Dear Scientist

Updated: Mar 29

Don't you also think we had a great journey together? I hope you do, too.


Erich Froom once asked, "If I am what I have and if what I have is lost, who then am I?"


I am asking this question to myself a lot lately.

I used to define myself with my degree, career, and successes. I used to define myself as The Scientist.


Now leaving all that behind, and just being Kumsal,

trying to create my life as a mental health advocate and future practitioner, based on my current values and priorities, not my prior education or training.


There are times where I feel lost.

Completely.

I feel as if I don't know who I am anymore.


It is the loss of my identity, The Scientist.

It's dying.

The society, as usual, is not helping while I go through this process of career shifting and identity loss.


We use the phrase "what do you do for a living?" as an icebreaker usually.

In a workshop that I just attended, the first thing that I was asked was, "so, where do you work?"

...

"Well..., I don't."

...

...


Radio silence.


LinkedIn keeps persistently asking me to update my current work.

I don't know what to say.


Well, does writing here counts? Because that is what I am doing lately. A lot.

Maybe I am a freelancer? who knows...


and my mother... (isn't she somehow all in my posts, one way or another...)

She has been telling me that my uncle told her how I can easily find a job here in Canada as a scientist because it is such in high demand... yadda yadda yadda.

Frankly, I haven't seen anyone banging on my door and begging me to join their team or running around like a mad person to hire a scientist... That's probably just her wishes that I will find a job, soon.


All good intending people asking me about my job or my plans to get one - makes me feel like crap.


Truth is, three months ago, I left my job. And I am not looking for one at the moment.


I left my career actually. A part of me, The Scientist.


I also just left the place that I called home for the past 5 years. So if you don't mind, I am going to feel a bit sad for a while and grieving for this complex loss...



The persona that I build so tediously and crafted so nicely for the past 10 years came to an end. And it didn't end because I didn't like it.


I loved being a scientist! (I still worked in the lab for the last week of my job.)

So, you may rightfully ask, can someone part ways with something or someone even though they love that person or thing?

Yes they can. And frankly, they should.

If that person or that thing is not serving them well anymore.

Let me explain to you why I left The Scientist.


But, first I have to tell you the best part of being one, how I went about my day as a scientist.

(And please forgive me for throwing some jargon here and there, as this is what The Scientist was all about... )

Usually, I started around 9 am with my weekly plan in front of me. I jumped into the cell culture hood and split my cells. (My favorite thing to do in the lab!!!)


Then I might do some computer work... It could be some excel/Graph Pad analysis or preparing a presentation.


Oh, how much bench scientists love(!) producing and then dealing with a lot of data... I loved producing it, but not so much to deal with in excel...my least favorite actually. But I managed.


I mostly loved doing experiments on the bench, back to back. I would start treatment here, then do some RNA extraction and PCR there, and end my day with running an SDS-PAGE gel with overnight transfer...


The next day, let's do it all over again; let's do a big lysosomal prep or animal work. Or both!


I loved cleaning my bench and keeping it so tidy. I loved following protocols, writing my lab notebook and keeping my buffers so nicely labeled. I loved cleaning the lab, putting up some notes here and there (for other people to keep things tidy...)


Before I had Eleanor I used to stay in the lab till 8-9pm sometimes. It was not unusual for me to go to the lab over the weekends too. I worked hard and long but usually did it willingly and happily.


Other than the experiments, I also liked the pace of it; The fast-paced life of a scientist.

Doing experiments, then setting a timer going in a meeting and running back again. Running from here and there in the lab between different types of equipment or rooms.


Preparing buffers, following complex protocols, and analyzing data in the computer...

Then presenting the hard-earned data to the lab or department colleagues. Writing articles, preparing presentations & posters, and teaching new lab skills to other students, technicians, postdocs...


So many different activities done under one job title. Isn't that so exciting?!


I especially loved the never-ending learning part.

I was trained as a cell biologist in my PhD. and learned in vivo work from scratch in my postdoc. In the beginning, I was so scared even at the sight of a mouse!!! But in the end I had a huge mice colony that I built from scratch and did all sorts of different techniques with them...


As a scientist, I embraced being a continuous learner.

I learned how to be a beginner over and over again.

The more I learned, the more I realized there were so many other things to learn and less to be scared of.

The more I learned, I became less frustrated to approach something novel. The more I learned, more I trusted my ability to learn faster.

Slowly, I became a better learner through The Scientist.

From 2010 till 2020, I became the scientist. Through every experiment, through every presentation, th