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    #247346 - 07/15/20 02:13 AM Career/taking control of my life at 26
    raphael Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 06/23/20
    Posts: 16
    Dear everyone,

    First of all please excuse my English. I am a French/German national and am almost certain you will find some mistakes in my post (if you feel like it, please correct them, I am always happy to learn).
    My IQ has not been tested but I am quite certain that I am gifted. I identify with all 5 overexcitabilities (psychomotor, sensory, intellectual, imaginational, emotional). I went straight from kindergarden to 2nd grade upon counsel from teachers/school director.
    In school I was quite assiduous while being very reserved. I have dealt with some minor bullying, but looking back to it I was mostly respected by my peers. However, I always felt "different", not in a positive way. Like I had trouble establishing meaningful connections with peers. I mostly tried to fit in by acting as "normal" as possible. Looking back to it, I was pulling the brake a lot of the time.
    I graduated high school as the best student in my class while being the youngest (16 1/2). I was especially good in the natural sciences (mathematics, physics, biology). However, I mostly felt like I completed school assignments to "please the teachers". School was to me, completing homework/passing tests, and I had trouble linking school concepts to the world around me, or simply didn't feel the interest to do so (e.g. calculating the acceleration of skier of mass m and down a slope of angle alpha in physics. Never actually cared what acceleration actually means as a "concept".)
    I enrolled in engineering school in France at 16 1/2 while being very insecure about that (didn't really feel like "I chose"). I started skipping most of the classes. Spent a lot of time playing computer games, watching movies, hanging around with friends and, unfortunately, smoking a lot of weed and sporadiously engaging into the binge drinking which was quite common in my age group at the time.
    I had mediocre grades (except for one exam in 2nd year physics which I had first failed and had to take a 2nd time. Probably the only exam where I actually gave everything I had, and ended up having a very good grade).
    After 2 years I wanted to get out of there because I couldn't handle the skipping/smoking. I felt pretty confused and wanted to start over. Enrolled in a psychology curriculum back in Germany.
    I skipped a bit less but looking back to it, didn't feel really challengend. I got rather good grades but repeated same patterns as in high school (only do what's necessary. Very rarely truly "dived" into the subject).
    Outside of university, I enjoyed playing music and was in a band for a while.
    At 20, first crisis. Decided to stop smoking weed. Started having crying outbursts. Decided to do psychotherapy, which partly helped, but partly I think I tricked myself and the therapist into intellectual overanalysing instead of pointing out the real problem - procrastination, general avoidance of taking responsibility for my life.
    After first trying to get the easiest subject possible BA thesis subject possible - second crisis, what the hell am I doing. Went for a more hairy subject in psychological methods, which got me rolling a bit more while I had now trouble dealing with overperfectionistic tendencies (crying almost every day in the university library). Then went straight for all advanced master classes, instead of doing the introductory lectures. That made me feel like I had to put some effort, but I only did so for my own assignments; when it came to listening to other people's presentations I felt like I "didn't understand anything"; overcomplicated thoughts running through my head; also think that I was feeling quite bored by the subject at times.
    After that, left with 4 exams and a master thesis to complete, spiralled back into dropout behaviour. No structure in my life. Partying, drugs, that kind of stuff. Overthinking, being lost. Started working in social science research. Started a second psychotherapy after having suicidal thoughts. General doubt about my studies - generated new ideas, for example studying environmental sciences. Never followed through with it.
    Long phase of introspection through therapy. Understood that I was feeling a lot of guilt the whole time because of "not studying enough". While guilt never helps, remorse can still be a sign that something is wrong. This whole time, I didn't have or develop the internal drive to exploit my abilities by putting regular effort into my endeavours. Also understood that choosing psychology was partly out of interest partly avoiding natural sciences (maths, computer science), which are intuitively what I am interested in, because I didn't make it as a teenager in engineering school and until today, cannot be sure if it is because of a lack of abilities, or a lack of self-discipline and motivation, and the inability to handle studying at a quite young age.
    Fast forward to today. I finally passed my last exam (after failing it the first time because of insufficient studying, lack of interest/motivation in learning stuff by heart, and lack of study strategies for overcoming the lack of motivation).
    I am interested in things related to AI (intuitively). Directly related to my field, are (computational) neuroscience/psychiatry research or psychometrics. However, I lack the training in mathematics or computer science to be good in the field. I question my interest in psychiatry because, having been through phases of suicidal thoughts, it is painful to dive into the subject for me. I don't feel a real interest in psychometrics. I see that the more promising applications of machine learning algorithms are in bioinformatics/medical research or climate research, if thinking about the classical scientific setting, or data science if thinking about the industry (which I feel a bit less drawn to).
    However I won't have the required degree to make it to there. I tend to worry a lot about all of this, compare myself to what others have already achieved at my age. I tend to spend a lot of time imagining what I could possibly become "one day", instead of doing "what I have to do", as my therapist said: get my degree, and then I'll have new options opening up. [I had various phases of general self-doubt about science in general. In phases of dropping out, I thought about becoming a writer, a musician... caused a lot of overthinking because I was seeing choices at the small scale of a student as deterministic for "the rest of my life", which, as I start to understand, is just a stupid way of thinking somehow engrained into part of the population. Hard to get rid of though.]
    Options just don't feel great at the moment. Makes me feel kind of helpless. Like a labyrinth I have gotten into when I was 16 and I am trying to get out of ever since. At least, I have better eating/sleeping habits, have quit all drugs except nicotine and an occasional beer. Also started discovering that I can actually enjoy sports/physical activity after being rather lazy on that side in earlier years.

