Category: An Introspective


Her lack of sleep rode shotgun on today’s commute. She had fought sleep then the alarm, to no avail, but she was wide awake now. It was mostly due to anxiety tying her stomach in knots, though honestly the “how” was less than important. As long as self-doubt didn’t run away with her she was sure she could make it though the day. Well, almost.

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A quarter. I can remember buying brightly colored LafyTafy squares for a quarter, such a small thing, but I cannot let go of the analogy. How insignificant they seemed unless there were many of them. This is how I am feeling at the moment, like a small thing, and I am not comfortable with it at all.

Why do I liken myself to a bright silly piece of candy? Because I am a women in science, and like that candy I represent about a quarter. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015) women on average make up 23.75% of STEM jobs ranging from 12% in civil engineering to 39% of chemists and material scientists. While this is something that I have always known it has only recently become my daily truth. This is because while women earn around half of the STEM degrees, at the Bachelor level and over 40% of advanced STEM degrees, we do not hold anywhere near 50% of STEM jobs (NSF: Women, Minorities, and Personswith Disabilities in Science and Engineering statistics last updated in 2016). My transition out of academics and into the biotech world has put a very fine point on this fact. I am currently the only woman in the company, granted its a four person company, but I now face that 25% every day.

What I am not saying is that I deserve a larger piece of the pie. What I am saying, however, is that until more women are in the STEM workforce we will continue to feel isolated and small. Part of these feelings are my own self-doubt, I assure you, but the facts are real. I am a quarter. I will carry this number with me as I grow in my career and in this new job. It is a number which will constantly motivate me to reach out and engage other women in STEM. This number will be my battle cry!

Stargazer

She was staring at the sky, childlike. Her head thrown back and eyes open wide, willing each point of light to stand out from the deep dark night. From afar it might have appeared as if she was searching, so intense was her focus. This was not, however, the case. She was found. As overwhelming as the galaxy was, in that moment it did not cause her to lose her nerve. The infinite possibility, instead, seemed a comfort. Welcoming and challenging in equal measure. This moment, the night, and even the possibility was hers for the taking.

Blinking at last, she shook her head. Trying to clear both her mind and her starfilled eyes, but the damage was done. A knowing smile replaced her look of wonder as she turned back to the heavens. Now, now she wouldn’t be satisfied till she reached out and touched one.

Deep breath.

Exhale.

But the thunder still comes, fast and loud, as the storm builds.

Blink.

Straighten your posture.

Uncross your arms.

Breathe again.

More thunder. Heat rising in waves, keeping time like a metronome, setting the pace of my indignation.

I try to get a word in edgewise, to no avail.

I rearrange my expression.

Confusion. Anger. Hurt. Dismay.

Go with confusion.

When the words stop the thunder doesn’t. Though I’ve swallowed the heat of my anger it’s not gone.

Her words stick to me like acid rain eating and burning away at my resolve. Was it me?

We’ll never be friends. Fact. Statement. Promise.

I’m engulfed in fire I don’t care to extinguish, and just as fire tempers steal I can sense a hardening in parts of me.

Blink. Lest the smolder in my eyes flares up.

Breathe. So the thunder can continue its rhythm.

Peace. It’s not mine to fix.

It’s quick, the shift from unknowing to knowing. It happens light switch fast, and is just as blinding as light after dark. Trapped is more than the word can portray. Trapped is knowledge of limits, is the feeling of unbalanced, is the need for air. It widens eyes, harshens sounds, lengthens seconds, and crystalizes thoughts. When the revelation hit… the world shuddered, it suddenly held itself between the blink and the breath, both waiting and poised. The next moment, so critical, was drawn thin to the point of becoming brittle. A crackable thing. Fragile but complete.

Then we both moved.

Up thoughts

Alice in Wonderland all rights to Disney


She stood on tiptoe her nose barely reaching over the edge of the table. The treats were so tempting sitting in their cut crystal bowl screaming “eat me”, but still she wavered. Some small animalistic lobe of the brain alerting her to the danger of too perfect an opportunity. Quickly she glanced side to side, sure she was about to be found out for the uninvited interloper she was, but no one looked or noticed. Quick as a flash tiny hand took tiny treat. The jolt of adrenaline added to the flavor making the sugar complex and wonderful. Wildly she enjoyed the stolen morsel, and having eaten her treasure sank to the floor… deflated. No one had noticed or cared. Emptiness filled her stomach and inch by inch swollowed her, mind and all. Everything now felt sharp and disjointed as if it had become over large or ungainly. She sat with her new feelings and confused by them began searching for explanation. She had gotten what she wanted, right? 

Yes, it had been exquisite in both anticipation and reality. So why did she now feel even smaller? 

The thoughts made her want to wipe her hands off, as if this mindset could be cleared away so easily. 

Maybe, no. Perhaps the real want had not yet been met. 

Immediately her searching switched to scanning. The treats were little, the pleasure they brought had been little, and the motive tiny. She would need something much bigger to make the smallness go away. Ruby and amber flashes winked at her from smoky glass decanters daring her to “drink me”. This, she thought, was no little thing this was big. The big action of a big person who people would notice. Decided she went for the decanter thinking only up thoughts. The flush of success, so newly acquired, slipped away as the liquid passed parted lips. It seared and burned on the way down pulling her after. 

Up it seemed was still out of reach.

