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sea glass by Audrey C. '24

turbulent waves in these parts

Sooo I wrote about pouring my heart out into a research conference submission in this blog. Last week01 well it's actually been two weeks at the time of publishing this blog since i like to let my writing marinate a bit before throwing it out there for the internet to judge. I got back reviews02 how the process for the conference I submitted to works: 1) you submit your paper. 2) three reviewers give you written feedback and a preliminary decision based on the current state of your paper. 3) you get a week to submit a rebuttal to address their feedback by conducting more experiments or counterarguing their claims. 4) you get a final decision of accept or reject for my paper, and man they were brutal.03 alexa play 'brutal' by olivia rodrigo

Which in part I’ve been expecting. I’ve always known that results could’ve been improved and more evaluations should’ve been done. Besides the could’ves and should’ves, I’m just an undergrad who had juggled this project on top of a full course load and other jobs/commitments. In contrast, the main job of PhD students and research scientists is to pump out papers. Conferences can only accept so many papers and don’t grant pity points to silly inexperienced undergrads, as reviews are done blindly.04 you don't know your reviewers and your reviewers don't know you or your institution  

My options were 1) submit a rebuttal to this conference, 2) withdraw from this conference and make minor changes to resubmit to another conference due in two days, and 3) withdraw and make major changes to submit to yet another conference due in a month. 

I chose… none of them. I chose to withdraw and to not resubmit anywhere else to avoid another semester of brimstone and fire, to avoid burning out before the semester has even started.

It’s been extraordinarily more difficult to reconcile with my own choice to stop than with the harsh reviews. I hate the feeling of giving up, of letting my mentors and co-authors down. And of letting myself down. Honestly, it probably would’ve affected me less to just power through with a rebuttal/resubmission than to deal with the cesspool of guilt and anxiousness festering through my chest. 

I’ve talked to one of my mentors and later my advisor about this, who were so kind to me as I melted into a puddle of tears trying to explain my silly feelings. Along with sharing sage advice and life stories, they reassured me that the choice to stop had been a valid, justified one.

“Ya know, I really don’t like that saying. The one about pressure turning coal into diamonds. Especially when it comes at the expense of your health and wellbeing.” 

I have yet to completely internalize their words, but writing/illustrating this blog are my efforts to try. Isn’t it ironic that in my attempt to look after myself, I’ve only brought upon more distress? But that also makes sense — it’s easier to continue hurtling through MIT with the dubiously healthy mindsets I’ve held for so long, than to finally break the inertia and deal with the ensuing shock and deformation. Learning how to truly take care of and be kind to myself remains a work in process.

They say pressure makes diamonds, but I don’t want my intermolecular bonds to be ripped apart and forced back together into a predefined lattice that I will no longer recognize as myself. I don’t want to emerge from MIT so hardened that I cut everything I touch. Instead I want to be like sea glass. I want to emerge from these waves not shattered, but smoothed into a soft caress. I’ll learn that I don’t have to be constantly pushing against the currents. Sometimes i’ll just let them wash over me.

wave imagery inspired by “little house in the sea” by @adamtots and @jdebbiel.

 

  1. well it's actually been two weeks at the time of publishing this blog since i like to let my writing marinate a bit before throwing it out there for the internet to judge. back to text
  2. how the process for the conference I submitted to works: 1) you submit your paper. 2) three reviewers give you written feedback and a preliminary decision based on the current state of your paper. 3) you get a week to submit a rebuttal to address their feedback by conducting more experiments or counterarguing their claims. 4) you get a final decision of accept or reject back to text
  3. alexa play 'brutal' by olivia rodrigo back to text
  4. you don't know your reviewers and your reviewers don't know you or your institution back to text