Updated: Mar 20
"I don’t want to listen to other people and what they expect from me. Not anymore."
“Hi, I am Kumsal, I am a postdoctoral scientist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.”
This how I replied, when people ask me, "what do you do" or basically "who are you?"
I always defined myself with my job, my profession.
Lately, I am thinking about, Is this really it? I mean - I am Kumsal, the postdoc.
Is this who I really am?
Recently, I have been to a symposium called “What can you be with a PhD?” A lot of different panels were held in this symposium, to inform scientists with a PhD degree. About all the different career tracks that we can take. There I attended a panel on science communication and outreach, and I met with a person. The science outreach director from a very prestigious university. Her name was Jeanne.
When I think of a “director” of something, I immediately pictured someone who is powerful, kind of bossy. But this woman was totally different. She was confident and assertive, but she was not bossy at all. She seemed very confident and humble in her way. I was very inspired by her way of being, but I couldn’t tell why.
When they asked her, why she does this particular job as a science outreach director? She said defines herself, as a biochemist, a mom, wife of a teacher, and made in the Bronx. She did not mention, the director of something, not a PhD even, not a postdoc...
That came as a surprise to me!
How come she doesn’t have the need to define herself with her title? The way she identified herself she was conveying something much deeper about her, her passion, her roots, and what she values in her life. She was telling me that she was just another person who is extremely passionate about communicating science, helping kids, and people learn more about science.
Wow - that is powerful I thought.
Knowing what you are passionate about and what you want to do in life - being able to integrate all different pieces of your identity like that... That is true power.
This made me think, Why I define myself with my title and job? Other than the postdoctoral scientist, who I really am? And even if I now the pieces of who I am, am I comfortable telling other people them? Just like she did?
I don’t know.
I have always defined me with my success at school, my work, my degrees.
Because this is how I was defined, accepted, and loved. High grades and success was always expected of me. I was a very good student all my education life, and after graduating from college, I decided to do a PhD. Even though biology was not my first choice for a higher degree, I liked PhD idea of having a PhD, and I loved science.
After PhD, I continued to do a postdoc, because that was the right way to go.
Now it is expected that I become a PI, and open my own lab.
People are telling me that I am made for this. While I like being a scientist, exploring and learning new things, I don’t feel that is the case, I don’t dream about becoming a PI.
Should I go on and continue to make myself fit the expectations of others
dare to discover who I really am, and what do I really want to become in life? To be honest, people always had a lot of ideas for my life and for me to do.
That I should be in the Math and Science track,
that I was too brilliant to go to literature track,
that I needed to do a postdoc,
that I should become a PI,
that I should have married someone who has a lot of money,
that I should divorce if I have too many problems,
that I should take care of my parents at all costs to myself,
This list of should never ends.
I really believed that what people say to me was true.
I believed that they know me, better than me.
I didn’t know what I really wanted. I never asked.
It didn’t occur to me until later, to ask: What do I want? Who I am?
After thinking about all this, I see true the power that Jeanne had. She knows her passion and she is living her passion.
So I now ask myself, what do I want, who I am? Even though I don’t exactly know exactly the answer, I do know, what I don’t want.
I don’t want to listen to other people and what they expect from me. Not anymore.
I want to listen to myself and ask:
Who I am? What do I want in this life?