To me, one of the hardest things about being a scientist is dealing with the disappointment of rejected manuscripts, grant proposals and fellowship applications. Not to sound very annoying, but so far my life has been extremely smooth sailing. I was lucky enough to bicycle through high school (a literal translation of a Dutch expression meaning that it wasn’t too hard) and in the home country it’s also not hard to get into college when you’ve finished 6 years of high school. And the ‘prestigious’ Neuroscience Master’s program I went to had just started so you really only had to apply to get in that year (in the years that followed I might not have made the cut with my grades…). In conclusion, I did not have a lot of practice dealing with disappointment.
So the first time I applied for a fellowship at the beginning of my post-doc and it was rejected (without review comments) I cried,in the lab. I was heartbroken and felt really bad about it. Luckily my PI told me that he only got a grant on his fifth try and that made me feel a bit better. After that, 3 more grant/fellowship rejections followed (and a bunch of papers that got rejected). Every time I got a bit better in dealing with the disappointment. Now, I feel sad for a day, and then try to make my application better for the next time. I try to see the strong points that the reviewers point out as much as the weaknesses. Sometimes I let it sit for a couple more days and re-read the review comments.
However, what I still find really hard is anticipating disappointment. Right now, I’m about to hear whether I’m invited for an interview for my home country grant that will guarantee me a job in the home country. I would be ecstatic if I would get invited and heartbroken if I wouldn’t and I find it hard to just sit and wait until I get the email to tell me which it is.
So how do you deal with disappointment? By the way, heavy drinking is not an option when you’re pregnant and/or breastfeeding for most of the duration of your post-doc.