Taking care of myself

I was always a focused person: in high school I excelled in sports and academics. I had my pick of an academic or athletic scholarship (I picked one then the other). As an undergrad, I had no problem getting straight-As. As an MS student, I was able to shine even among the surrounding PhD students. I was off to becoming a lead researcher at a national lab. My PhD was filled with awards before eventually becoming the head of an industrial lab. Everything was lining up. Except that I only really mentioned work and school stuff. I didn’t really try to take care of myself emotionally or enjoy myself. Physically, I did (and still do) take good care of myself. Even with the new bundle, my work activities and physical exercise are still a big part of my life. A few days ago, I had just put the little one to sleep and after a long week, I just collapsed on the couch and sat there for about 30 minutes just looking at the wall. Completely blank. Every once in a while I have to remind myself to step back and gather some perspective and I’ve decided that this leave is my chance to do this. No one ever tells me when I’m running too hard, but what’s the point of working so hard if I can’t enjoy. When I retire and people ask what I did, I don’t want work to even come out of my mouth other than, “I was a professor”. I want the rest of the stuff to be about great times I had with friends and family. I do have those, but they frequently are taking the back seat and I’ve realized that I want to start making active decisions to prevent burnout.  I’ve been checking emails, but I’ve decided that I’m going to completely avoid this next grant cycle. In the middle of the Spring semester I’ll pick it back up, but I want to start taking more breaks and leave work at the door. When I go on a backpacking trip, I don’t want to worry about whether an experiment will provide useful data to keep me funded. I love what I do, and couldn’t be happier with my career, I just want to give the brain a break.

 

Tired and stuff

I never wanted to be someone who just stays at home under the reasoning of ‘the kids’. I have friends that have done this, and it just never sat well with me. No judgment on them, it just doesn’t mesh with how I like to do things. I’ve been trying to get out and not miss out on much with my service or research (teaching is excused this semester), but I’m beginning to just be too tired to do it. At the same time, I hate being cooped up. Also, I’ve been told I shouldn’t drink coffee. So I was just powering through all the tiredness, and I’m certain I look worse for wear because of it. At a recent service outreach event, I was able to bring the energy for the hour, but when I was driving home I had to pull over because I was so tired. Now, a new doctor said it’s fine to drink coffee. I have had a fair amount of physiology training so I assumed it was okay, but then when I was told it wasn’t I just followed blindly. Now, a couple cups a day has made a world of difference. I’m still a little too emotionally exhausted to do a lot, but it’s making a big difference. So I haven’t become the ‘I can’t go out because of the kids’ person, but it’s incredibly tempting.

One of my better students is preparing to graduate. I just finished markups on their dissertation. It took a long time because of the tired. Also, it took a long time because I look at their body of work and just keep thinking, “how the heck am I going to replace this student?”. They are heavily responsible for some big grants I brought in. I go through this every time a strong student prepares to leave, and I don’t think I’ll ever get over this. In industry, when people left I never felt this way. I would wish them well, put out a job posting, then work would slow, but always recover. They were relatively interchangeable. I don’t know why this is different. I trained up both the industry employees and my students, spent just as much time with them, and I don’t see the difference other than my internal panic. I’ve gone through this before, and I’ve written about this before, I just don’t have the energy right now to train another student. The gas is running low.