Breaking Up (With Science) Is Hard to Do

Lots of people fall in love with scientific research, for all sorts of reasons. But for many, the relationship proves to be very hard, because academe can be a very difficult partner: demanding years of loyalty, devotion, and one-sided exclusivity but refusing to fork over such necessities of an equitable relationship as long-term commitment, honesty, and a decent share of household expenses.

For one unidentified former postdoc at an unnamed big shot university, the relationship became too toxic to endure. At Yes, Another Science Blog, she (at least internal evidence suggests it’s a she, not that it matters) explains her decision to break up with the love of her life. Her problem was not with science’s dalliances with other lovers or with its reluctance to make a commitment. The “final straw” was an ethical betrayal, of sorts, a preoccupation with appearances over substance. “You tried to convince me that, in order for us to tell our story to the world, we had to cover up the ugly bits, our struggles,” she writes to her former beloved. “We had to hide the things that happened that didn’t make sense. We couldn’t just be who we were in reality, we had to market ourselves.”

Now that she’s abandoned the toxic relationship, she is “happier now than I’ve been in 10 years.” It’s a touching and revealing “Dear John” letter that, sadly, could have been written by many others, for a range of reasons.

Don’t overlook the postdoc’s revealing correspondence with Lenny Teytelman, the blogger behind Yes, Another Science Blog, which follows the letter.

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