Conference 101: Post Attendance Reflections

Conference Reflections {New Faculty}

I took this pic at the Alamo.

I came, I saw, I conquered. And that was not even counting the conference.

Traveling for conferences can be a mix of fun and headaches all rolled into one delightful ball of travel. Our annual conference was in San Antonio, a city I’d never visited, so I was looking forward to experiencing what the city and the conference had to offer. Our group bonded and spent the night together at DFW with the glamorous cots they provide. The little sleep we all got was made funnier by 3 a.m. and then it was “no holds barred.” We all show our true selves after 3 a.m. folks.

We arrived in San Antonio at breakfast time, showered, and decided that sleep was for quitters. We powered through day one like champs. I was warned before we left home that I would be underwhelmed by the methods and science happening and like good colleagues: they were right. In a STEM multi-state research meeting, a group had done a survey with an N=12. 12? Woof. I had no trouble speaking up. Discussing my research, how it related, and what I could offer to the group as a tangible benefit. It was eye-opening to see and hear the fears and trepidation of my colleagues from across the country and how afraid they were of diving into some research that would require more IRB approval than any of them were used to doing. I have done this type of approval for over 1,000 people so it was a no-brainer. I offered to help immediately and assure them it would be OK. The only way to make the profession better is to help move it forward right?

The vice president of diversity at the local land grant was the guest speaker and she was fantastic. I felt uplifted, optimistic, and then we had to sit through a purely Christian prayer before the next meal. There were clearly NOT christians in the room, at least one woman wearing a hijab, several other monikers of people who were anything but christian. I’m not “bashing” on christianity, but the point is this: if you’re already an organization who is “known” for not being diverse, then don’t make it worse. Think hard about what you do to segregate your potential audience and how you discriminate against people who don’t think or work like you do and offer up alternatives-offering a non-denominational prayer would have been more appropriate. Not everyone loves “Jesus” or “Our Lord” or “Heavenly Father” in every religion.

I sat through a set of research talks where all the presenters brushed around the tough topic of discrimination, prejudice, and racism. Our profession still hasn’t done a great job with these things and they continue to skirt around them. I spoke up. I couldn’t help it. Having those tough conversation is hard, truly uncomfortable, but totally worth it. I’m a minority and I can no longer count the number of times I’ve been discriminated against since moving here. I cannot stand it, but I also cannot ignore it. I have those conversations. I point out to students and peers how their language is inappropriate. I explain why it’s incorrect. I don’t scold or reprimand, I simply say, “do you know how that could be viewed as racist to me?” and go from there. The faculty I listened to are so concerned with international travel, but they fail to provide their students with appropriate tools to cope in those settings because they don’t know how to cope themselves.

I had great exchanges with my colleagues. As a first year faculty in this profession, I felt welcome, I felt safe speaking up and sharing my work and my experiences. I felt as though most folks were receptive to me as a professional. I had a GREAT TIME overall and the city was a great host. I visited the Alamo, I walked the river walk, I ate and drank to my heart’s content, and our flights back were smooth and uneventful. I am so happy I went. I got to know my colleagues, I got to know our grad students, I was happy to network with other faculty and grad students. Most importantly, I got a feel for what kind of research I wanted to do to raise the bar in this field. The kind of work that NEEDS to be done, not the kind that will get accepted.

I share all of this to remind myself and you: we have to cope with the good and the bad. I’m proud of myself. As a faculty member who just finished my first year in this department, I felt confident. I felt good. I felt like the science I was and am doing is solid and I’m not afraid to push that envelope to be better. I don’t complain without offering solutions. Offering to help the other faculty was a small price to pay, being heard about what it’s like to be a minority in a predominantly white professional group isn’t an issue. These things become issues if I didn’t speak up, if I wasn’t brave.

It’s HARD as a new faculty to walk that line. I don’t want to piss anyone off, but I also don’t like the feeling of complacency I got. Having hard conversations is UNCOMFORTABLE, but they’re worth having. I am a minority in science and damnit, I’ve earned my place at the table. I will not be diminished because I’m the wrong ethnicity for the majority of these folks and I refuse to back down. I will behave, I will be diplomatic, but I have a voice and I’m turning into a damn good researcher, even if it doesn’t feel like it every day.

