What the Hell am I Doing Here, Really?

There are occasions upon which one becomes dispirited, and begins to question their entire focus in life. For me, these occasions generally come hot on the heels of presentations, I simply cannot do them; not well, anyways. I will feel absolutely confident about the subject matter going-in to it, understand it all so well that I can literally explain the whole thing is my sleep the night before…and then I will get up there, in front of the class, and someone will ask me something. Some perfectly reasonable question which I didn’t foresee and to which I cannot immediately figure-out an answer. And I will just freeze, and stumble, and mutter, and the entire rhythm of my confidence will be thrown-off. How is it that “mastery”comes so easily to everybody else, but for me there are always a bunch of perfectly obvious questions that it does not even occur to me to ask?

Moreover, given that I am consistently incapable of thinking on my feet, how in the hell will I be able to pursue a career in academics? That is pretty much the only avenue available for the study of theoretical physics, but one cannot just study; one is also expected to teach. And it is not at all clear to me how I will ever be able to do that if I’m constantly melting away during public speaking.

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About thevenerablecorvex

I have the heart of a poet, the brain of a theoretical physicist, and the wingspan of an albatross. I am also notable for my humility.
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One Response to What the Hell am I Doing Here, Really?

  1. Obsessive, ridiculous, insane amounts of practicing. I grew up terrible at public speaking, but I spent every sunday volunteering at my local aquarium in none other than visitor education, for 5 years. Every Sunday, I was forced to engage in small one-on-one conversations, small, 10-20 minute presentations to 5-20 people, and eventually, 30 minute presentations to 200+ people. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. And “it” doesn’t have to be talking about your area of interest. It just has to be talking to people. I got really good at public speaking because of this. You just have to be persistent. I’m now *really* good in the role of “presenter” because it’s one-way communication. I’ve developed strategies that work for me about fielding questions, and eventually, you just get to a point where you’ve done it over and over and over again that saying “I don’t know but I think xyz because of abc” doesn’t terrify you so much.

    If you really do want to go into academia, and the presentation thing is freaking you out, go find a way where you are forced to practice. It’ll help. šŸ™‚

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