Today I came undone. It was an interesting feeling akin to screaming from a dream, pointless and jarring. My words were nothing more than pathetic echoes reverberating out of me, attached to nothing, devoid of meaning. Scales fell from my eyes, liquid fire, blinding me to the light. As I stood in the maelstrom, begging it to strike harder, I paid willingly in pounds of flesh. Eased by the warm rush of blood. Calmed by the whiring in my ears.

My masks lay at my feet strewn like flowers, representations of things I dare not name. They are my most and least honest appendage in one. The masks repel and call to me with the same voice. It’s familiar, and my fingers itch to pull them up, obedient as always.

An acrid taste upon my tongue sours my stomach. Perhaps this pill wasn’t meant for swallowing, but the hour is late and I’ve already decided. So while Fate looms chill and shadowy behind me, a shark, keen in bloody water, I drop my arms, stand firm, and adjust my posture. I am ready to continue because continue is what I do.

Swan Song

Thank you to everyone who read a post, tweet, or story. It ment the world to me. You allowed me to be the person I wish I was; strong, opinoiated, brave, outspoken, and whole. You gave me a community when I felt so very isolated and a soapbox to reach out across the globe. I have made friends and connections that I would never have dreamed possible, but mostly being this version of myself helped me live with who I really am. I am a coward. I am weak, broken, and easily manipulated. I cannot lie to you or myself anymore so I am bowing out. It comes with tears, I am sure there will be a void where Jess aka b00kreader existed within me, but I cannot be this person so I have to let her go. Please do not feel I have lied about everything because I haven’t my name is Jessica, I went to grad school in South Carolina, and I am a postdoc at DFCI, but I am tired and beat down not scrappy and hungry. The part of me that is so ashamed of not being the person I presented to you is still happy I tried even if it was only a virtual try. Thank you for letting me pretend with you it was amazing while it lasted!

​I am Science. Define me.

I am no regal lady like Justice or Liberty.

I cannot be swayed like Luck or personified as “She”.

I stand without gender, color, or creed

For all questions and every need.

I am the breaker of barriers, the truth teller, the seed;

Fruit from the knowledge tree.

Yet so few can actually see

What is instilled in me.

I am patient not self seeking.

Jealous of your time without envy,

But at my core I am constant and freeing.

So do not allow yourself to be blinded politically 

Or silenced by ambition and folly.

Instead strive forward deliberately.

To challenge all who would dare to bar entry

Those whom ardently wish to stand sentry 

Over facts and figures approaching infinity.

Put your labels aside, throw away the lock and key.

Welcome criticism, evolution, and diversity.

For I am Science, defined by what I can be.

So for a month now I have been listening to the Hamilton Mixtape…and I still have a few questions mainly is it playing chess or checkers?

I’m a child of the 80/90s and therefore all too awear of mixtapes and how much they can mean (recording off the radio was my most brag worthy skill back in the day). For me mixtapes only came in a handful of flavors. They could be a way to recreate an incredible moment (like a first kiss). They can be made for some special event (think prom or road trip). They can tell someone that you like them, love them, or that it’s time to break up. Thus after listening the Hamilton Mixtape I began asking myself what purpose does this collection of songs have? What is the Mixtape saying?

Checkers

Perhaps the most obvious thing the Mixtape was saying is “Yay Hamlet!” But in all seriousness Hamilton (the Musical) has exploded, pretty much world wide, and as so few people have had the opportunity to share in the spectale perhaps Lin was just sharing his original idea with us. Maybe this Mixtape is yet another way to feel conected to the Musical. This however seems overly simplified because we already had the cast album.

My next thought was that Lin just wanted to tell us all that he likes us. However, when I gave “I like you” mixtapes out what I was usually doing, in reality, was asking “Do you like me?” It seems unlikely that with all of his adoring fans Mr. Miranda would be asking that particular question.

So that left breaking up. Could Lin possibly be breaking up with us? There were signs. Quite a few of the songs were sad in nature and some even seem perfect for a breakup mixtape (I’m looking at you You’ll Be Back and Burn). 

Then it dawned on me. Hamilton: An American Musical is is about America then told by Americans today. What beautiful allegory would it be if Hamilton: The Mixtape which talks about America then was really about America today. *Mind figuratively blown* I started listening differently to the songs. Could this be real? Is Mr. Miranda asking us to not only look back to avoid past mistakes, but also darring us to have an eye to the future? These familiar songs changed in an instant. 

Chess

Somewhere between the wake up call in No John Trumbull (things are not what they seem), and the sad but hopeful wish (that the world can be as good as I hope it can) I hear in the Dear Theodosia reprise he touched on it all. Mr. Miranda has compiled a collection of songs that asks us to recognize the stain on our country’s history that is slavery, the disservice that has been done to hard working immigrants, and the fact that different isn’t always seen as good. However, when I really listen to the words on this Mixtape I hear a promise that no matter how bad things get each of us has the tools to find our way out so long as we do not give up. If I may go a step further it also suggests that we all get our moment, and while you wait for it don’t be idle, be patient…and ready.

Maybe I’m reaching and all Lin and the amazing artists who lent their voices to carry these messages wanted to do was entertain us. If that’s the case, mission accomplished. However if the idea was to challenge today’s me-centric mentality to look ahead at what seeds we are planting then checkmate sir.

I can only hope that he is right “The harder the conflict the more glourous the triumph”.

Stay relentless!

All rights to the owner of the image whom I thank

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