I was just as glad to be home and asleep in my own bed. Unlike the rest of the world, I didn’t make any plans for the long weekend. I slept, I gardened, I took naps, I put food in the fridge and made some delicious meals. Those were things that had not been happening prior to the end of the semester. Tomorrow begins “summer writing schedule” for me and I’m looking forward to some incremental progress on several things.

As a young researcher, it’s important to reflect and keep moving forward. It’s all we can do.

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Setting Up for Summer Writing

Setting Up for Summer Writing {New Faculty}

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In no time at all, the last u-haul’s will leave and my sweet, adoring college town will return to the splendor that I LOVE. I love this town emphatically when the students leave. Only a few thousand stick around for summer to work, research, and live the good life and all of the camps don’t start for weeks. Oh. My. GAWDD. I cannot say enough about summer here.

That being said, the first week of summer here, I’ll be gone. And a few weeks after that. And again a few more after that….Hhmmm, summer…elusive and full of travel at present. Summer scholars will come, I’ll be working with them, we host some major events, and damnit, August already?

Summer as a faculty member, and a 12-month faculty member, is an odd thing. It seems like all faculty work a mere 9-month year, but I can assure you, 95% (or more) of us are toiling away all summer. Summer is the coveted time when there’s fewer students running around. With the burgeoning summer income for most universities, we also teach, continue to work with students in more relaxed settings, and above all, try and get caught up on research.

I cannot stress enough the importance of setting yourself up for summer writing. This blissful time is a great stretch to not only enjoy your life a little bit, but also try and push out that last bit of data, add chunks to get manuscripts out the door to reviewers, and set yourself some manageable goals for the upcoming academic year. While I’ve only been doing this for a few years, I’ve never had a summer dedicated to JUST writing. It’s always been filled with STEM summer camps, more camps, some writing, and taking some time off. This will be my first full summer on this job where I can really sit with some data and write some things. Yes, I’m also doing some summer camps, summer scholars, and you know….maybe not working on Sunday’s until late August.

Set yourself up so you’re not filled with regret in August. Regret? Yes, regret. So many times I hear, “I didn’t get enough done.” Trying my darndest, I want to NOT say that in August. Here’s how I’m going to tackle the monster:

Set manageable goals. Managing my own expectations will be the key.

Set deadlines for myself. Working with undergrads has helped me stay accountable. I just had this conversation with a colleague over the weekend (at happy hour) about how we manage that. Knowing that I had undergrad researchers waiting for me to read/edit/contribute helped motivate me to keep the ship moving.

Under those deadlines, map out what needs to be done to get to that deadline. Is it reading? Is it editing? Is it analyzing data or collecting it? Whatever it is, I try to be mindful and record what I need to do to get to the ultimate goal.

Execute my intentions and check in regularly. With myself mostly. I use Evernote to keep a running list of “to-do’s” but also employ google drive to collaborate with other authors. For me, it’s all about accountability to myself and to others.

Be accountable. You may need a writing buddy, you may just need an undergrad staring at you once a week, whatever it is, find a system that helps keep you accountable. Someone to say, “where are we with ____?” can be immensely helpful.

Most importantly: plan in some fun. Make sure you give yourself the respite you deserve. Your brain works hard and your wrists are probably pre-carpal tunnel (like mine), so however you decompress, pencil it in before anything else. It will help you create the remainder of your summer. If you know you need a day before and after a trip, pencil it in your calendar now so you don’t feel guilty later. If you think you might have a weekend event, pencil it in, even if it gets canceled, you’ve given yourself permission to not work and any extra will just be icing on the cake.

Summer can be a great writing win

 

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When Grad Students Don’t Perform: A Lesson in Patience

Lessons in Patience {New Faculty}

“I’ve got this grad student….”

If this were an academic pick-up line, we’d be on our third date already. We’ve all got at least one grad student who…just doesn’t quite understand how life works, how grad school works, or how ‘adulting’ (as i like to fondly call it) works. At all.

