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THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Way back, when I was finishing up my Masters Degree, I was working really hard and writing my dissertation. My advisor did not read my dissertation before my defense, which I did not completely pass. My committee sent me away with revisions. I did those revision and my advisor again did not read my dissertation before my final committee meeting. Though my committee was happy with the revisions and passed me, I still had to turn in a complete dissertation approved by my advisor. Meanwhile, I had gotten a job in Oklahoma City and marked the calendar in our lab with my last day at OSU two months in advance. I spent those two months staring at my dissertation. On my last day, I took my lab key to my advisor and he looked at me confused. I told him that today was my last day. He looked at me and said "You can't leave. Your dissertation is the worst thing I've ever read." 

I was too shocked to argue with him or to even believe he had finally read the paper. My advisor had been unavailable every time I had gone to him to talk about my paper. For months, I had asked him at least once a day if he had read it yet or if we could sit down and talk about the paper. Every time he would either put it off or tell me that things were going just fine and to just keep writing. So for him to tell me at the very last minute that my paper needed a complete and total rewrite was like being dropped into the Arctic ocean. I managed to stammer out to him that my last day had been scheduled and on his calendar for two months and I had a commitment to this other place. I handed him my key and left. I enrolled in more nothing hours so I could have another semester to turn in my dissertation and earn my diploma. I heard nothing from my advisor for over a month. I rewrote my dissertation and sent it to him. Then Chris basically had to stalk my advisor to get him to sign off on the final revision. 

The whole process rocked any confidence I had in myself and things only got worse when I started that first job out of graduate school. I went into a core facility that required all kinds of molecular biology lab techniques that I had zero experience with. I don't even know how I got hired for the job and I was terrible at it. I would have good days where I'd get reactions started and a gel loaded and every thing would go just right. Then the next day I would repeat all of the steps from the good day and everything would practically catch on fire. The other women in the lab were not the most kind and it was often very much a Mean Girl kind of environment. It was not a big shock to me when the facility lost a grant that I was the first and only one 'laid off'. In fact I had already started looking for another job before I got the news. By the time I started in Margaret's lab, I was pretty convinced that I was not smart enough to be a research scientist. Since I had no other prospects or talents and was the sole breadwinner of our household, I didn't really have a choice but to join Margaret's lab. 

This turned out to be the best decision (other than the scooter purchase) I have ever made because this is when I started to get some of that lost confidence back. Turns out that I am not as dumb as I thought I was. I was just stuck in a job that was not suited to the way my brain works. Now I'm super confident in my work and sometimes I even say some really smart things. That confidence spilled over into other aspects of my life and for a brief moment I believed that I could do anything. My confidence got rocked again when Chris died. I just sort of lost myself, doubted myself, forgot that I was not just Chris and Cindy, but my own person. To be honest, my relationship with Michael hasn't really helped me regain that confidence. I still doubt myself. Recently I was asked to conjure one word to represent something I want in 2018 and was surprised (and a little embarrassed at the selfish idea of it) to see the word "me" float around in my brain. It reminded me of the video that's gone viral of the toddler who refuses help buckling her carseat. She tells her parent "You worry about yourself!" 

Worry about yourself.

In these first few days of this brand new year, I have felt more solid in myself than I have in the whole of all of last year. Some of that has to do with regaining some lost confidence and some of that is due to focusing more on worrying about myself. There's gratitude to be had in these lessons. I am grateful to feel that maybe, just possibly, I could do anything.