Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Grad School lessons..

The last few months have been a blur.....
A daze of frenetic activity. A lot of movement...but not really going anywhere.

Not surprisingly, it took something not going my way to slow me down, and make me think. To look around, take a deep breath and exist.
If there is something I know I have learnt in Graduate School it is more about who I am. The PhD was intended to turn me into an encyclopedia about my favourite virus and to learn the scientific method. Along the way, I've been surprised to find that many Grad school situations have instead taught me about myself.
I've learnt that it is okay to be scared, to admit to being scared and to seek help. I have had an opportunity to more intimately explore my many insecurities and to accept many of them. I have learnt more about the person I am, more importantly I have figured out what I am not.
This has perhaps been the most sobering lesson. I have learnt my limits  and my limitations. By being pushed too far, I have finally figured out how much I can handle. And by failing, I have realized the circumstances under which I can succeed.
Most recently, I have learnt how much or little I can handle at a given time. Accepting that I am not the best at many things, and that that is who I am too. Most importantly, I have learnt that it is okay for me to accept I cannot do as much as my closest colleague.
Many friends, colleagues and family members have patiently watched me stumble through Grad school.  They have gone against their instinct and let me learn my lessons on my own, my way and at my time - for this I am grateful.
I know that I may stray from these lessons occasionally, but hopefully the fact that I learnt them all through experience will help me re-learn them more quickly. In the meanwhile, I can always strive to do better.....

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Haiku in lieu of a paper?

You daunting blank page,
No word, no inspiration,
Only a cold white space.

And never before,
The din of so much silence,
How to break this spell?

Sat me in a chair,
Sixty minutes, forced typing,
No stops, no re-do.

Voila! I see words,
And no longer a blank page,
Now to stay focused...


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Are you there self-confidence? It's me Shilpa....

I am Shilpa Iyer, and I have Imposter Syndrome........

It confused me, annoyed and amused me, plagued me and completely paralyzed me. How could I enjoy the luxury of self-confidence in other spheres, yet in many intellectual pursuits be rendered immobile by crippling self doubt?

Imposter syndrome is defined here as "a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true". All things considered and keeping my dismaying ego in check, I have had instances of positive reinforcement. I am a PhD candidate at a well- reputed university, conducting research (shameless plug here) under the guidance of a brilliant woman scientist (cue obsequious behavior...). I enjoy my work, am not too- terrible at it, and am not immensely disliked (comments to the contrary while welcome will be dealt with sternly). To my naive eye, it appears that there is no need or place for arresting doubt.

Yet, it rears its ugly head, without warning or even provocation sometimes. While the company of fellow 'impostors' is comforting and surprisingly reassuring - the debilitating reality is far from desirable. 

A simple wrong answer, or a badly- thought out idea is enough to send me down a spiral of negativity - with no speed breaker to slow me down, and no hand railing to quell the doubt.
" I just got lucky..."
" They haven't figured out how little I know...."
" Why am I not as smart as xxx and yyy?"
" What made me think I could do this?"..
" Are you sure I am not dumb...?"

And on and on, until an erstwhile productive day is now bathed in gloom.....

In a bid to sieze control, I took this quiz . I scored a high 25 putting me squarely in the realm of high Imposter Phenomenon (IP) - great! Contrary to my expectations however, the result caused me to heave a sigh of relief. There, that was my first step toward acknowledging that I had a problem. I indulged myself with further reading to discover that a large number of people suffer from it , there appear to be differences in gender susceptibility and that in small doses doubt and caution are actually beneficial (operative word(s) being small doses). 

For me a corollary to 42 has been ' Known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns' .Whether it is the fear and embarrassment of not knowing the answer to every question, or just the new-found knowledge that I know I suffer from imposter syndrome, I do not know why an episode is triggered and that this lack of knowledge makes it hard/ impossible to prevent another episode. I am nonetheless optimistic, if I cannot prevent the occurrence perhaps acknowledging the symptoms may help shorten the duration that I am under its spell.

For now, in lieu of answers and coping mechanisms, all I have is the admission - I am Shilpa Iyer, and I have Imposter Syndrome. 

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Saying goodbye but unable to let go....

 'The dog represents all that is best in man' - Etienne Charlet
Indistinguishable from absolute truth, a dog-ma if you will.....Tired cliches cannot soften the blow, for the truth is that we lost one of our best friends, and we will always mourn, we will be painfully aware that while we were a part of his life, he completed ours....

Vivid playful sunshine,
Not a cloud in sight,
To cushion my guilt,
To drink in my tears.

A grassy square,
A final resting place,
Youthful mischief-
Forever immortalized (in an aging form).

Precious, penultimate moments,
Adorned in trust and mirth,
So quickly at rest,
Like cotton candy in your veins.

How did it unravel so quickly?
One single thread,
Valiantly fighting,
To keep it whole.

And we will not recover,
One secure corner forever to haunt,
The silence -
So overpowering, so deafening.

For we are guilty,
Wrenching pain,
Bartered for lifelong peace.

We miss you my darling Boo.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Who will I wish this Father's Day?

How can I make that call, when I can feel the silence that will greet me?

How can I reconcile,
This painful din,
With that numbing silence?

No one to wish,
No one to call dad,
No one to replace.

Carried forward,
And how long,
In what form?

Where are you now?
Why is this distance,
So, so hard?

I am lucky I had you for so long,
But never enough,
And the years ahead cloaked in loss.

Today if I called,
What would reply?
A vacant room,
A silent watch,
An old T-shirt.

Only the space in my life would echo.

With daddy - my forever partner in crime

Kindred spirits...

I was a tad clingy....
Love you Dad

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Reel life... real life!

I was transported again.... just like that, without my precise permission.. on a whim I was transported.

I love films.. I love being caught up in a story that is not quite my own, but so close. I (sadistically), took to furiously reading the wiki entry on every movie I sat down to watch. How does it end? Does he survive? Who dies? Who gets the girl? Whose kingdom is lost? I needed to know. In part to satisfy our eternal quest for optimism, in part because I am just that much of a control freak. I thought that knowing the end would ruin the journey... would mar the dialogue, render it a shell of a story.

Quite the contrary - knowing the end does not preclude my being lost in the folds of the story. Not truly against my will, more without my knowing, I fall right into that altered space. Where only the story being told exists, only the characters have voice and their journey is mine. I cannot explain how films affect me. How real they seem, how screen joy fills my heart and bubbles over... and how a story's despair drags me with it.

Despite knowing everything I'm about to witness, I am amazed at how movies can affect me so. The ability of film to capture my attention, to take me along and for me to allow myself to be amidst the characters, and experience their story, shakes me alive!

It also gives me optimism, we all know that life will someday end. But despite knowing that, perhaps we can just enjoy the ride!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Lab song

If you're anything like me - grew up addicted to Friends and now a self-proclaimed lab rat... this song might hit the spot. Either that, or you'd have another reminder of how socially challenged I am - either ways it cannot change how I'm spending my weekend....

Cloning - required, but oh so loathed!

Here's a ( bad) twist to Phoebe's song from Friends

Original song -
I'm in the shower and i'm writing a song
stop me if you've heard it
My skin is soapy and my hair is wet
And Tegrin spelt backwards is Nirget

and lather ,rinse, repeat
and lather,rinse,repeat
as needed

Lab song....
I've been in lab for ten hours and I'm writing a song
Stop me if you've heard it,
I've forgotten how to blink, my eyes are red
GGATCC spelt backwards and BamHI will cut it.

Ligate, transform, screen
and ligate, transform, screen,
and ligate, transform, screen,
as needed.