There’s a fine line between my expectations of myself and my expectations of my students. This grad student not-with-standing either. I’m highly motivated most of the time. Producing is like oxygen to me and I like doing things (research things) all day, every day. I also like playing games on my phone, going to yoga, going out with my friends, and rotting on my couch. But, I really, REALLY like working. A LOT.

This grad student….they don’t seem to know how to get their shit together. We’ve gone through all of the paces of “what’s the matter?” and done the dance that goes with it. I’ve been the positive boss, the patient mentor, the listening mentor, the understanding and empathetic human, but you know what? I’ve also been pissed off boss. Miraculously, both times I had to raise my voice to ‘teacher level nine’ I got results for several weeks after. I also seem to get blown off, ignored, and totally void of any kind of work for weeks on end as well. As I begin this post, I haven’t seen work for three weeks until this morning. When I emailed and asked for it. And it’s half-assed work in my opinion.

This student doesn’t blow off their work, they’re also blowing off their thesis. So, they’re equal opportunity with their assistantship and their thesis work. That’s slightly comforting on a morbid level. We invest in grad students and their potential. When we begin to get a negative ROI on that, we begin to get annoyed. Put up or shut up. Grad school isn’t just about finding yourself or extending your youth, it’s about getting your next job.

With a mere two weeks left in this semester, I kind of can’t wait for this student to disappear into the sunset. They’ve shown minimal effort, work ethic, and all of the other “soft skill” buzz words I can think of. I don’t know if they’ll finish their thesis and quite frankly, it’s not my problem. I hope they get a job. Although, I haven’t been asked to be a reference for obvious reasons.

I hate to be all ‘negative nancy’ on you grad students, most of you are just fine, but like apples, there’s always that one….that one we can’t ever seem to find, account them for any kind of work, but they’re always the first ones crying wolf about how awful their lives are. If your life is that awful, maybe you need some counseling, but in many cases, life is fine, you’re just looking for another excuse.

Working with students, especially grad students, is truly a lesson in patience for me and my colleagues. We don’t always get it done perfectly either, but we get it done. We show up, and urge our grad students to do the same.

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Please, Stop Assuming I Am A Graduate Student!

New Faculty:

i still get asked if i’m a grad student too!

Originally posted on Conditionally Accepted:

angie millerDr. Angie L. Miller is an Assistant Research Scientist for the Center for Postsecondary Research at Indiana University, where she studies creativity, student engagement, and arts training in higher education.  In this guest post, Dr. Miller reflects on her experiences of being mistaken for a graduate student at academic conferences, and the social, intellectual, and gendered power undertones of these interactions.   

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I would like to be able to attend just ONE conference and not be mistaken for a graduate student. I completed my Ph.D. 6 years ago. At first when people did this, I wasn’t all that bothered by it. I realize that I do look young. I went right from undergrad to my master’s program, and then right into my doctoral program. I took more than full course loads every semester, and was able to finish before I turned 27. Coupled with the blessing (and curse?) of…

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Dating in Academia: Part Deux

Dating in Academia: Part Deux {New Faculty}

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It seems that dating a nerd gets a lot of hits. No, not those hits, but web hits from my wordpress stats manager. Let’s keep it up to snuff shall we?

In honor of the ridiculous amount of traffic this first post on dating in academia garnered, I decided that I was indeed a masochist and that this should be a several part series. Part two anyone?

I’m fortunate enough to have some bad-ass, awesome, intelligent lady friends. And “male” friends who are colleagues as well. Instead of just making this a pro-feminism post (but believe me, I’m all about it), I asked the duddddddes for their take. Strangely, we’ve not dated any of our single, male faculty friends. Life is easier when we can commiserate together with drinks after 5 p.m.

Male faculty:

“I tried dating a woman. She was not in academia. She had a kid. Both of those things were fine. She failed to recognize that in search of tenure, I didn’t have a ton of time all of the time hang around waiting for her. She kept lying, stringing me along, even to the point of kissing me and then saying “don’t do that again, but I liked it.” Mixed signal anyone? I get that finding childcare can be tough and respect that, but then found out that her kid was with the other parent for a solid week and she never mentioned it. I dropped that like it was hot. It was a hot mess.” ~paraphrased over friday drinks.