    TL;DR: skipped 1st grade, very good at high school, former engineering school dropout and weed smoker, struggling to finish a psychology degree while already thinking about new fields or challenges to discover, trying to become a more consistent person.

    My questions are:
    - how relevant is my introspection into the reasons for my behaviour? [overprotective parenting; tendency to "refrain" my abilities in school; mild bullying; lack of self-discipline] and how much am I maybe enjoying the introspection for the sake of it, rather than letting go and finding challenging activities for myself?
    - how much should I try to "exploit my abilities as much as I can"? And how much should I accept my life path for what it has been, and that it is okay if I am not the stellar physics student doing a PhD while working for the UN Global Pulse lab and developing algorithms for satellite image analysis or medical X-Ray image segmentation?
    - related: how much should I push if I feel that this is more who I want to be, rather than a guy generally struggling with consistency in his life? [Because this also means - and I already feel it sometimes - getting distanced from old friends, and wanting to meet new and more "motivated" people.
    - how can I be confident about who I am and want to become, and get rid of the labels that go with it (e.g. "I am a nerd, no one likes nerds, etc.)?
    - how do I build back confidence after feeling like I failed at university?
    - how do I become more aware of my needs? I tend to feel obliged to finish a job even if it bores me, instead of more actively taking control of my career. E.g. I could have switched from psychology after the bachelor, but felt like: "I started this. Now I have to finish it". I have now a job as a research assistant in a digital mental health startup. Until now it has been very boring, and it is hard to keep focus when I'm working. How do I tell my boss that I need more difficult assignments? How do I stop being satisfied with doing "the easy things"?

    I'll leave to that for now, I am happy to open a discussion on my case and to answer any more precise questions.


    Hope the message wasn't too long.

    Regards,

    Raphael

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    #247348 - 07/16/20 06:39 PM Re: Career/taking control of my life at 26 [Re: raphael]
    MumOfThree Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/07/11
    Posts: 1648
    Loc: Australia
    Raphael, it is so good to see that you have worked very hard to be aware of your own internal processes and less helpful behaviors and tried to address those patterns in your life. You sound quite balanced in your own self description, aware of both strengths and weaknesses. I don't feel qualified to give you very much advice, but I did think that you might find it helpful to read this article:

    https://www.davidsongifted.org/search-database/entry/a10421

    Perhaps you will find it helps you understand some of your patterns of behavior or difficulties better?

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    #247355 - 07/18/20 09:51 AM Re: Career/taking control of my life at 26 [Re: raphael]
    raphael Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 06/23/20
    Posts: 16
    Thanks for the feedback (nice to hear that I at least sound balanced to an external person, even if I regularly do not feel so on the inside). And thanks for the article. I do see myself (partly) in the described population, partly I see that a lot of the innternal factors (especially perfectionism, low self-esteem, self-regulatory problems, and also some asynchronous development) have played a role in my life so far.

    My remaining concerns are
    - procrastination
    - career choice: I entered psychology with an interest for clinical problems. Given my history, I just feel tired, even exhausted with the subject. However, I sometimes feel like I am "chickening out" if I try and go into a different direction. If anyone has similar experience with leaving a field (and somehow, a "project" that has been the center of one's life or dreams), I am happy to exchange about it.

    Cheers,

    Raphael

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    #247358 - 07/18/20 03:42 PM Re: Career/taking control of my life at 26 [Re: raphael]
    Eagle Mum Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/24/20
    Posts: 64
    Loc: Australia
    I know of individuals who’ve successfully changed careers in their 30’s.
    In Australia, med schools have a significant proportion of mature age students who embark on their courses at your age or even older.

