Chapter 2 – Lab troubles

Apart from being an emotional mess, I am living my dream by being a scientist in a field I will take care not to mention, otherwise my identity will be found sooner rather than later. I will, however, allow myself to narratively take stroll away from the main path of this journal….


Concerning my professional life February was awkward, as the Red Queen had suddenly taken an interest in showing me the basics of handling the material I work with – which left me a little bewildered because I’ve been handling these things for years. But since she was in charge of the group providing me with certain types of material I deemed it wise to just let her show me some things (though I talked her out of the very basics), regarding it as some kind of overdue official validation. Still, it left me wondering where she had gotten the idea from.

Moreover, honestly… she is new to this particular type of material, having just half a year earlier completed her PhD working with another, so sometimes I had the impression of being on at least equal level with her. During the workshops she organized for me and a student of hers she occasionally said things that were plainly not correct, and I always had to bite my tongue not to say anything, knowing by now how she would react on being corrected in front of one of her team. Also… I had seen her work before. While being a talent in pushing her team into the spotlight, her labwork was often hasty and therefore a little sloppy. She did things you never never ever do when handling delicate material. But remark on it and hell breaks loose on you. I had learned to look away and shift my work to somewhere else in the lab, wondering if anyone more influental than me would ever notice and step in.

Things between the White Queen and me were not right somehow as well. We had been on amicable terms before, but now she seemed to put an emphasis on distancing herself from me.


During the first days of March there was a private conference of multiple institutes in my field, which was hosted by the department where I do my daily lab work. Under strict confidentiality everybody had just some minutes to present their newest research.
The White Queen and I shared the presentation on our project and we did an awesome job! People from the audience showed a lot of interest, asking questions which the two of us anwered with ease, both feeling very much at home in our field of work. During the break people came to me to pat my shoulder, including the head of the institute, and I was feeling great.

All the more I was baffled when the White Queen summoned me for a talk in the afternoon, telling me I had to mind my behavior in front of other people, because I was always being on too cordial terms with everyone.
I thought about it for long and decided that basically she was right – I was indeed friends with everyone fairly quickly and doing confidential research, some distance would certainly help. I wrote to her at lenght afterwards, telling her that I had meant no harm and appreciated every criticism because it helped me improve myself. I just kept wondering about the time she had chosen to tell me this and the way she had behaved before.

Over the following weeks the situation with the White Queen relaxed and we were soon back at working together well and effectively.


It should be months until I found out what had happened.

After having knocked the stuffing out of me by the Red Queen in front of half of the lab team, just because I had asked the White Queen instead of her for permission to accept a student for an internship – with phrases like “knowing my place”, “overestimating my authority” and “going to change tunes from now on” – I drew the line. She was not my boss and in no position to say those things. Up till then I had always accepted that being under a lot of pressure she was allowed the occasional bout of temper and had kept quiet about it in front of everyone outside of our department. After all, we were all sharing a lab and had to get along. But knowing how bad I had heard her talking at least once about every single coworker when she was in one of her moods, I had grown more and more worried about what she might tell the important people at the institute about me. But would they take me seriously? She was always so outgoing, nice and loveable when meeting new people. Would they believe there was another side of her?


In the evening I called the White Queen and opened up the conversation with: “I am so sorry to tell you but I don’t know anymore what to do about the Red Queen.”
“I know. Don’t worry. I know what she is like.”

It was the biggest relief I had felt in months. It turned out that the Red Queen had had her fits in front of more people than I had thought. Moreover, I learned that at the beginning of February she had talked to the White Queen about how she cannot work together with me any longer, because I was “overly emotional”. The White Queen had had long discussions with other group leaders, and came to the conclusion that there was something doubtable about the whole issue, especially regarding how close the Red Queen and me had once been, so they decided to keep me. Some weeks afterwards the Red Queen had told them all was well again herself. I think she tried to teach me things as some kind of placability. It may have been well for her, but the rest of us still had to cope with her fits, most of the time just keeping our heads down, waiting for the storm to pass.*

That evening I finally decided to distance myself from this woman once and for all. It was all so hard, because she was still funny and cordial when in a good mood, sometimes acting downright motherly, handing out presents and maybe really caring about us – but I just could not go on being emotionally involved in her tempers.

