Who is Vera Rubin?

I was saddened by a recent article in the Economist over the death of Vera Rubin. I was even more sad that it seemed like almost no other news outlets covered it.

Who is Vera Rubin? She is the physicist who proved the existence of Dark Matter.

She reshaped cosmology with her stunning discovery, yet she never won a Nobel Prize for Physics.

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If you read the article, you’ll learn of a brilliant woman that faced stupid obstacles like not having a bathroom available to her. A woman who was told a colleague would present her work for her, and of course, he’d take the credit for it.

She said no.

A woman who had to put her work aside to raise her children, because that’s what women did.

Makes me wonder what more she could’ve accomplished if instead of fighting for a bathroom, she’d been given the same resources as her male colleagues. After all, look what she did with the hurdles she faced.

Reading this article made me glad for the how far we’ve come, but it also reminded me that we’re still not all the way there.

As a bright-eyed freshman, I walked into my Calculus II class and realized I was one of two women in the class. The professor looked at me, snorted, and said I wouldn’t be in his class by the end of the semester. I was shocked. Enraged. And hurt.

I worked my tail off that semester, and I pulled an A in the class. Beauty of math at this level is there’s one correct answer. Hate me or not, I could do the work.

But that professor still won.

I changed my major at the end of the semester.

See, he wasn’t the only patronizing, demeaning professor or student I endured. Frankly, there were certain other students that made the classroom feel slightly hostile. I’d get a sick feeling in my stomach if they sat by me, and I was sure they were saying mean things about me. 

Mean girls in high school was one thing, but they never questioned my right to simply be.

It was things like that which drove me from  the engineering program and to the business school even though the only class I didn’t make an “A” in that semester was German.

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I liked the business school a whole lot better. I felt like it was “okay” for me to be there. No one made harassing or threatening overtures. The accounting class was 50% female, so most group projects saw at least one other woman working on it with me. Almost half of my accounting professors were female, too. The math was way easier, but there were other things that made it challenging enough to keep my interest. Good job prospects didn’t hurt, either.

I wasn’t as sure of myself at eighteen as I am now. I couldn’t handle being singled out. Even though I work in a male dominated field now, it doesn’t bother me. I have no issue being the only female at a staff meeting. Or any other meeting, for that matter.

But it bothered me a lot then. Enough to chase me away.

Maybe that made me weak, but it also means the world lost all the contributions I could’ve made to the field.

Makes me wonder how many Vera Rubins there could’ve been.
How about you? Ever walk away from something you wanted because you felt like an outsider? Do you regret it? Maybe you stuck with something really hard? Where did you find the gumption to do it? How did it turn out?

The Fear of Regret

“Enjoy it now, because you’ll miss it later,” is a refrain I hear all the time.

I have two small children, a spouse, I work full-time, and I carve out time to write.

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My life seems full of regret.

  • I regret the time I’m at work and not with my family.
  • I regret not pushing harder in my career.
  • I regret the time I spend writing.
  • I regret when I don’t write.

DD2 insists on being on my lap all the time. She’s going through a powerful “momma” phase, and while it’s super sweet, it also seriously limits my ability to stuff down around the house. If I try to slip away from her, she’ll grab my arm and pull it around her. If I leave her anyway, we have a full melt down including real tears.

I can’t walk away from that no matter what anyone says. She’s my toddler. So, yes, it’s a tough time for both us, but whenever I mention it, I’m told how much I’ll miss it when it’s gone.

Yes, I probably will. And, in a few months, I probably won’t remember the dishes that needed to get done, the floor that needed to be swept, or the laundry that needed to be folded.

I probably won’t regret how much time I spent holding her and being there for her.

But fear of regret holds me back.

Have I tried for some of the toughest jobs in my field? No, because I’m afraid I’ll regret spending less time with my family, that I won’t be the spouse and mother they need.

I feared I’d regret it if I didn’t dedicate myself to our family and soak up every precious moment. So when we decided to have that family, I put aside writing for years. How could I not regret taking time for writing when I only had a few hours with my spouse and daughter?

Yet, I also regret the years I didn’t spend writing. I frequently wonder where I would be and what I could be doing if I’d taken it more seriously. I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was a kid. It’s one of the few things that’s remained constant in my life.

I want to shove regret aside. Learn to live in the moment. Learn to follow my heart (and learn to accept a messy house with two small children).

 

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My role model!

 

How about you? Anything you don’t do because you’re afraid you’ll regret it? Or are you like a cat and regret nothing? Have you learned to accept a messy house?