Monthly Archives: January 2016

Who Can You Depend on? Being Self-Reliant

destinys child

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Something happened a few years ago. Ok, about 25 give or take a decade, but the thing was that my mom raised us to be independent. Cue Destiny’s Child here….

After 30+ years on the planet, I wake up and know less than I did the day before and I have even more questions that I could spend the rest of my life working on. But of all the life I have lived, I know a few things and this is one: I’m pretty self-reliant. Independent. Don’t “need” a man to take out my garbage. I’m not talking about the arrogant “I got this far all by myself” talk because that is NOT the case at all, but the case that I do what I want, I have figured out how to function as an individual, independent unit. In the best way possible.

Every once in a while I am reminded that while I don’t have a person, it is nice to have folks in my life I can count on. A friend in real life moved to my town recently to start grad school (I recruited him) and he really is a “real life friend,” and not merely a “person I know” in the ether. I’m fortunate to have good people in my life and eternally grateful for them, but not everyone can be counted on for all things. Some of the people on my squad are for professional purposes, others personal, many are multi-purpose. This friend is multi-purpose and very reliable.

I sent myself home from campus last week after getting sick twice in my office. I had excused myself from the department meeting after feeling nauseous, dizzy, and then realized I was going to be sick. After laying on the couch and moving to my bedroom, and getting sick several more times I realized I was not going back to work. And I needed ginger ale. I texted my friend for some back-up and requested some of the good stuff. While he was in class until early evening, it was ok with me because I was still getting sick and couldn’t keep anything down anyway.

Like the moon rising, he showed up about 30 minutes after class with two giant bottles of ginger ale, checked to see if I needed anything else, and went about his evening. I appreciated him on so many levels that day. Not only for caring, but for acknowledging that while he was busy, he could certainly make time to swing through the grocery store for some ginger ale and bring it by my house. While I was in no shape to verbalize it that evening, we got together later in the week when I was feeling better and I shared my gratitude with him.

It forced me to reflect on why I had become and how I had become so self-reliant in the first place. A long time ago, someone who was in my life used to throw me “under the bus” every chance he got and I didn’t realize it for a long time. I know it strained my relationship with others because they had false information and a poor opinion of me without my knowledge and I learned the hard way that I needed to represent myself. Fast forward to today and while I still consider myself independent and self-reliant, I make sure I’m aware when someone does give me a little boost.

How does this translate to the academy? In many ways both obvious and subtle. Self-preservation is important to me and letting my guard down doesn’t come easy. Being vulnerable, sick, and asking for mercy and ginger ale was a good reminder that I need to do the same at work. Sometimes I feel like a research robot, going through the motions to push out the work and I need to remind myself that I’m not doing it just to get it over with, but there’s always vulnerability involved. I work on this with my undergraduate researchers in particular to not only teach the methods but instill the qualities of being vulnerable to ask questions but independent enough to think critically. I need to remember that I can and should ask for help. My students ask me for help all of the time, but I rarely ask others in return. I burden myself with extra work in the name of perfection instead of delegating and being happy with what comes in.

Being self-reliant is not a bad trait to posess by any stretch of the word, in fact it’s usually something I’m quite proud of, but the stomach bug reminded me that no matter how bad ass I think I am, a virus can bring me to my knees and force me to ask for help and I shouldn’t be afraid to do the same at work either.

 

 

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Snow Storm? Snow-Problem

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If you’re like me, you’ve finally dug out from the storm on the east coast. It was a big one for our area–over a foot fell by the time it was done and that’s a lot for the south! My attitude on snow is one of “meh” due to the fact that I grew up standing in a snow bank in upstate New York. A foot of snow is more like an inconvenience to me, but I do understand how it can shut a town down. This town is great, but lacks the infrastructure, equipment, and man power to take care of this kind of precipitation. I get it. Trust me. The grocery store was bare two days before and my hat goes off to the hard working employees there, in public works, and folks like farmers who still had to work no matter the outside conditions.

Having plenty of warning and time to prepare, the university shut down on Friday, the public transit shut down for two days, announcing it 24 hours in advance, and most local schools, businesses, and organizations also announced their closure. It was the perfect opportunity to also do the same. Shut down, reboot, and enjoy the solitude.

The power stayed on so all first world conveniences were at hand: a warm house, plenty to eat, a steady stream of internet and netflix, and time to not even feel obligated to leave the house. The solitude was almost deafening. Not a single person outside, not a single vehicle moving by, no noise. Only white noise from the snow.

