Monday, April 16, 2007

Relationships, Being the Second Part

I've been slogging through (i.e., writing) the negative-data chapters of my thesis.

I was so eager and enthusiastic five years ago.

I am looking back through years and years of notebooks, filled with projects that never worked. The one where I screened 2000 colonies. The one where I sat alone in the dark every day. The one where I tried everything to get one piece of data, and the answer was 'It's dead.' And I regret the choices I made. Why didn't I do it better? Why did I listen to her? Why didn't I trust myself? Why did I waste all those years? Why didn't I know better?

But it's not fair to say that. Of course I learned. I shouldn't let the bitter ending poison those years. It's not fair to pretend it was all bad and every day was a decision to regret- to deny my choices. I did the best I could at the time. The sweet naïve girl who started grad school is gone, and if I'm a harder, harsher person now, I chose that too.

I learned from doing years of hopeless experiments. How could I know they wouldn't work? No-one else knew. I would choose differently now because I do know better. But that knowledge: I learned it from my mistakes.

What I do wish I'd done differently: I should have trusted myself, believed in my judgment, had faith in my intelligence. I let other people tell me I was a bad scientist, and I believed it. That is my true regret.

Does one ever learn to leave past mistakes behind?