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genegeek CAN

Hi. I'm genegeek (aka Catherine Anderson). Thanks for stopping by. I realized during my PostDoc that I preferred learning and explaining new results to doing science so I started a non-traditional career of teaching and outreach. I'll be using this space to explore public perception of genetics and other cool molecular biology stuff.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Monday, October 4, 2010

OK, I don't know where the time is going. I finished up my main job early last week with great hopes of becoming a regular blogger....and the time suck continued.

I did crack some vertebrae last weekend - nothing exciting, slipped at home and landed on the patio door track - so I guess I have to account for some time on the couch. But does daytime TV really suck that much life out of you?

So now that I supposedly don't have a lot to do, I'm trying to take some time and see what I want to do. (There will be more on these thoughts within the next week.) What is becoming obvious is how much stress can be caused by SHOULD.

I have to admit, I'm too selfish for a lot of should in my life but I have another story for you:

I overheard two women in a coffee shop a few days ago. They were discussing if one of them should get married. The conclusion was yes because she had been in the relationship for a while and it was expected. I didn't agree with her reasoning but maybe there are other reasons and she didn't feel like sharing them at that time. But then they moved onto the subject of having children. The other woman was confessing that she didn't know if her marriage was the best but that they were going to try for children because that is the next expected step. I don't know about you but that made me sad...and a little indignant.

I noticed their conversation because I've been pondering what I should do next in my life. Lots of people have 'should's for me...I should make X money; I should live in X city; I should explore X supposed talent... but how much should is important?

Now, should is good in that it helps to keep order in society. You should be nice to your neighbour, etc. But it bothers me when people make personal decisions based on what their neighbours and family will say. I think should is a major cause of stress. Am I completely off base?

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I agree with you completely. Great post. Should is terrible when it's not something you really feel for yourself, or when you feel it being forced upon you. It is the worst reason to do something.

Prabodh Kandala
Texas Tech University Health Science Center
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Were there no times when "Should" worked in our favour? Sometimes "Should" may help in finishing your work early. Well, I am talking about Science life, not personal.

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I seems to me that you are talking about 2 different "should"

There is the "should but right now I am doing something more fun/interesting, but yeah, I know that is important in the long term".

There is the "should but I really don't want to do it, and I am trying to find either willpower or an excuse NOT to do it"


The women you were talking about probably were concentration in the second one. And the fact that you wrote this blog post makes me think that you have a big "should" that you don't want to either do or face...and you are looking at us for willpower or an excuse.

I'll give you one. If you don't really want to do will be unhappy for a long time if you do. If you don' will be unhappy too. But probably it will be a shorter amount of time.

The first should has another name...procrastination. I "should" go back to my excel table right now...

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Thanks for the great comments.  I agree that 'should' is a help but I bemoan the fact that it can create extra stress. I like the idea of two shoulds, the first being helpful and the other being counterproductive.

I don't think I have any long term shoulds in my horizon - at least none that will push me into something that I don't want to do - but I'll keep an eye out!

Washington University School of Medicine
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I don't think it matters what people think you should do. If they love you, they will be happy if you're happy. Sometimes the coolest opportunities come to us when we look outside the box of what everyone else tells us we should do.

Image Goddess
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If I had overheard that conversation I think I would have been sad and insulted. Who says we SHOULD do anything? If I followed what the general consensus of what society says SHOULD be done I'd be miserable.

1. I've been engaged for almost a decade. I SHOULD be married by now. There's a reason we're not and it's nobody's business unless I want them to know.

2. I didn't go into a PostDoc position after I earned my doctorate. I didn't want to. My academic department didn't know what to do with me and washed their hands of me. No more bench work for me - no way. I love research but I was done with the bench.

Those are just the major ones. It makes me sad when people adjust their lives to what they think others believe it SHOULD be like.

Washington University School of Medicine
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I agree, Image Goddess. I skipped a postdoc initially in favor of a position at a pharmaceutical company. Unfortunately I was later downsized and had to move into a postdoc anyway. During that time, though, I was able to sharpen my skills more than I could have imagined, and landed a much more prestigious postdoc than I could have before.

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Very, very true.

I'm just now realizing I'm pretty attuned to "shoulds"- even if I can't quite wrap my brain around the ones that impact the women in the coffeshop. The ones I don't meet (like getting into lab early - this is so me... I feel really guilty about. I have a strong internalized value for self-motivation and *not* being dependent on the approval of others... yet, when it comes down to it, the amount of angst I feel for not conforming really doesn't fit with my own mindset. "Should" is a word that brings profound cognitive dissonance for me as often as not.

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My friend and I were having a very similar conversation last week. She is a stay at home mom and said that a lot of women on message boards seem to have decided to have children because they were "supposed to." I have to tell you that I was shocked. I mean, this isn't like going to Law School because you're not sure what to do after you graduate college. Sure, that will put you up to $100,000 into debt for something you might hate, but actually having children that you don't necessarily want? That is crazy.

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