Female faculty:

I made the mistake of dating a grad student. I thought he could handle things. Until the day he said, “if we stay together, you can just get me a partner/spousal hire.” Motive (and deal breaker) revealed. Peace out bro’.

Female faculty:

I tried dating a guy. I appreciate how forthright he was with me, but he didn’t appreciate how quickly I broke it off after he let a major deal breaker out of the gate. Three weeks in he says, “so, you can just move {up here} and work for {obscure, small, rarely hiring college} so I can live close to my mom and dad.” EXCUSE ME??? I tried to get to the bottom of this fierce desire to live close to mom/dad but the only reply was, “i need to live near them, i will sacrifice having a fulfilling career if i can see them several times a week.” Which he was, he was not getting work. He complained about it daily, but his parents are healthy and very active, his other siblings had moved for jobs, and he clearly said, “you’ll just have to drop everything you have going on if this is going to work.” No, this isn’t going to work.

Female faculty:

I matched with a guy online. We started chatting through the service. It turned into a “what should I do with my career?” talk. I felt like an admissions counselor. I have no trouble talking future self with people, but not men in their mid-30’s who are trying to woo me, it felt like an 18 year old with his mom in tow.

If you have an awesomely, horrific dating story in academia, email me: domesticatedacademic@gmail dot com. I’ll post it. Yes I will…..We have to have a *little* fun don’t we?

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Go Play in Traffic: Undergrad Edition

Go Play in Traffic {New Faculty}

Me. Working on Sunday.

I have to confess. I’m rugged like Sean Connery with Dolly Parton hair right now. In the process of growing it out to donate, it gets to that stage where it pretty much “does what it wants” and we’ve reached that stage. Add in the humidity that’s beginning to seep back into my life, and “poof” it’s my hair.

I’m sporting my favorite flannel shirt right now that was mostly clean when I put it on after I showered after I went to yoga, did laundry, and grabbed some coffee before coming into the office where I’m probably not going to change anyone’s life today.

EXCEPT for this one UNDERGRAD.

Who is in on Sunday’s as well for her part time job.

And reminded me last week what a mess I was looking like.
And once again reminded me again today.

And I told her to go play in traffic.

Listen students. We don’t have an endless supply of clean khaki’s. Well, I don’t. I don’t like wearing them every day. This flannel shirt is pretty awesome. The pants I’m wearing are at least a size too big, making them extremely comfortable.

Back to my hair: it’s a mess. I washed it. I combed it. I didn’t do anything else to it. BECAUSE IT’S SUNDAY.

I’m clean. I’m dressed. What more do these kids want?

I know what I want: summer.

No working on Sunday’s during the summer.

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Dating in Academia

Dating in Academia {New Faculty}

I’d like to spend a post talking about what it’s like dating as an academic. In case you don’t want to read all the way until the end, let me summarize this for you quickly: it’s quite awful.

If you care to keep reading, please do :)

Dating is tough, no matter what you do or where you live. All of the online stuff exposes you to more people, but doesn’t mean you get a “match” in most cases. I’ve done my fair share of dating and only a few have made it to what I like to call “the lightning round” or the “meet the parents” round. I know the research and statistics on marriage, divorce, and staying single. As someone who has been married, divorced, in long-term relationships, and now single, I can say this: it’s rough out there for anyone.

In the spirit of sharing, I thought I’d regale you with some quick stories from the field. You can call it research if you’d like. I decided to do what any living, breathing human would do: I asked my academic girlfriends to share their stories. I also included a few of my own.

Here we go:

“I went out with one guy. I told him I was a professor, where I’d gone to college, etc…. over coffee. The man excused himself to the bathroom, came out and said, “I’ve gotta go, I can’t do this, I knew you were smart, but Ivy league?” and left.”

“I went out for coffee with a guy who proceeded to tell me his philosophy on life and how his only goal was to just wait until he could retire. Not much there in the way of ambition or goals. When I told him about myself, his only comment was, “so, you really want to live a full and good life? that seems worthless.””

“A guy who said he was in the medical field (fine), but upon meeting him, he proceeded to tell me how he’d gotten let go due to “legal infractions” and was busy making sandwiches waiting to see if he got his “license” back. Liar, liar, pants on fire? Cannot deal with liars.”