The weather offered great pause for everyone I know to laze about without consequence or any feelings of guilt. Many of my friends and colleagues took work home but there’s something about that psychological freedom, that pure joy of having no where to be, no where to go, and knowing you can stand (or sit) still for a while. The greatest luxury of our pack of academics is to unplug and reboot. With the attachment we have to devices, work, and the lack of any kind of balance, a two day sno-cation was just what we all needed.

I baked, I cooked, I bought fancy charcuterie (also known as amazing salami) and ate it with some amazing NY cheddar I brought back with me, and didn’t shower for several days. Guilt free. I love snow so when it began to come down, I took the opportunity to trudge and shuffle up empty streets for about three miles each day and check out the world around me. It was wonderfully silent and still.

As I draft this, I’m back at my favorite coffee shop getting ready for another week but the two day break was delightful. Instead of worrying about what I had no control over, I took full advantage of the break. Town is back to the bustling place I know, more folks have dug themselves out and are pouring into the building, and I hope each of you were able to enjoy the snow as much as I did. It will be gone in a week, the weather forecast is very mild. Cheers to the next snow storm!

 

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The Difficulty of Dissertating (or working) From Home

Great post about how to dissertate from home!

Projects half Done

ProjectsHalfDone | Dissertating from home

It’s over.

Finally.

Dissertation defended. Edits done. ETD submitted. Done. (Oh, and I passed, by the way)

For the last 6 months or so, I’ve been working and dissertating from home. My assistantship with my department ended, and although I did secure some part-time employment, it was all computer based so I worked from home. Every day I had to find the motivation to get up and do some actual work, whether that was writing my dissertation or doing work-related items, I had to force myself to get into that mindset.

Working from home…and being motivated every day was hard.

So.

Very.

Hard.

There were days when I wanted to lay in bed all day. There were days when I wanted to binge watch all of Netflix. There were days when I didn’t want to shower or put on real pants. There were days that those things happened. But how does…

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Goals 2016

goals

Goals 2016 {New Faculty}

Happy New Year!

I like ending a year and starting a year doing one thing: reflecting.

I think karma has intervened and as I draft this post, I’m sitting at home, under a blanket, on the couch with a box of tissues next to me with a head cold. I think it’s a gentle reminder to start my goals very simply and very deliberately this year.

  1. Remind myself that self care isn’t selfish. Whether it’s continuing to make time to swim or remind myself that I can take a time out, I need to remind myself that I am lucky enough to have a job where I can stay home and rest and not infect my colleagues with whatever germs I have picked up. Designing my own schedule is a form of psychological freedom that I relish in and I’m willing to make less money in order to be able to design my schedule. Taking good care of myself may mean coming home and being still or making sure I head out and see my friends, but it’s all self care and it’s all equally important.
  2. Better quality first drafts. I sent out manuscripts this year and had accepts/edits/R&R’s/rejects. On my final acceptance of the year (12/21/15), the reviewers came back with very complimentary feedback. It was an R&R at first and I worked hard on it with one other author. The compliments were delightful, “much improved from draft one,” “authors reorganized and draft should be accepted,” and “no need for reviewers to see again, accept with minor edits.” The minor edits were FOUR grammatical type things “add an ‘s,'” “should be ‘with’ instead of ‘of,'” and things of the like. I get impatient with manuscripts or I drag them out for so long that I forget them. I need to do a better job this year of putting out better quality first drafts. I’m not sure if the rejections I got this year would have been accepted because of it (one said, ‘this does not fit with the direction our journal wants to go in’) but it did give me pause to consider it.
  3. Say “yes” to things that will help my trajectory and continue to be better about saying “no” to things that won’t. It’s not as easy as it sounds. I have a hard time saying no, I think most people do, but I have gotten a lot better about thinking “how will this help me?” before saying yes this year. Some things are easy to say no to and others are easy to say yes to, but knowing where something will benefit me is something I need to work on. I have assumed more responsibility this year in advising, committees for graduate students, teaching more classes, and assuming more undergraduate researchers. All of those were easy “yes'” for me to make. I also said yes to a few big grant proposals and traveled to a few conferences. Where I found myself thinking before saying yes was when there would be ‘open calls’ for things. Whether in the department or out in the broader community of the university, I would sit, listen, and not respond right away. I would often wait, think about it, and then send a note to the organizer. It sounds very selfish but as a young faculty member, my time isn’t growing and the pulls on it continue to pull. A friend and colleague of mine always says, “if it’s not helping my T&P packet, I’m not doing it.” Some people would be critical of their stance, but I get it. Watching them draw a very firm line in the sand and then stick to it is the discipline I need to work on.

There you have it. Happy 2016!