I just got back from a trip to Pittsburgh to see my classmate, labmate and scholastic role model defend her PhD. In the last year I've really come to value being able to support and care for people that I care about, so it was awesome to celebrate this big moment with her. It was also perfect timing for me to dig through my notebooks regarding the resubmission of my primary manuscript, and to catch up with tons of people in the department.
I've been struggling for a long time to explain what I am doing and how it is going, and it felt even harder to drudge up the words and confidence to discuss it with faculty who have seen my career develop. Some people can take "I'm self-employed" as a reasonable answer, but my letter writers cut me off with a skeptical "What does that mean?" And then I mumble about having some contracts, and networking.... even though this is an arrangement I am reasonably happy with*, I can tell no one else is impressed. Or understands. It's hard for that not to undercut my fragile confidence.
Fortunately, I was staying with a good friend who reminded me that the reason I've having a hard time describing what I am doing is because I have so many things going on. I can't figure out which is the priority at this point (contracting? interning? being a board member? seeking out new training?). Of course, I should work on this. Being able to tell my story in a way that helps people connect, asks for help or implies confidence is important. But until I can get that story streamlined, it's ok if I don't feel like a failure anyway.
*I turned 29 recently. I'm not normally a very age focused person, but realizing that I'm not yet thirty and I don't have my career in order seems ok. Normal even. I would LIKE to get my career in order, but I've got time.