“Didn’t even get to meet one man. He stalked, harassed, and then proceeded to send me no less than 19 messages one day in a row that went from “hey, how are you?” to “what the hell? why aren’t you answering me?” I had been on the phone taking a work call that lasted about 10 minutes. Slow your roll.”

I could do this for a few more rounds, but to spare you the details, I’ll summarize by saying this:

Academia is isolating and filled with nerds. I like nerds. I am a nerd. Dating is really hard though. As a female, I’m sure all the ladies out there can share and have similar stories to my four quick anecdotes above. It’s incredibly difficult to find a good man who understands what we do, why we’re workaholics, and still respects us after knowing that we went through massive amounts of training and education to get to the lower rungs of academia.

If you decide to date an academic know the following:

  • We’re usually highly self-motivated
  • We keep odd hours
  • We probably won’t be home waiting for you with a hot meal.
  • We’ll probably get home later than you and leave earlier so you better know how to get your own meals & be self sufficient.
  • We’re quite independent.
  • We’re used to rejection, so if it isn’t working out for you, just say so.
  • Work life balance is this thing we read about but rarely do.
  • We speak our own language. Learn some of ours if you plan on conversing and we’ll learn some of yours.
  • Grant deadlines are a thing that haunt our dreams and ruin our days.
  • So are submission deadlines.
  • We do love you. We want to be with you, but we get distracted by a deadline.
  • We’re faithful, loyal, and loving. We believe in our science the way we believe in our partnerships and will usually stick with both through the high’s and low’s. That’s saying a lot!

In short, dating in academia is pretty much as bad as it is in any field. Since you can’t fake chemistry, there’s likely to be a lot of frogs before you land anything close to prince charming.

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Empowering Others to Empower Ourselves

Empower Others to Empower Myself {New Faculty}

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I’m fool of feel good vibes and warm fuzzies up in here lately. I think it’s because I finally did all of my laundry and didn’t have to repack a suitcase within 72 hours of returning from a trip. Or it’s from the EIGHT solid hours of sleep I got last night. Whatever the reason, I’d like to talk about how we empower others and in return, we become empowered.

My prior work in STEM was really satisfying to me. It fit all of the niches of my brain and I’ll be honest here: I was pretty damn good at it. It had all of my favorite things (except melted cheese): teachers, kids, STEM, free education for those kids, free professional development for those teachers, paying those teachers, undergrad/grad research opportunities, a balanced spreadsheet (thank you) more than 90% of the time, and since I’m all warm and fuzzy today: it had me working with some of the best folks I know.

One of my many teachers bloomed from a math teacher to a bad-ass STEM guru. She really took off with the material we provided. She made it her own. She stumbled, she fell, but she always asked for help without feeling bad. And I was there to catch her. In return, she offered to return the favor whenever I asked, allowing me and my team into her school, into her life, and interrupting it more than we probably should have.

Yes, this was really that positive of a relationship. All those teachers and students loved me and I love them still.

I nominated this teacher for a prestigious math and science award last year. It’s so fancy she might win a trip to the White House, meet the president himself (hate him all you want, he’s still the guy in charge & you’d like to brag you met him too), and win a boatload of money for herself and her school. This teacher is so humble. She is so generous. She is so talented. But she forgot what a bad ass she is. She sent me a photo over the weekend of her receiving her STATE FINALIST award (what??) and said, “there were so many great teachers there, it was an honor.”

EXCUSE ME?

I replied, “you ARE one of those great teachers, don’t ever forget that!”

She replied, “you’re an angel.”

Little does she know that by spending time in her school, with her kids, and engrossed in her community, she empowered me.

You read that right: SHE EMPOWERS ME.

Every day.

Someone once asked me why I like doing what I do. It was a great question. My final answer:

“I like the underdog. I was born an underdog but I feel as though people invested in me every step of the way. When I invest in people and commit to them through research and building their capacity, I have yet to lose. I always win. When you invest in people, you will usually always win.”

Whether it’s supporting an amazing group of teachers, nurturing a struggling grad student, or taking time to listen to a trusted colleague, investing in people usually nets you more wins than losses.

