as mine – healed my distressed. For no particular reason, playing beer-pong with people whom – like me – traded a safe job-position for the passion of Science, made the trick.

It occurred to me that I’ve already got what I need: a great place to work, a perfect plan, and the right mental posture.

My position doesn’t depend upon those money, a luxury I am not sufficiently grateful for. As I am not enough grateful for the incredible opportunity to be selected for an interview. I love this job is because it is a fare race, and those who come first are just better than you. Let’s just get ready for the next run.

On the way home, I felt my shoulders relaxing and my smile stretching. As my phone played a stupid pop song, I thought about all the books I still need to read. About the many things I have to do, the awesome people I have yet to meet. I cannot wander one second more into this grift.

The notion that I certainly gonna make something great with my life make me feel the power again.

One Response

  1. So what’s your plan for the next 2 or so years? I am, after ca. 6 tries (1 invitation) at the point where I am running out of fellowships to apply for, not to mention my contract is running out in 6 months, plus there is the age. When you ‘re in your mid 30ies it’s time to look for a job in a company as otherwise you’re too old for them, except you have some expert knowledge they need.

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