Sometimes I wonder how long she can stand on the edge between being liked and being feared. I try to neither like nor fear her, not always succeeding.



* Well, at least most of the time. Probably I should have been a little more submissive when she declared in front of everybody that we shall now all hate the Butterfly – to which I replied that she was a friend of mine and I will definitely not hate her on anyones orders.

7 thoughts on “Chapter 2 – Lab troubles”

  1. I think what you did was the right thing to do. She is causing you conflict and treating you down right wrong. There comes a time in a person’s life where they put their foot down and say enough is enough. Any one person can only take some much before they blow. And it seems like you weren’t the only one having issues with her, so it’s not you in this case it’s her, and yes that sounds like a horrible break up line lol. Stick to your guns and be who you are to become.

  2. hello! i’ve spend the last few hours writing every single of your entries because why not.
    honestly, it’s amazing how different you are from me, and how you’re the _exact type of people_ i usually hate. seriously. and to be honest, a huge part of me dislike you because everything you do does not fit with things i’d do or things i can actually wrap my head arround. i’m hugely logic, not very emotional, and i’m someone who hates manipulative people, even the ones who don’t mean harm on it. but anyone, i’m talking a lot. i was not even supposed to comment in the first place.

    what i mean is, even if you’re not my type of people, you have good writing skills and i feel like i’m reading a book: a good one, full of interesting stuff. your life is pretty interesting, to be honest. and even though i feel like we know so little about the knight and he does tend to get in the side place on this story, you’re very lucky on having two guys in your life who genuinely like you. believe it, you really are. also, i also plan in being in the scientific field, on the neuropsychology field, so it’s really cool for me to read this

    i hope you continue writing here, and i’ll continue to read because this is really nice.

  3. Often I wonder if anybody is reading this at all and now I find two people who even took the time to write long comments. I will answer! I just want to sleep it over, taking the time you deserve, writing an answer only after I thought about it. It is rather late in the evening where I live. So it’s “good night” for now.

  4. @ajbarlow912: You are right, I suppose. What made it so hard for me was that I really liked her before she changed (I am optimistic enough to think that this has not been her “real self” all along). Everybody likes her immediately. She can be so outgoing, charming and enthusiastic. I recognized so much of myself in her. She also tends to burden herself with work and never makes any holidays, just like me. Maybe that’s why in the end she kind of snapped under the pressure. Now I sometimes pity her, and I still did not entirely stop liking her. Then again, I am afraid I might one day break under the pressure as well and turn out just like her. Should this ever happen, I hope the Witcher will drive a wooden stake through my heart.

  5. @ Livia: I cannot grudge you the dislike in me. Knowing what you do, disagreement is the most obvious thing to feel. I am a hypocrit, a deceiver, a manipulator. All I can say to my defense is that I get told frequently that I make people happy. I might make them do the occasional task for them, but I always make them feel needed and appreciated. When I was younger, I had been sad for so long, that I cannot bear seeing other people’s sadness.
    The quiet, logic ones are people I value highly. Some of my closest friends are like that, most noticably the Witcher. The two of us might actually get along very well, should we ever meet in real life.

    (With you being or becoming a scientist, this is actually possible. It was just last week when the Witcher asked me if there was any possibility for me to change the subject for my next grant to neuro science. 😉 )

  6. @ Livia: I wanted to add that what you said about my writing skills means a lot to me. English is not my native language, but I find it so much more beautiful.

  7. Oh firelily you crack me up. Yes I get it and I totally understand I am about to do that with myself. I’ve having issues with my coping skills and trying to better myself and think more positively. About 2 months ago I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder but I’ve had it all my life not even knowing but on top of that I have ADHD was diagnosed at 6 and after I had my son my depression got bad so having depression and now that I am getting my bipolar under control I now have anxiety and top that I will be working part time taking care of my kids and I am going back to school I am excited and scared

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