Thursday, August 16, 2012


A long time ago, I wrote that I didn't consider myself brave.I still don't think the behavior I describe in that post - never giving in, yelling and screaming if anyone tries to make me do something I'm not comfortable with, etc - is actually brave. The thing is, I do it because not acting that way is even scarier for me.

But, just recently, I realized that I've started to show true bravery. Thing is, I used to act angry and defiant in situations I had no power to escape from. But as I've gotten older, I've begun to get the power to leave these situation instead, and that's what I've started doing. I've started telling myself that I should get better at spotting early on that a situation isn't going to work and getting out of there before it gets so upsetting. I told myself that the good thing about being an adult is the power to leave when you need to leave.

So, in effect, I now have another option besides fighting back - I can run away. I can avoid the thing that upsets me, and look for other things to do. Sometimes, this is the best option.

But running away is cowardly. I've gotten to be afraid of my own meltdowns, afraid of what I'll do, of how others will react. (In particular, afraid they'll call the police.) I'm also afraid of how being in that situation will affect me - my year in high school set back my healing and worsened my self-injury. One of the big reasons I decided to quit my volunteering program, by the way, was because after one rough day there, I began feeling self-conscious about acting weird in a public grocery store. It faded pretty quickly, but I was afraid that I'd start feeling that way permanently if I stuck with it too long.

But last year in biology 100, I did something I'd never managed to do before - I fixed a conflict. And that took real courage.

In my biology class, we had the regular class and we had a lab. The class was fine, though more difficult than I expected. The lab, however, was poorly taught. We were supposed to come up with hypotheses that would be tested by the experiment they planned to run. This is a bad way to do things. You should either give them the hypothesis instead of making them think one up, or let them design the experiment. In real science, the hypothesis comes before the experimental design, not after.

But anyway. I was grouped with several students who'd designed a self-confirming hypothesis - one that there was no possible way to disconfirm it because the definitions were the same as the predictions. I pointed this out, they didn't agree. We finally called over the lab instructor to help us figure it out.

And she took their side! I was furious. Here she was, trying to teach new scientists, when she didn't know one of the most basic things about how to do science. And here these other students were, being educated in a way that let them get through with a similar failing in their basic understanding of science. And these people would be the ones helping to inform our society of how reality actually works, when their method for testing it was flawed to begin with.

So I sort of had a tantrum, and stormed out of the class. And then I was in a serious dilemma, because I didn't want to drop out of biology just because the lab wasn't working, but I felt certain that I'd never be able to handle another lab with that person. I already thought I was going to be in big trouble for how I acted, which is why, when it was fresh in my mind, I wrote down my version of what happened and set it aside to figure out what to do.

And then the department head got involved, wanting to know what had happened. Apparently the lab instructor had called him, in tears, after that disastrous lab. I was terrified, but resolved that somehow I had to make this work out. We had several meetings back and forth.

Turns out the lab instructor is new to the country, and though she doesn't have a hint of an accent, her English isn't all that good. Turns out biologists use the words a little differently, with a theory only applying to very broad concepts like evolution, and a hypothesis being a smaller theory instead of a testable application of a theory. Turns out we were both confusing each other with our use of the same words to mean different things.

I still don't think she was a very good teacher, because whether she understands the scientific method, the others I was working with certainly didn't, and she didn't correct their mistake. But at least I haven't found a graduate student in a science field who doesn't understand the scientific method, which gives me hope that even if they don't learn it in biology 100, they'll have to figure it out eventually in order to get far in science. It was enough that I could handle the rest of the term, muddling my way through an assignment I'd missed the announcement of and not doing as well as I should have on the final exam. But I passed, and that's the important part.

(And one really good thing came out of biology 100. All that talk of ATP and ADP brought back memories of the Creatures series, and I decided to get those games and restart playing it. Which led to finding out about Grandroids, and becoming a backer, and therefore getting involved in one of the most interesting and possibly historically important things I've been involved in.)

So I know what being courageous looks like for me. It's sticking it through when it gets rough, without falling apart emotionally, or running away. It's OK if I'm not always courageous. But it's something to work towards, because I can't always pick up and run. If I do that in some situations, I'll let down people who matter a great deal to me. And change doesn't come from the ones who run away.


Blogger Adelaide Dupont said...

And I learnt something too, reading this post, how biologists use the word hypothesis.

So it's a smaller theory.

It's great to have new tools in your kit!

8:35 PM  

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