Lessons Learned

Weekends, I imagine, are quite enjoyable for most people. It’s a designated time of rest after spending five days working hard. For me though, weekends are sacred. Especially the weekend morning. Coming from a household of five (including me), it was one of the few times I ever really had space and I used that space to make it my own. Some of my deepest treasures came from weekend mornings. I remember watching Ebert & Roeper Sunday mornings when I missed it the previous night; it’s where I got my appreciation for film. Discovery Channel used to have three hour blocks of nature documentaries the same Sunday mornings which I got up at 7am to watch — pretty much unthinkable for a teenager; watching those documentaries deepened my appreciation for nature. Sunday’s as well, two hours or three episodes of Monty Python would come on BBC America; that’s what started my enjoyment of absurdist and/or British comedy. I would read books about evolution and natural historians weekend mornings, and then during those times I realized I wanted to do a PhD in ecology and evolution. Weekend mornings are my space, the time where I shaped my identity.

Weekend mornings are now filled with a different love. Though first and foremost a Buckeye nut, my favorite sport is soccer. I love the fluidity, the flowing motions of the ball and the footballers as they run around the pitch. I love the drama and emotions, how one goal can change your mood from despair and anguish to elation and relief . I love the sense of community that comes with it, whether it comes from the common love that adheres citizens of a nation or the 100 year histories present in the world’s oldest clubs. I love almost everything soccer has to offer, and I especially love watching it weekends mornings. Unfortunately, like all sports, soccer dishes out the highs as well as the lows. And this Sunday, Arsenal, my team, lost to Liverpool in the Premier League. 3-4. It’s not at all a striking scenario. I thought it was quite likely. But the way it happened left me more than frustrated. Arsenal went up quite early, only to concede four goals before trying to get back in the game. It wasn’t the result; it was the lack of trying except at the last minute. The players only really cared when all was lost, even then left scraping for a draw.

But this is essentially Arsenal top to bottom. They seemingly lack the will to make signings and seem to fret more than take big action. Early on, they looked to make strong moves, taking in Granit Xhaka and going for Vardy, but have tapered off towards the end. Despite injuries to their defense, they failed to make any defensive signings recently which is why they lost to Liverpool the way they did. Better defense and they would have surely won the game, at least a chance. But being too wary, too lackadaisical (both players and management) meant an avoidable situation happened. Had the club been more forceful, more daring Liverpool wouldn’t have gotten the better of us.

There’s a lot of fear when doing a PhD. Discovering new knowledge is an inherently risky proposition. Many times your ideas prove to be unfruitful and wrong; what you want to be true and what is true rarely match up. It’s even worse in this climate when funding is being cut forcing hyper competition among researchers. It’s a bit like the Premier League really. All that matters is cash and results, grants and publications. As a person who likes to enjoy life, this system filled me with fear and trepidation. I was very hesitant to do anything because I was unsure over what may happen. Having failed and have bad things happen to me, I was too cautious in my dealings with academia.

As Arsenal were playing, I was also working on a paper of mine. It had already been rejected twice and in a most resounding fashion and I was doing edits for another hopeful submission. The research analysis itself wasn’t the strongest, but it did lead to some very intriguing hypotheses and was the best we could do with the data we had. Looking through the manuscript again, I realized that perhaps I was too cautious. I had overemphasized the flaws and undercounted the positives. Oddly enough, being too cautious may have lead to the rejection. And if not, the outcome would have been the same regardless. Damned if I did, damned if I didn’t. So why not do?

I write this because the same hesitation that made me write that manuscript also prevented me from writing in this blog. I was often too cautious, too fearful, worried about saying the wrong thing or “writing improperly”. I hope to (once again) restart this blog. I hope that I can write a lot more. Whether it may be good, who knows. But I’ve learned a lot with my time within academia. I hope to learn some more with this blog.

Weekend mornings…


By thetweedybiologist

Research of theoretical ecology and evolution

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