Your whole childhood is spent learning to say ‘I am sorry’, many times you said it out of impulse so your mom would just get off your back. The older I get, the more and more often I catch myself saying sorry for things I really should not be apologizing for.
Recently, two situations happened that make we uncomfortable to the core because I have not apologized, but I shouldn’t need to. One is good, one is bad, I’ll start with the bad.
I am a scientist. I am surrounded by male colleagues and have encountered first-hand multiple times that I was treated differently because I was a woman. It is not unheard of in my field that male mentors marry their graduate students or give their women colleagues the grunt or busy work that they just don’t feel like doing.
I wear a fitbit that tells me when I need to get up and walk because otherwise, I would spend all day hunched over at my desk. Because of this, I end up frequently walking around and meeting people. There is one person who introduced himself to me and was friendly. I thought this was great because he could introduce me to others and from those connections, I could one day get my dream job. At first, it started out fine, he was friendly and was nice to talk to. Eventually, it turned into him complimenting my outfits and him going out of his way to say hi and have a chat.
I was beginning to get uncomfortable, but I did not want to lose this connection to the ‘real jobs’, so I just kept my mouth shut and didn’t say or think much of it. One day he managed to corner me in a hallway and began talking to me. He began to tell me how he thinks some of my fellow grad students were cute and how he desperately wanted to just go out with a woman. I’m keeping it brief, but much more was said, things that made me very uncomfortable. He ultimately left me by saying, if you know any women send them my way, you know I am a good guy, don’t you?. Mind you, this man was old enough to be my father.
I left feeling so uncomfortable and wanting to never speak to him again. I went home and talked with my best friends about it and they helped me decide I should say something about it. Before I went to say something, I remember looking up his career awards, as if the more awards he had meant he really was a ‘good guy’. I eventually told someone about it and he was told to not to talk to me again.
I still have to walk around the halls being scared I will run into him in the hallways and of course, he knows who said something, he was told to avoid me and ignore me completely. I am scared that he might go and tell his colleagues lies about me, making it difficult to get a job and make connections where I am now. Every part of my being wants to go to him and say ‘I’m sorry’. Because who knows, I could have hurt his career.
Now for the much more uplifting story.
I know myself enough to know, it is important for me to be happy. I have diagnosed depression, so sometimes happiness is hard to come by. If I find a path that makes those sad days fewer and far between, I will work for that.
I am currently a graduate research assistant working for the nicest mentor and overall a great person. She hired me even though she did not need me, she took a chance on me. Someday I will tell you about my graduate school journey, but let’s just say I did not have anywhere else to go and this was my only chance to get to a happier place. I had convinced myself I would be happy here, at least as a happy as a graduate student could be :P.
I have always had an interest in space, it had ebbed and flowed ever since I was a little girl, but recently a new spark has arisen and I know this: I need to go learn about space. This poses a problem, I am currently in the middle of work with my mentor. I have spent the last seven months working on research that was going to be my work from now until my retirement. So, I had to bring this up with my advisor and long story short, I am halting my research and beginning again because of my new plans for life.
My new plans involve leaving my current post in the near future. That means leaving my advisor, the one that believed in me and took me even though she really did not need me. She had great plans for me and my future and seems sad that I am leaving, which is understood. With everything in my being I want to say ‘I’m sorry’ because I changed my mind, but know there is no reason to say that, I am doing this for me. I should not be apologizing for what I need to do for myself, I need to hold my head high and keep her out of my mind.
Own who you are. Learn to not say I am sorry. Strive to be happy.
Until next time, Megan.