    So at 26, with a range of skills, work & life experiences and personal insights, to an outside observer, you appear to be in a reasonably good position to decide what you want to do wrt your career and life.

    Only you know what fields interest you and how much effort you’re willing to invest, but if you do stay in your current job, IMO, it would be appropriate to let your supervisor know that you are keen for opportunities to expand your skill set. Job & financial security are very important, but at your age and from what you post about yourself, a position which is mentally rewarding as well seems to be indicated.

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    #247363 - 07/21/20 01:52 PM Re: Career/taking control of my life at 26 [Re: raphael]
    aeh Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/26/14
    Posts: 3684
    Originally Posted By: raphael
    If anyone has similar experience with leaving a field (and somehow, a "project" that has been the center of one's life or dreams), I am happy to exchange about it.

    I made a similar transition, but in the other direction. I left a doctoral program in a STEM field to go, ultimately, into my current branch of psychology, which I have found, on the whole, to be personally quite satisfying. My training program in this field was also the first time in my formal education that I was not young for grade, and thus automatically perceived as the young prodigy of the group, which was also an instructive and personally-enriching experience in its way.

    I will say what I usually do to people of any age questioning whether they should embark on something new because of the time already invested or the time to be invested: in three years (or five or ten...), if you don't make this change, you'll be in the same place you are in right now...but the three (or...) years will have passed all the same. If you make a change, at least you will have taken some action to change your own trajectory.

    Please do, though, take some time to reflect on the moments, thoughts, activities, circumstances, people, etc. that bring you joy, give you a sense of fulfillment and purpose, and help you to feel the most authentically yourself. I encourage you to look for patterns in those moments, and try to assemble a picture of the elements (personal, educational, career, etc.) that would contribute the most to a healthy, compassionate, and purposeful life for you. Keep in mind, too, that there are many different subfields within psychology and related domains. Retuning your focus may not mean discarding all of the credits you've accumulated.

    On a different note, as to procrastination: I have a lot of personal experience with this, too. smile For myself, I've found it helpful to be honest about the conditions under which I work best, and create systems for accountability that maintain those conditions when I need them. For instance, I work rather well to deadlines, but know not to allow work to pile up to the point that it feels overwhelming, so I've positioned myself in a field that has a lot of built-in deadlines running on short enough periods that I rarely am allowed to get so far behind that it feels like it's too much. I also have developed checklists, reminders, and organizational strategies over time that work for me. You will have different ones, of course. But the single most important factor has been that I care about the outcomes of my work, and don't want it to be poor quality, so even when I feel like procrastinating (or, more accurately, don't feel like doing a particular task), I feel a sense of responsibility toward the people who will be affected by how accurately and promptly I perform my work.

    When you find the kind of work that matters to you during this season of your life, you will also find additional internal resources for managing procrastination.
    _________________________
    ...pronounced like the long vowel and first letter of the alphabet...

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    #247366 - 07/21/20 04:34 PM Re: Career/taking control of my life at 26 [Re: raphael]
    Eagle Mum Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/24/20
    Posts: 64
    Loc: Australia
    Such great pearls of wisdom from Aeh, further posts are hardly necessary, but I’d forgotten that as a new member, your posts would have taken a little longer to show up, therefore my first reply was made without being able to see your second post which precedes it, so this is something of an addendum (to Aeh & to my first post).

    I have learnt to harness the power of procrastination - by strenuously procrastinating task A on my ToDo list, I can often complete tasks B-F. Then, riding on the strong wave of triumphant emotion resulting from multiple accomplishments, I usually find it easy to tackle task A.

    I do know what it feels like to leave a field, which was the center of my dreams. I was quite gifted at maths and, throughout all my years at school, believed that I would eventually have a maths related career. I attended a school which, for the past 25 years, has regularly produced team members for the International Maths Olympiad, but I was the school’s first ever finalist and, on only my own steam back then, did not make the team. The crushing disappointment enabled my parents to persuade me onto a path to a different career. I mourned my lost dream, suffered a crisis of self-identity and struggled with tertiary study course materials which didn’t interest me.

    It was a sobering experience to land in the workplace, responsible for the care of very sick patients. It was literally a momentous realisation that I just needed to knuckle down and focus on doing the best possible job because other people were dependent. I worked very, very hard (average of 70-80+ hrs/wk for 50 paid hours) and acquitted myself more than satisfactorily. Eventually, after I married, I did find a career niche with better work-life balance and at present, as a mid-career, working parent of three kids, I can’t say that I have any true regrets, though I can still clearly remember (and empathise with you) the feelings at a major cross road.

