Wednesday, December 2, 2009


... in which I pull my head out of the sand and out of my ass.

Recently there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth--some in the blog, much more outside of the blogosphere. The past couple of months have been really intense; not only has research been painfully lackluster, but there was a whole heap of other crap outside of science (that I won't go into right now). I am no good at compartmentalizing, so each thing feeds into the other, particularly because science is such an integral part of who I am. Add to this that on the order of 30 hours of my weekend plus another night during the week is spent alone (as Paramed is working), I have way to much time to think, contemplate, overanalyze, etc., etc.

So I took the four-day weekend to reset. During the course of those four days, I think I spent a grand total of 1 hour focused on research to draw up a plan of action. The remainder of the time was spent sleeping, watching TV, writing creatively (which I haven't done in months), working on a 12 year old's reading list, watched a Lord of the Rings movie, and other general miscellany not associated with work. It was wonderful. And just what I needed--even if that makes me a "bad" postdoc.

Yesterday afternoon I took some time to think about what I don't like regarding current affairs (mine, not the world's), what I want out of my life right now, what I should be doing... In a span of thirty minutes, I had filled a page with goals that I could and should implement in short order. Many of these ideas center around restoring some sense of balance (a topic I commented preached on early in this blog's existence, but which seems to have gotten completely out of whack for me) and making the most out of my remaining time at BRI. In a neater and more comprehensible form than what I freewrote, here's what I came up with and why:
  • Use my time more efficiently. Time sinks in my life (like e-mail, Twitter, and coffee breaks) have been growing. It's not just the time they consume directly, but the disruption of focus and thought processes that they cost. I have too much shiznit to get done. Of course, it's not just at work, but at home as well. Because of Paramed's wacky schedule, I am carrying a large burden of the household chores, and I need to be more efficient in that regard.
  • Get my last manuscript from Bear's lab published. I've been clinging to this one. It's really interesting stuff, and some of the experiments that I did still astonish me. It's just there's so much more that could/should have been done, but it was the end of the line. I need to let this one go, and trust Bear and his lab to polish the edges, so I can focus on what I'm doing at BRI.
  • Connect with other postdocs in the research community at BRI. For better or worse, my postdoc lab is not particularly social. It seems that each person has one or two other people in the lab that s/he talks to (whether about science or nonscience stuff) on a regular basis, and breaking into those tiny cliques is difficult. But there are gaggles of postdocs and other scientists in the research community affiliated with BRI. So I am going to be more engaged in the community, starting with the monthly journal club and postdoc socials. There is really no excuse for not meeting other postdocs.
  • Focus on my health. I knocked off a couple of concerns in the last few months, but I have let things slide with regard to diet and exercise. I know that the healthier I am--the cleaner my diet, the fitter I am--the more energy I have. And given the experiments I'm planning for the next few months, I'm gonna need all I can get.
  • Focus on what I can do here to mature as a scientist. I have been quite focused on the research aspect (and independence therein) during my time at BRI, thus far. However, there are many other things that go into being a good scientist and having a successful independent career, like grant writing, presenting, managing, networking, etc. There are many opportunities at BRI and in Guru's lab to develop these skills and resources, and I should take full advantage of them. Honestly, if I leave BRI without a good network, someone should give me a kick in the ass.
  • Figure out how to communicate clearly/calmly/confidently with those in authority. I cannot explain it, but I seem to forget how to speak around Guru sometimes. I have to learn how to communicate with him more effectively. And with other PIs, administrators, etc. I have a feeling that one day my academic "life" might depend on it.
  • Create slots of "protected" time with Paramed. Life is insane for us both. We may never feel like we get "enough" time together. Right now I'm just looking for a few--literally, 3 or 4--hours together a week, during which I am not cooking/working/cleaning/revising and he is not working/at school/doing homework.
  • Establish some social connections that are not built on professional ones. Yeah, I pretty much suck at this. Always have. But I'm going to try. Maybe.
  • Learn to find happiness where I am. 'Nuff said.


leigh said...

i highly, HIGHLY recommend seeking out your local postdoc association and getting involved. i'm on the social committee, and have met a bunch of really cool people i enjoy meeting up with. i get to plan social events, and get invited to lots of other social events as a result :)

i always feel so much better when i take some time to relax with friends. that's part of why i was so miserable in grad school- ubercompetitive backstabbing environment, nobody i could trust, very far away from good friends. particularly when the fixer was living 4+ hours away.

biochem belle said...

I am working toward that. Things are a bit odd with the divisions of institutes here. My institute has a relatively new affiliation with another nearby institute that seems to have a very active postdoc community. I'm trying to get involved there.

Your grad school environment sounds very much like my postdoc one. Coming from a more collaborative, friendly grad school experience has made this a particularly difficult transition.