Two years

Every time I start to write something, I get swept up in something new. Often, I have an idea, start writing it on WordPress, save the draft before I post then come back and realize that A) I don’t like what I said, B) It was an incomplete thought I wasn’t wanting to finish, or C) All I have is a title. And that’s when I actually have the time. Most of the time I’m swept up in so many other things that I can’t find a moment to collect the thoughts I want to. Looking back at my unpublished posts was a trip because it gave me insight into different thoughts I had been having. And it’s crazy what a difference two years can make. I’m about to recount some stuff, the next paragraph kind of personal, and the ones after professional. So if you’re more interested in the professional, feel free to skip the next paragraph. It gets kind of real, so I really won’t blame anyone for skipping over. Not looking for sympathy at all, but sometimes one’s hands can cramp from playing things too close to the chest (or vest…whatever the phrase it. Honestly, I don’t care for vests unless you’re fishing I guess? But even then, what’s with all the pockets? Are fish that really particular? They can’t be any more particular than my students, and I don’t need to wear a vest for all of their demands. Maybe earplugs. But I can fit those in my pockets).

In two years I went through an immense amount of loss in my family and friends. I buried myself in work, and became a different person. Losing a father whom I was incredibly close to along with two long time friends can beat a person up. Compound this with a long-term relationship ending and all the messiness there, along with having to build up my lab, keep professional relationships going, along with keeping other friends and family happy that relied upon me and you get a very stressed out person. Life was closing in at a fast velocity, and given that the velocity gets squared, the energy required to keep it going was immense. That’s a physics reference if you’re in-the-know. Now, I concentrated on myself and healed a good bit, met someone new, focused on getting in-touch with all the good things, and doubled down on the work commitment to get me through the rough, and I feel better. Blah blah, insert inspirational line here about getting through the rough, let’s get to how my academic life had been…

I seriously turned into a professional during this time. I matured quickly to learn to cope. I bit off more than I could chew, and I definitely grew up, but I’m in a good spot. I secured a couple large public awards, one small one, and one big private one. Now to fulfill my specific aims I had to recruit this amazing set of students. And if you’ve ever seen the Avengers imagine the music as the student are all assembling and the BARELY fulfilling what I asked them to. I had to take on a decent amount of work on my own. Now, for the public money there’s always a little bit of evolution to the direction of the project. As long as we’re contributing to the knowledge-base and staying mostly on-track people are happy. My largest amount of money came in the form of a focused project from my old company. Basically it was my old job, but I got to do it in academia! Sounds fun, right? No no no no no.

Now, I blame myself for not preparing the students properly. I will not blame my students. Either I recruited wrong or didn’t educate properly. But typically a lack of skill can be compensated for with a drive to work a lot, but these students are not pulling the hours I thought they would. So I rolled up my sleeves and got dirty. I travelled abroad to meet with partners, I did all the design work and studies myself to meet these tight goals and to everyone’s satisfaction we got this project done. We’re waiting to publish because we had to do a couple human studies and these have to get disclosed in a way to protect corporate interests. I will take on this kind of project again, but I’m going to have to change the approach to ensure expectations can be met. I’ll make a post on this.

My lab finally has a decent cadence. We’re getting papers out, we’re presenting at great conferences, and I really do like my students, but I don’t like being such a grown-up. I used to mess around constantly at work, but these past two years have changed me. I’m still as immature as ever outside of work, but it’s like I can turn into a robot at work. I have to buckle down with my students, tell crying students that are about to fail a class that they’re not cut out for this, and not let all these ‘experienced’ assholes in the department walk all over me. It’s paying off, and I’m finally learning how to teach and research at the same time. And I’m focusing in on the types of students I want to hire. Overall it’s looking okay. 2015 was the worst year of my life, 2016 perked up, 2017 finally started to turn a corner, and I feel good about 2018. Hopefully no one else dies or breaks up with me, and the occasional high-impact paper wouldn’t be bad to have. I have some more ideas for posts, and hopefully I actually finish them this time around.

4 thoughts on “Two years

  1. Great to hear things are going better. In my few attempts to blog, my experience was the same .. I went into it with a couple of points I wanted to make and many half-finished thoughts but nothing seemed worth sharing after looking at the headline for a week. Its a strange mental barrier to overcome as an academic to just push the “submit” button on something that might not be as near-perfect as all our other writing.

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    • Absolutely, I have so many posts in my Drafts section that are nearly finished. I think about 10% of them are actually post-worthy though. The rest are either outdated or just plain dumb.

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  2. Welcome back! It’s good to hear you are thriving and I’m sorry about the challenges… But you’ve always stuck me as a power engine, so I have no doubt you’ll keep kicking ass.

    As for blogging, I often find that it helps to allot a time. Say, I have 20 min to draft and 10 to edit and absolutely no more. I can get a pretty decent post out in that time. (Occasionally 15+5.) I do this with housework, too — it’s amazing how much I can get done in 20 min and knowing that I don’t have to do it more than that alleviates (to me) the pressure of getting started.

    Anyway, I’m glad you’re back and I look forward to hearing more about your adventures!

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    • Thanks for the kind words! I’m genuinely surprised I came through this with only battle wounds. My current SO mentions every once-in-a-while “you’ve been through some shit”. And for the most part I count myself lucky. It’s not like impoverished and hungry with some horrible disease. It’s not horrible to regain perspective.

      The blogging thing is kind of like the publishing thing: I may be too anal and polished, but I’m shooting this year for getting thoughts to paper (or SSD, I guess?) and just letting it flow from my brain. It may be a little therapeutic, as well. The last post was a 30 minute write, and as trivial as 30 minutes seems when thinking rationally, it’s sometimes more difficult than I imagine.

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