Recently I had some business cards with my personal contact information printed up to help me network more effectively and remain in touch with the awesome people involved in science and technology that I've been meeting. As these aren't for work, per se, they have a picture of a Velociraptor skeleton, a quote from Mark Twain ("The more you explain it the more I don't understand it." A good reminder to keep things simple and short, I think), and "Awesome Scientist #17" as my job title, even though it doesn't signify exactly where I work. I'm not sure exactly who the other 16 are. About this time, I realized something: people think I'm smart. This is strange.
I don't know that I'm smart. I don't feel any differently and I cannot imagine being any other way. Frankly, most of the time I feel stupid because there is so much that I do not know and that which I have captured in my mind is so insignificant compared to how much awesome there is to learn. I only know that I am smart by interacting with other people and seeing the reflection thereof. I used to be more reclusive and introverted, counting bacteria by day (doing science) and making music alone at night, but now I have been forcing myself out of that bubble and taking on challenges and actually talking to real people*, doing SCIENCE in the new lab job, and dropping awesomeness and scientific knowledge through the informal molecular biology classes I've been teaching in the Makerspace (Youtube soon). Through all of this, I have come to realize that people actually value my knowledge, experience, perspective, and opinion. I have more opinions than anything else, but it's still a bit strange because I still feel as though I haven't done anything truly awesome that deserves any respect yet.
I probably never will. I realize this, because I know that my ambitions and analytical nature will never let me rest because there will always be more science and/or awesome always going up or something else shiny will captivate my interest. The positive side of this, I think (self-delude?) is that it'll keep me busy, and that's a very good thing as a bored Toaster digs out his backpack of tools and starts taking things apart. The other positive of this is that by taking on more, I hold myself to doing more and am forced to learn how to synthesize all the enzymes to help masticate all that I've bitten off. I used to read scientific papers for fun, but now my boss sends me papers faster than I can read them. I used to make music just for my own enjoyment, but after doing in impromptu live set I have been volunteered to make live music at an art show in 10 days (and all I have prepped are 2 remixes of the Leekspin song). I used to tinker using just my own limited tools and experience, but now that I've helped create a cooperative makerspace I have access to a much wider range of tinkerables and tools (I even coined a new term last week; making a silly, simple mistake now has the swear word: "BLOOTLELOOT!" attached to it after I mistook a diode for a resistor and soldered it to an LED). I used to play with data for weeks just out of curiosity, long after the main aim of the experiment had been answered, just to see what I could draw out of it, but now I have so many data sets to mine that pure play has transmuted into teasing the data for the prettiest results.
These are good changes. It was silly of me to ever think I should first know what I was doing before trying. This is much more informative.
*Not that bloggers aren't real people, but Internet-based communication is easier because it has a backspace key.