January 31, 2013


I am probably making a mistake by teaching this semester. I have the opportunity and I hate to say no to what is ostensibly a good opportunity for any postdoc. Teaching others helps solidify communication, knowledge, interaction and team work skills. All things I need to work on. After all I have Sheldon Cooperish tendencies

However, I also have a chip on my shoulder that says teaching doesn't matter and isn't valued at all as a skill- at any level of education (speaking for the US here, I hear that in Taiwan, tutors are rock stars and there are reality TV competitions 'who's the best tutor?'). 

Of course, it is just one class. And I am enjoying solving the puzzle of putting it together for the 2nd time.

I gave my first lecture tonight. It went well enough. I wish I'd had a bit more time to prepare, but the structure of DNA is something I know pretty well. 

I think teaching is good for me, and I think I do derive some satisfaction out of it; but I'm not sure what exactly it is. I do like connecting people to information. And learning new things myself (not that I've been super effective at that the past few years...read previous posts; depression sucks. Perhaps it's something I should explore more in future posts. 

In some ways, it's good because it forces me out of my shell and pushes me to get things done. It's also exhausting. 

More to come on this, I'm sure. 

January 29, 2013


Rest. Relaxation. Sleep. A Life.

Four horsemen of a laziness and in the culture of science, they're things you're 'supposed' to minimize to be successful. These things are essential for being human. I don't get enough of any of them. And even though I do more things now that are satisfying to me, they feel like stop gap measures to maintaining my sanity. 

Turning off and letting go are things I don't naturally do well (especially when I feel like I'm behind on things & I'm always behind). That's not to say that when I'm on, I do things the right way, or well. But  I'm a human and no matter how I do when I'm 'on' I need to recharge my batteries (especially as an introverted person). 

This last week hasn't been great for that. Last night, I basically shut down. And just needed to stop. I drove home from the first day of lab, second day of lecture for the class I'm co-teaching in a large snowstorm. I don't think I'd have made it home if it weren't for the snow plow I followed most of the way. 

I barely ate today. And feel kind of awful (of course) because of it. I've been eating a lot less this year so far. I'm not sure if it's the cold weather or what. I've been rushed in the mornings due to trying to get every last minute of sleep. I've gone out for coffee on my way to work each morning. Maybe good for socializing a little bit. But it's also expensive.

I worked most of the weekend. Not sleeping well. Not socializing nearly enough to be healthy. My hug count for 2013 is 0 (yes, I count- and assume my count is lower than most other people's). 

Some of this is because I don't set good boundaries, but of course, like most scientists (probably like most Americans in professional positions), the ideal is to work as much as possible. Get up early. Stay late. Eat at your desk (while working). Don't read for pleasure. Only work. Come in at least one day a weekend and get something done. Have more things going than you can handle at once. Multi-task. 

I don't know that any of this is a problem, but it certainly doesn't help, especially if you don't have something else to balance things out a bit. A hobby, family, something else you're passionate about besides your work. I'm still not sure I've found that thing for myself (the most elegant solution for me would be a significant other- being single sucks...no matter how much my friends in relationships say they're a pain too). 

I don't have any good answers. There are things I'd like to change in my life. And may well be changing. I'm just not sure any of my new habits will make much difference. 

I wish I had a more positive note to end on. It's late. So I'm going to get to sleep. 

January 20, 2013


Motivation and drive to get things done has been on my mind lately. As well as the things that still get in my way. Several things I have run across have spoken to this lately:

  • Biochem Belle (@BiochemBelle) had this  fantastic post about creating ideas, silencing your inner critic for a time, giving yourself space to generate ideas before nixing things in the bud outright (a tendency I certainly have).
  • I also recently subscribed to Annie Murphy Paul's 'Brilliant Blog' and her post about a sense of community being important for learning.
  • Kerry Ann Roquemore's series on academic perfectionism. I mentioned this series before even though I'd only read the first of the posts. I read the rest and it speaks to my struggles with perfectionism and how I've at least started to take some positive steps towards addressing it.
  • I also just watched 'I'm Fine, Thanks', a documentary I was introduced to via itstartswith.com, @sarahkpeck's blog about getting things done and living life well. I had tears in my eyes in recognition during the whole thing. 