    ETA: I still find ways to enjoy maths even though my formal work only occasionally includes a little bit of statistics. I’ve informally shown my kids, nephews, nieces, friends’ kids how to approach problem solving. I’m very chuffed whenever a young person says to me ‘I wish my teacher explained things the way you do’.



    Edited by Eagle Mum (07/23/20 02:21 PM)

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    #247373 - 07/23/20 03:59 PM Re: Career/taking control of my life at 26 [Re: raphael]
    Eagle Mum Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/24/20
    Posts: 64
    Loc: Australia
    One more thing - if you change direction, what you’ve learned is unlikely to be wasted. A broad range of knowledge & understanding usually serves the owner well. This would also be true in the field of bioinformatics for which you’ve expressed an interest.

    One specific bioinformatics example which springs from memory, was discovering that a commercial software system for massively parallel sequencing did not flag some clinical instances of pathogenic deletions. The bioinformatics experts explained that this was because tandem repeat polymorphisms are quite common, so the system was programmed to ignore length variations in sequences with repeating motifs. It was difficult for these computing experts, who had no understanding of physiology, to appreciate that one cannot apply a general rule which ignores deletions & duplications in coding regions of DNA because these are likely to produce frameshifts resulting in absent or non functioning proteins, leading to serious inheritable disorders.

    A ‘Jack of All Trades & Master of None’ may often be better equipped to identify and troubleshoot problems, or recognise opportunities for improvement or development, than those who are experts in a very narrow field.

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    #247374 - 07/23/20 04:31 PM Re: Career/taking control of my life at 26 [Re: Eagle Mum]
    aeh Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/26/14
    Posts: 3684
    Yes! I firmly believe that nothing is wasted--no experience, no education, no struggle. All of it goes into who you become as a nuanced, mature, thoughtful human being, with unique contributions to society and to the individual people and moments you may encounter in your daily life. Some of the skills will have direct applicability in different fields, many of the ways of thinking or research will transfer--and even improve on conventional thinking in your new field, and all of your experiences will build into your specific, unreproducible perspective.
    _________________________
    ...pronounced like the long vowel and first letter of the alphabet...

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    #247377 - 07/24/20 01:37 AM Re: Career/taking control of my life at 26 [Re: raphael]
    MumOfThree Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/07/11
    Posts: 1648
    Loc: Australia
    A few years ago I was talking to a fellow parent at a school event. He was a professor of medicine. We were talking about our children and the future of study and work. He talked about a student he clearly remembered fondly. She had been an excellent medical student but at a certain point felt she just wasn't sure it was for her. She came to him for advice, after all of her years of study and effort was she mad to go off and study law? How could she justify the "waste" of so many years of study (extremely expensive study). He encouraged her to follow her interest not her "sunk costs", and clearly kept an eye on what she was up to.

    The point of this story was that a few years later he was contacted by a company looking for a very rare and very specific skill set. They needed a person who was genuinely qualified in the area of medicine she had been pursuing AND law. He was quite smug about being able to say "Well I can think of only ONE person, I'll give you her name."

    It's a painful reality that many people don't have the privilege of these kinds of educational choices. And nor do you want to be flip flopping through education never reaching ANY outcomes. But I could not agree more with AEH nothing is wasted, and diverse study interests and background can produce unique skill sets that make you perfect for something you, or other people, may not have imagined yet.

    There is a balance that must be found between fruitlessly chasing "Do what you love" and refusing to accept anything other than the one dream (or being confused because you don't have a clear dream career), vs realising that it is definitely better to do something you can be really invested in and build a life around, and being willing to make a change.

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    #247430 - 08/01/20 12:31 AM Re: Career/taking control of my life at 26 [Re: raphael]
    Aufilia Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/25/14
    Posts: 336
    Loc: Washington
    I'm in agreement. I have 4 college degrees that are only glancingly related to what I actually do for a living. I got my first job in this by embellishing my credentials and showing a knack for picking up new skills quickly. That was 17ish years ago and I have quite a nice career doing a thing I didn't know existed when I was in grad school. This is, honestly, the sort of successes being a gifted adult gets you in real life.

    Quote:
    That made me feel like I had to put some effort, but I only did so for my own assignments; when it came to listening to other people's presentations I felt like I "didn't understand anything"; overcomplicated thoughts running through my head; also think that I was feeling quite bored by the subject at times.


    Do some reading about "imposter syndrome". When I discovered this was a thing it really changed my whole concept of myself. I now work in a company that has tried carefully to cultivate an environment where people feel say to admit what they don't know, and it's amazing how even the cleverest people I work with, who do great work and ask snappy questions in meetings and so on, really don't actually know more than me.

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