My 2019 Failure Resume
In 2010, Dr. Melanie Stefan wrote an article encouraging academics to create, and publish, a CV of their failures. She also published her own online- it’s 16 pages long. It includes professional failures, like degrees she didn’t incomplete or grants she didn’t get. It also includes more personal failures, such as, “I do not find a partner despite the fact I would like to start a family”.
In academia, we talk a lot more about our successes than our failures. This is even more true online, where we fear the eyes of our colleagues or potential employers. I am personally guilty of this- 2019 has been one of the hardest years of my life.
During particularly tough times, I will tweet older photos and experiences to keep my profile updated. Sometimes I will tweet nothing at all, which makes me feel guilty, since creating an online presence feels important for my future job prospects.
The reality is, our online personas are incomplete. They are a highlight reel, which is not representative of a life in science. We learn much more from our failures than our successes. Additionally, a failure resume can show others that successful people fail too. Dr. Stefan said:
“As scientists, we construct a narrative of success that renders our setbacks invisible both to ourselves and to others. Often, other scientists’ careers seem to be a constant, streamlined series of triumphs. Therefore, whenever we experience an individual failure, we feel alone and dejected.”
So, in the spirit of yearly reflection, here is my failure resume for 2019:
I struggled with the final course in my graduate career, eventually earning a grade I was not very happy with.
I published my first ever paper, despite over 6 years working in labs. I am only fourth author.
I observed homophobia and transphobia around me, and I tried to stand up and create change, but I failed to change anything. I ran out of energy to do anything else.
I applied for 3 different conferences that I was not accepted for / didn't get funding to attend.
I applied for a dream job and I did not get an interview.
I still did not graduate, even though I expected to in 2019.
I had my heart broken so terribly that I missed a week of school .This had a hand in the bad grade mentioned above.
I moved into a filthy, flea-ridden sublet. I spent many hours arguing with the landlord, and I lost quite a bit of money.
I had a falling out with more than one friend.
I rolled my ankle in both directions.
I experienced ongoing chronic back pain and carpal tunnel, which slowed me down in my work and hobbies.
Compiled like this, my failure resume seems a tad depressing! Like I said, 2019 was a hard year. But I got through it, and compiling my "failures" like this doesn't actually depress me- it shows me what I am capable of. This year, I learned how to stand up for myself when necessary. I also learned to say “no”, to ask for help, and to let myself rest when I need to. I got through so many challenges, and I am coming out of this year more resilient that ever.