All four of these things really resonated with me strongly. Here's why:

  • Perfectionism also takes on the guise of my inner critic that shoots down dieas before they even fully form and have time to breathe. Or before I even try.
  • Perfectionism is isolating. One thing I've been taught again and again is that learning happens best with other people. For feedback, for support, for new ideas and for getting used to a new environment. Perfectionism keeps you on the sidelines. "It's not the critic who counts...." comes to mind. Perfectionism keeps you out of the arena.
  • One things I've lacked as a postdoc is drive. Perfectionism is truly devastating. It's one reason for my disconnection. It's also the reason I procrastinate on things; if they're not going to be perfect, why start? It really is a self-defeating way of thinking. My tendency is to avoid people as an introvert, but they are essential to an effective learning environment.
  • When I watched 'I'm Fine, Thanks', it has made me see that I have been defined by a vision that has been defined by others. Namely, grad school, postdoc, then faculty position, then tenure, etc. Oh and a significant other, possibly a family along the way. The straight line to success that doesn't really exist. I feel stuck & disconnected in my current position. I don't have a good history with relationships. And I don't quite have a good idea of what my vision is. I'm starting to question and push that direction, but my feeling right now is that I'm not sure bench research is what I want to be doing forever. The director of the movie decided to make his dream of making a film come true; I like asking and finding answers to questions, but my current setting is not conducive to that.
With this blog, I'm trying to address perfectionism by just writing it pretty loosely and not worrying too much about 'tight' writing. And then putting it out into the world and realizing that it's not fatal. I do strive to be good enough. And coherent. And sometimes clever. 

Perfectionism is deadly. Don't participate. Get past it. Address the underlying insecurity that drives it. Academics do seem very prone to perfectionism. It will lead into depression and other bad places. If you're a perfectionist, join me on the road to recovery. 

January 14, 2013


This is my list of words that I'll be returning to again and again in 2013:

I've heard this idea from a number of places. Have a word you can return to to check in with and make sure you're actually going after your goals for the year. 

Ask is my word because asking is how I can reconnect with the world. What questions do I need to ask?
  • How do I_____?
  • Would you like to ____ with me ('go out', e.g.)?
  • Can you teach me________?
  • I am applying for _________.
  • Where can I find _________?
  • Can I help you___________?
  • Have you read__________?
  • Did I do this the best way I could have?
  • Do you think you can give me some feedback?
  • Will you publish my paper?
  • I'm curious about________. 
  • Do I have to be a postdoc forever?
  • Have I formed better habits around_____?
  • I would like __________.
I don't ask things of people or myself nearly enough. I settle for the status quo. I of course will ask questions in the lab and hopefully ask good ones. For too long, I've just not asked due in large part to a fear of vulnerability. I learned to hide behind 10 layers of brick wall in my mind and rarely let anyone in...not even me at times. What do I want? I've almost never had a good answer for this question. 
You may have noticed I have some other words below 'Ask'. These are other words to focus on this year. Finish, doing, deciding, writing and it will be good enough. Not perfect. I made this image the lock screen on my phone and I put it into Evernote as a note so hopefully I'll look at this often and be reminded. Asking terrifies me a lot of the time. I'm that person who won't even bring up bad service at a restaurant to the server; or often ask why something is one way vs. another. 

So my main word for this year is to ask. Of others. Of myself. Of the internet. 

Do you have a word or words for 2013?

January 8, 2013

Academic mastery vs. real world mastery.

I like 'The Big Bang Theory'. I can see myself in the main characters of the show (not Penny as much, but I'm not an attractive blonde girl from Nebraska who sometimes turns out to the be smartest one in the room when it comes to life in the real world). 

Which brings me to the point of this post (which again, I'm sure has been hashed to death by others in a more engaging way). 

There's an episode 'The Friendship Algorithm' where Sheldon talks about learning how to swim over the internet. He later learns to rock climb by the same method. 

When Sheldon does attempt to actually rock climb, he makes it part way up the wall until he realizes he's 'high up' (5 feet, at most!), gets really scared and can't move up or down. And eventually faints and falls off the wall...'hanging there like a huge Salami' as Barry Kripke describes it. 

Funny scene, but also speaks to an issue I know I struggle with. Being in my own head too often. And when confronted with something practical I need to do, I freeze in fear. If it's something new, it needs to be studied to death first (it is kind of amazing that Sheldon gets anything done, but perhaps because he's a theoretical physicist, his work truly is all in his head and he just needs to write it down in publishable form). 

I may be doing better but I'm still too perfectionist for my own good. It's hard to separate striving for excellence with trying to be perfect. Obviously, the former is fine, the latter is crippling. Jason Moore shared this series on academic perfectionism addresses the issues I definitely still have- almost at an unconscious level. I do it automatically with writing, it's part of the reason I write here. to get over it (it's partly helped). I haven't read the whole series, but the first installment nails the problem...I can't wait to read the rest of it. It is targeted towards faculty, but think the issues apply equally to grad students and postdocs. 

