Joseph Smith Jr., Ph.D. ðŸ‡ĻðŸ‡ē🔎🌊

Joseph Smith Jr., Ph.D. ðŸ‡ĻðŸ‡ē🔎🌊



Story time: I had a few professors in undergrad that became cherished mentors. One was particularly influential. I somehow missed that he said he used lecture time to administer exams and not the university-scheduled exam time. I thought I would skip the lecture that day to study

I show up to the exam time and nobody is there... i waited for about 15 minutes and I was confused. The next lecture he is handing back exams and I am CORN-FUSED!!! I own up to my mishap and he LET ME HAVE IT LOL. Then he stared... Took a deep breath...

And said to meet him at his office right after class. I did. He let me take the exam. He made me wait while he graded it. I got a 94%. He looked and said "hm i guess you're not hopeless after all. Ok go on and pay better attention, little fish".

From that moment on, he always called me "little fish". Never understood it, but he did work in marine biology so I thought it was just a thing he called freshmen. Nope. Even as a senior, he always called me little fish lol.

So Im applying to grad school and he offers to write me a recommendation letter. I get into my programs of choice and right before I leave he says "good luck in the big pond, little fish. Dont get lost." It made me laugh because of the first semester mistake I made.

Then Im defending my dissertation and going to a postdoc and I reach out to him and again he says "good luck in the big pond, little fish. Dont get lost." So recently he reaches out to me because he saw the announcement of the NIH fellowship I received.

He messages "I see you didn't get lost, little fish. You're almost a big fish now." Yall..... I just cried reading it.... Like gentle sobbing style.... Im just now understanding what he kept repeating every time I was at a major transition point.

In science, there is often so much pressure to become a "bigger fish". That constant pressure to grow. To eat. It's exhausting. But to him, he still remembers the lost little fish whonhad potential. All he wanted was for me not to lose myself or my goal. He let me be little fish.

Little fish is the one with the boundless energy. Little fish is the one who sees the possibility. The one that finds joy in the difficult work. Big fish worries about money. Big fish worries about data. Big fish worries about meetings and deadlines... Big fish gets run down.

So when I do eventually become a "big fish", I will continue to tell myself, "Ok little fish, don't get lost."

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