I entered into this research project with the (naive) thought that if I worked my tail off, and did everything in my power to make things run smoothly, that they would. This mantra worked well for my first big data collection day back in June. I emailed my subjects almost daily in the week preceding the event (I even annoyed myself) and texted them the day of. I shuffled people around to accommodate schedules, and found replacements for those whom I could not shuffle. The first day went extremely well. I set out to collect 8 samples (4 resting and 4 pre-race), and, miraculously, I got 8 working samples. It was fabulous.
However, I learned recently, in my last testing day in July, that I can work as hard as I want, but there are some things that I can not change. I was just as annoyingly present in the email inboxes of my subjects, but somehow only ended up with 5 of 8 working samples. Now, this is not bad, but I have to beat myself up a little bit because it’s not perfect.
As upsetting as this last result was, I think it was a very important lesson for me to learn during this research. I realized that there are MANY circumstances that I can not control. For example, I can not control whether or not my subjects are taking oral contraceptives (which drastically alter testosterone levels), I can not control where they are in their menstrual cycle, nor can I control at what time they eat, sleep, or exercise in the days prior to the test. All I can do is talk to them and trust that they will do as asked. Being somewhat of a control-freak, this fact was very hard for me to swallow. But, as I thought about it more and more, a kind of calm flooded over me. Yes, there are many things in this project, and in life in general (prepare to get a little philosophical) that I will work extremely hard to control, but in the end, they will do what they want. My realization is not prompting me to quit trying to control these things, but to merely brush off any unexpected twists and turns that my research, or my life, may take.
My new mantra is to control what I can, and not to let the things I can not control ruin the experience. That’s really what this whole research thing is, an experience. Yes, I am doing some cool research in a very applicable and interesting field. But, I am an undergraduate. I will be thrilled if I get published. This whole experience is truly for me to show the rest of the world (specifically graduate schools) that I am capable of seeing a fairly large project from conception to completion, which is more than a lot of undergraduate students can say. I am proud of my project, and excited about what I am completing. I will remain optimistic, and if I have 10 subjects instead of 12, so be it.