The level of certainty I seem to need in things is higher than for most other people. Like Raj on 'Big Bang', I have trouble talking to women (at least ones that I don't know..I'm OK w/ female friends). It's perfectionism + needing certainty of outcome for me to proceed. 

Trying to live purely intellectually is what I've done for so long that it's hard to learn a new way of doing things. Or to do what Sheldon doesn't, try to get over fear, get out of my head into the messy uncertain world and try as many new things as possible. It's where my resolutions are centered this year. I have no doubt I'm in for a world of mistakes.

Lifehacker was once again helpful with a timely post about taking small steps towards addressing anxieties and fear. As I do with this blog, I guess it means exposing myself to the real world. 

So this year, I am working on being the master of my academic work, but also to not be as paralyzed by the real world either. Through small steps. Let's see how I do...

January 6, 2013

New. Old.

2013. Obviously. It's a new year. New Stuff! 

I am buying quite a few new things it seems. Some things I should have gotten years ago. 

An APA style guide. So I can write more good.

I'm thinking of getting a printer I can use at home, rather than relying on the lab printer for everything I want in hard copy form. 

I got a new computer last month that I'm slowly setting up the way I want it. Computers are great. Keyboard shortcuts are really fun to learn. 

Some new toys I still want to get: 

Sonic screw driver and Dr. Who themed notebook. Because I'm a Whovian and I want a blank journal to record things in.

My own laster pointer. To point at the night sky, but also use in power point presentations

New Running gear. This is the year I want to run a half marathon.

New Sheets on my bed. Flannel is comfortable!

New attitude: Ask! I think that's the theme of my year. Ask questions. Ask for help. Ask people to attend things with. Ask to get myself into crazy adventures. Ask. 

I am also getting rid of some old things:

Books I haven't looked at in years. 

Old magazines.

Files I no longer need. 

Old clothes. 

Old attitudes. Bring in more self compassion. Less time beating myself up. More time doing things that matter (people, relationships, 

January 3, 2013

Write Right. Write. Right.

It is early in 2013 and I'm thinking about resolutions. 

One of them is to get things written down. In digital or hand written form. I'd like to do a post a week. I want to get a good work flow going on one of my projects at work. Though I still don't see what's interesting about it. One problem I have is feeling disconnected. Not just from my work, but from people too. I'm re-reading the section in 'Daring Greatly' (now one of my favorite books) about how people become disconnected. The amount of times I tear up in reading passages and seeing just how many layers of shielding and armor I've wrapped myself in is astounding. No wonder I feel so stuck. 

I was reminded of this line from 'Doctor Who' recently: 

"The Doctor said the universe was huge and ridiculous and, sometimes, there were miracles."

I'm kind of hoping for a miracle this year. Not that I'm a literal believer in such things per se, but there are things I find miraculous. Like yesterday, I got a message from a friend telling me exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. 

As the title of this post suggests, I want to write more this year (and do it right!). In this space, but also in my work, writing cover letters and formatting resumes and sending them to whoever I can; a real miracle would be getting hired. While I do believe in myself more & feel like I can make meaningful contributions to a lab/company, it's still hard to see the change happening. All I can do is make a real effort to get it done.  

I'm still in my own way too much. A mantra I'm trying to internalize is "Do More. Think less."

Two blog posts have caught my attention this week:

Penelope Trunk suggests banning the word 'busy'


The always good suggestions of Sarah Peck, in this case a list of 52 suggestions for good life habits (#16. Do something that terrifies you. Every Day.)

Publishing a post here terrifies me. So I've done that for the day. 

At the beginning of 2013, I can tell I have some better habits that I've slowly formed over the last year. And I feel like I am slowly chugging forward, as opposed to being a train that had stopped (seemingly permanently) at a depot. 

I don't know where in the huge and ridiculous universe the train will take me, but mostly, the thing I want to do is feel connected again. Be connected. Probably fall flat on my face and fail more often than not, but the main point is to not think about things so much. Just do them and trust myself enough that my first instincts are correct. That I do have a decent brain that can solve problems, interpret, note, observe and explore. All while continuing to serve as an example to others of previous bad habits as a postdoc and my development of much better ones. 

I know none of this sounds specific, but that's the part I'm not going to share with the world. 

Good luck and best wishes in 2013,