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random musings of a crazy cat lady

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Honey badgers in grad school/the old biddy honey badger speaks

We've had a epidemic of stressed-out students. They're crying at the drop of a hat and taking off without telling their advisor that they'll be out. I can guess at some of the causes (second year stress, job search stress) but I don't think I know the whole story.
As a result, my boss (G), our sabbatical visitor (C) and me are having lots of old fogie/biddy conversations about "back in the day", i.e. when we were in grad school in the early 90's. I haven't been doing this long enough to know if the students are really that different or if I am just looking at my grad school experience with rose colored glasses, since I did have a relatively easy time of it, and was in one of the top groups in the world for my subfield. However, I think the biggest issue is that we have a few students who aren't in touch with their inner honey badger yet, and they're the ones having issues.
Grad school is not for the faint of heart or easily discouraged. One must be sort of like a honey badger in that regard. You have to be determined to get through, you have to be somewhat thick-skinned, and there are times when you can't let the minor and not so minor setbacks get to you and just keep working and powering through. So what if you don't catch the cobra - go eat a few mice while you regroup and keep trying for the big game.
When I was in grad school the whole group was a veritable den of honey badgers, and our advisor was a total honey badger himself. Of the people who left the group without graduating, most had adequate chemistry skills but none were honey badgers. There were a few assholes in the group, but it was mostly just determined people. There were times that we clashed with each other but apart from the few major assholes it was usually done and forgotten very quickly. In a way, it was a relief to be surrounded by other honey badgers. Perhaps not coincidentally, a disproportionate number of my groupmates from that era have gone on to do very well for themselves.
Keep in mind that when I describe someone as a honey badger, I am using grit and determination as my main definition, not being an asshole. There are some honey badgers who are assholes, and more who aren't.
There are some honey badgers here in G's group, but I'd like to see more of it. I'm not sure if this is related to the way that the millenials were raised, with grade inflation, trophies for participation, helicopter parents and less freedom to fail and learn from the experience.

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