This week I received an e-mail telling me that my fellowship application has been assigned to a review section. Ooooh, boy. We’re really doing this thing.
Until that moment, I think I had deluded myself into a state of calm confidence. Writing the grant was fun in a science-nerdy way. I put my fellowship application together in about two weeks, which made it a whirlwind of writing and e-mails, but there was something fun about that too, perhaps because I do love writing and because submitting a fellowship application had been a goal for so long. I relished the moment and the sense of productivity: we’re really doing this thing!
The application has been out of my hands for over a month. There is something nerve-wracking about knowing that it’s not really my application any more; other people (besides my boss, of course) are going to be reading it, scrutinizing it, poking holes in it. It’s not my baby any more. It has to stand on its own two feet. Of course it’s nerve-wracking when I think about the funding issue. If my application is funded, I will have three more years of postdoctoral research, guaranteed. It would be such a relief to know that I have some short-term security to pursue my projects. I have worked really hard to establish the foundation for my research, and now there are so many interesting questions to pursue. If only I had the time to go after them! And by time, I mean money because while love of science is nice, love doesn’t pay the bills. I need a salary to continue my work.
While my application is under review, I am doing my best to stay positive. Worry is not my friend these days. I am reminding myself to stay focused on right now: what can I do now? I can do experiments, I can enjoy the science, I can make new friends and have fun with old friends. I can live my life right now, and really, that’s all any of us can do at any given moment. I think it’s so easy to get caught up in our preconceived notions of what the future will be that we forget to keep our feet on the ground. Wasn’t it John Lennon who said that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans? I agree.
All that said, I can tell you that no matter what happens with my fellowship application or the other grant application, I am proud of myself for this reason: I didn’t hold back. Despite what has been a very bumpy ride as a postdoc, I gave it my best shot. My boss said, “We need to write some grants to fund your project,” and so I did. I went for it. I have no control over the funding decisions, but I loved writing these grants and imagining what could be. My boss and I wrote a strong research proposal. We took our time, hashed out our options, wrote and rewrote and wrote some more. I like to think that because we took our time and wrote a careful proposal, we have a better chance of getting funding.
It’s never easy being patient when you are waiting on an important decision. In fact, I suspect that a secret to happiness is the ability to find contentment despite the anxiety. No one teaches this to you during graduate school, of course, so you must look elsewhere for comfort. I also don’t want to delude myself into thinking that all my problems will be solved if and when I get grant money for my postdoc work. There are questions that will continue to loom over me, no matter what happens in the next few months. But I believe that this place is best for me, at least for a few more years, and I’d like to stay if possible. I’m not holding back.
“The temptation to quit will be greatest right before you succeed.” Chinese proverb