I hope this teacher wins. Not just to hang a plaque on her wall, but to empower her. To show her what a great talent she is. To show her that she is one of the best educators in our country. To give her struggling county some of the recognition it deserves. To show that women can teach and raise our children, but in many cultures, they continue to be marginalized.

Every time I invest in people, I always win. I joke with my dad that the warm feelings won’t pay the electric bill, but I don’t need any heat today, I’m radiating sunshine for her and everything she represents.

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Taking the Time When You Need It

Taking Time When You Need It {New Faculty}

I’ll admit it: I sat by the pool and went swimming this afternoon while the grad student I brought with me is doing stats homework. Amount of guilt I feel: NONE. I did that time. I earned an hour of pool time to swim laps.

The grad student and I traveled together to a three day conference in sunny FL. I am more excited to bust out my sandals than to sit in three days of meetings (oops, i was honest) but honestly, anywhere warmer and nicer is welcome for me. The temp was 83 when we flew in, a slight breeze, and only moderate humidity. Um, hello FL, I love you in March.

Back to my point. I feel zero guilt at present. I did read an abstract that a student texted me about because it’s due and I wanted to view it, but other than that, zero work today. ZERO. Why? Because as much as I know there’s always more work to do, today I give myself permission to: fly, eat, swim, lounge watching the NCAA tourney, and whatever else I want. I might even take myself out for a cocktail later. I know we just came off spring break, I’m not an idiot, but I also know I will spend the next three days solid being “on” and my introvert personality is already coping with this fact. And by coping I mean “panicking” in case you were wondering.

Due to my nature of planning, I knew I had to plan in some down time for myself. The week was productive, fruitful, and busy as always but there was no down time built in. I did this to myself but also knew it would be a doozy of a week after break.

So, to make a long story short: I’m taking the time because I need it and you should too!

Listen to your inner monologue and respect it.

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Spring Break Meltdown: The Snow, Not Me

Spring Break Meltdown {New Faculty}

yeah, i took this pic!

Spring break sprung and I was struggling the week before. I was more than ready for a change of scenery, a change of pace, and a change in location for a few days. I’m missing ‘family vacation’ later this month due to a work trip, so I decided I’d go home and see my parents for a few days in good old, freezing as hell, upstate New York. I was warned, there was three feet of snow on the ground still and cold weather gear was a must.

I packed all the warm things I could, including the very nice winter boots I rarely wear down here because to me, it’s never really ‘that cold’ for long. We get ‘cold’ weather for a week or two, but nothing like the north. Anywho…I packed it and I shipped myself to the farm to see my parents, my dog, my friends, and my cows.

Don’t worry, I did a little work. But, the day before I was set to travel my mom texted me, “I have pneumonia.” Well, hello spring break. Not only have I gone farther north, but now I’m soup-making my way through it. Truth be told, I love cooking. I’ve never had a problem making meals for people and still haven’t mastered the art of “cooking for one” so it was perfectly ok that putting meals out was one of my tasks last week.

The snow was deep. Too deep for snowshoeing. Too deep to walk (ok, try) to walk through, and generally, it was cold. The weather was set for a warm up on Monday to help pack the snow down. I was set to conduct observations at a school that I’m doing research with so no love lost there on the weather.

All-in-all, it was a good spring break. I didn’t get a lot done. I made lots of meals, snowshoed almost every day with the dogs, poked around the barns, and generally enjoyed myself. I needed the respite. Even the 9+ hour drive each way was more tolerable thanks to a backlog of podcasts and audio books.

I share this with you not to brag (trust me, the to-do list did not dissipate during those four days), but to tell you that I knew I needed a break and it was the only way to get one. When I stay here in college town USA, I take small breaks, a day here, a day there, but rarely several days in a row. I think my brain still associates “work” with “this town” because I moved here to “work” years ago. It’s not a bad thing, but there’s nothing like physically vacating a space to also vacate some space in your brain.

Hopefully you were able to take a day or two off during your break as well. Even if you spent it doing things like making that meal you like, getting the oil changed in your car, being home for supper time with everyone, or whatever it was, I hope you took a moment to step back, reflect, and enjoy it.

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