Since forever I knew that I was smartish. I wasn’t the fastest runner or the most talented musician or the most graceful swimmer or the most likable. But I was smart. Added to a pathological shyness (yes, me) we moved around a lot as my dad got transferred from town to city to suburb to town and back. Nothing makes a shy child more shy than joining a new school every second year… Back then I still tried so hard to fit in. The first 29 years of my life I desperately tried. And then I turned 30 and decided that I like me and if you don’t it is your problem. It was my best birthday ever.
Either way. While the other kids shone at the aforementioned activities, I did well at school. Not straight A well though. That would’ve been wayyyyy too much work…
So after school I went to university and started my career as professional student. I did a BSc (Bachelors of Science) with Biochemistry and Genetics as majors. Then I got a bursary to do my Honours in Biochemistry. Then I couldn’t find work but was offered a bursary to do a Masters of Science (MSc) in Plantbiotechnology. After that I found a job 😉 and worked for the University of Stellenbosch and the University of Cape Town in scientific positions for the rest of my short career until I resigned to become a oncomom.
Since then (December 2008) I haven’t used my “professional brain” at all. The parenting one, yes. But not the logical*, scientific one.
While studying and working I went to lots of workshops, conferences, training sessions and so on. The typical topic of a presentation would be “Analysis of sucrose accumulation in the sugar cane culm on the basis of in vitro kinetic data” or “Human papillomavirus prevalence, viral load and pre-cancerous lesions of the cervix in women initiating highly active antiretroviral therapy in South Africa: a cross-sectional study”. These scientists would spend years working on their projects and then have 20 minutes to tell you all about it. And they were my colleagues. My bosses. My friends. I wasn’t the smartest among them by a long shot. A monstrously long shot, to be precise. But I had more people skills than a lot of them so it evened out in the end. I liked it.
Then I left my academic comfort zone. And I haven’t even read a scientific paper since.
Tomorrow I am starting a 4 day cancer workshop. It is going to be intellectual. There will be participants from all over the world and they will all be specialist in the oncology field. And then there will be me.
I am going because Cristina (our oncologist) invited me. She organises it. So apparently she thinks I will understand something. I am scared that I won’t. My scientific brain is so out of practice. I feel slow. I feel dumb. I suspect that the person sitting next to me will return from lunch wearing an “I’m with stupid—>” T-shirt. I suspect I will have earned the distinction.
So here I am, a veteran of the academic world, all nervy because I am attending a workshop. But do not fear, dear reader. I do not plan on letting either one of us down. I plan on dazzling my fellow-attendees with my personality while peeking at their notes. They will be amazed at how great minds (mine and theirs) think alike. It works for me!
*Wouter. Don’t say it. Just don’t.
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