Did I write that? No, I couldn’t have – but what if I did? What if I forgot to? What if I should have? Oh fuck, I better check.
I recently published my first paper. The fallout has been nerve racking.
And no, I haven’t received any nasty letters from old, disgruntled white haired men and women, nor have I had any particularly unpleasant remarks at any of the presentations I’ve given. In fact, no one beyond my lab mates and close friends knows about the manuscript.
My biggest fears and anxieties have come as a result of the act of publishing itself – knowing that, after all of the time and effort I’ve plugged into this thing, it’s entirely possible that I am wrong and all of the popular science kids will laugh at me.
My heart is already palpitating. Did we add twice as much, or half as little? Did I cite Johnson and Smithe (1989) or Smith and Johnston (1998)? Did I forget to carry the 1!? At least once a day or two, I catch myself in a cold sweat and begin panicking. I worry that somewhere in my paper, I’ve made a grave error. Maybe I’ve misinterpreted my data. Maybe a few of my assumptions are completely off kilter. Maybe I’m the village idiot.
I feel like a naked village diot, staggering about town, boozed up on bathtub gin and smoking crab grass rolled up in expired coupons. Everything looks O.K. until you move in a little closer. That’s when you notice the dog shit I’ve tracked through your yard with my suede loafers, and that odd mix of smells we drunken academic fools possess – something between peanuts, pickled eggs, cigarette butts and stale beer.
I’m sure that, in 10 years from now, some punk grad student will likely read my paper and think to his or herself, “Guffah! The ilk that passed as publishable back then is surely laughable! Thank omega for our peer review robotic overlords.”
Or something like that.