Is There More Than This?

If you can’t tell from the posts of the last month, I’ve been going through a little bit of an existential crisis. Mostly it is work based, but part of it is relationship based. To be perfectly honest, I’m not very happy with most aspects of my life right now – at work or at home. I’m not depressed by any means, I’m more stagnant and thirsting for change and fulfillment.

And I can’t help but ask myself: Is this all there is?

The truth of the matter is that I always imagined that I would be making a difference in the world. That I would be doing something each day that would help humanity.

And SURE, you can say that my science helps the world (if I were to discover or lay the foundation for something awesome) – but let’s be honest here, most science doesn’t do squat except expand what college students need to know to graduate and make it ever increasingly more difficult for me to describe to a layperson “what I do”.

And SURE, you can say that my teaching students can change their world or their life. But I’m honestly not that influential or powerful of a teacher. I’m doing well enough just now to not confuse the students with electrons and protons and keep my grading in order. I know that some people are gifted teachers, I also know that I’m not an inspirational one, I’m a DECENT one. I won’t change anyone’s life, for better or for worse.

I always imagined that I would be saving the world. Healing the sick in underprivileged countries or building water ways so that people can have fresh water. Taking care of kids of domestic violence. Or developing a drug that would save humanity. Curing the diseases that killed my family. I really had very noble goals and dreams.

And now I feel like my life is just dealing with graduate student’s bullshit, worrying about following the job trail and trying to convince undergrads that Chemistry isn’t “that bad”.

However, I can’t think of anything that I want to do, with my skills and education, that I feel would truly be helping the world. But I guess I imagine myself running into Haiti or some other stricken country and saying “Wait! No! Let me help you fix your bridges with my knowledge of Chemistry!” Doesn’t really work that way… does it?

I guess I’m just looking for a meaning to my work beyond getting grants and doing more work. Because this is all the future seems to be at this point and I think I want something more.

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10 Responses to Is There More Than This?

  1. jenny says:

    Maybe its a grad student thing, my sister is going through the same thing. She just finished her phd in biology, has been working in a lab for the last 6 years and now that its time to really job-hunt, she feels completely over the excitement that got her into biology int he first place. Her solution – we’re going to travel to india next month. Perhaps you just need a change of scenery to remind yourself what else it out there and that you can get excited about new things? Maybe you could do a volunteer work travel trip – its a great way to get a reduced price and still see a new part of the world.

  2. As a scientist, you probably already know that life-changing, groundbreaking science is not something that happens overnight nor even in 10 years. This takes time. Maybe you should first make your goal of positively affecting humanity more specific. Your knowledge in chemistry could help you develop clean water for underprivileged nations for example. I would go on, but I actually shut my brain off for the 2 years that I had to suffer through chemistry, so I dont know anything beyond H2O. Sorry. But I think that is a start. Then maybe presenting a proposal and once you secure the grant spending sleepness nights trying to reach your goal.

    You could become a mad scientist though…which won’t be good for your hair. Never forget the hair…

  3. I dunno. When i read your blog, it sounds far more interesting than what I’m doing… Answering emails, sending out packages, etc. Maybe grass is always greener on the other side. Try finding little joys in your work.

  4. Vic says:

    Your last two posts really hit home with me. Thank you for being honest and putting it out there. I was starting to feel alone in my thinking “this is it, really?” LOL I am 30 and think everyday “What the hell am I doing?” I too want to make a difference and want to help others and do something that has meaning. I work for a large company and work in accounting (AR), so yea I post cash all day long. I don’t have to use my brain; just my fingers and I feel like I lose brain cells everyday! LOL Again thank you, it’s good to know that I am not the only one who wonders “is this it”

  5. eemusings says:

    Not in science and never had an aptitude for it. I have no idea about any of it! But I hope you find what you’re looking for. We all want to feel like we’re making a lasting contribution.

  6. Ninja says:

    I would just encourage you to find joy in your work, even thought that may be difficult. In the words of Ghandi…

    “Joy lies in the fight, in the attempt, in the suffering involved, not in the victory itself”

  7. Money Funk says:

    Oh, we are sharing the same wave length. This blog post and book review by Amost Fearless might help: What Boundries?.

    I’ve been reading a few books to jump start the neurons in my brain to locate the next step, as I feel… I don’t know what to do. Funny to think when I was younger I knew exactly what I wanted to do, but to this day have yet to do it.

    Flexo from Consumerism Commentary wrote a great piece about the subject. If you don’t know what you love to do, try everything. Hope it helps. 🙂

  8. If you enjoy your work, then try to change the world in other ways. Are there any charities where you can donate your time or money? This might help you feel more like you’re helping the world.

    And I do want to add – being a teacher is tremendously important. An astronomy teacher I had for one semester in high school completely changed the course of my life.

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