Archive for the ‘failure’ Category

Parade Preparedness Fail

Last weekend we took Evan to the annual Santa Claus parade (yes, on the 10th of November – crazy, right?). As we sat our butts on the cold cement and looked around at the other families with their blankets, chairs, thermoses filled with hot chocolate, games (for the hour long wait before the parade started), and even full-size pizzas, we realized we were grossly under-prepared. 
As we walked back to the car, stiff from sitting in the cold on even colder cement, we swore we would write a list of what we needed to do/bring next year to make the parade a bit more enjoyable. 
– At least two blankets – one to sit on, another to cover us up
– A hot beverage, perhaps with an added “bonus” for the adults
– Snacks – pizza’s a bit extreme, but having some granola bars on hand couldn’t hurt
– Diversions for Evan – we can’t escape the need to get to the parade early in order to get a good spot. We should bring something to occupy him besides running around like a madman across the road and back.
– Wearing extra layers of clothing and bringing extra gloves/hats/scarves – even though the weather seems warm, sitting still for 2-3 hours means being colder than one would think!
Any other tips?
Regardless, we still had a great time at the parade this year! Evan wore himself out running around for the first hour that he sat nice and still during the parade. We particularly enjoyed the steel drum band and Santa of course!

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Maxidol Commercial

Last weekend, as I was enjoying an action flick on TV, I was bombarded every commercial break with the latest Maxidol commercial that made me more angry every time I watched it.
I’ve tried searching for it online, but have come up empty-handed so far.*  But, if you search for “maxidol time of the month commercial”, you’ll see I’m not the only one annoyed by it.
The commercial starts with a view of a woman’s work desk, and the narrator saying something along the lines of Poor Susie – she’s off work today because of cramping, bloating… — you get the idea. As the list goes on, the commercial cuts to a scene of a woman shopping to her heart’s content and leaving the store with both hands full of bags.
If you can’t figure out why this ad pisses me off, here’s a list of things it implies:
1. Women are unreliable when having their period
2. Even if women feel okay during their period, they’ll use it as an excuse to get out of work
3. When women do skip out of work, it’s to go shopping
4. Women love to shop, especially when having their period
5. Women can’t stop themselves when shopping and always over-indulge
I don’t know who’s idea this commercial was, or who let it air, but join me in telling Maxidol (Bayer Canada is the parent company – email is contactbayer@bayer.com) that they should go to hell!** And, no, I’m not irritable because of PMS. I’m irritable because this sexist shit is apparently still acceptable.

*If anyone has a link, let me know.
**I sent them an email on Tuesday – will update if I hear anything back!

Scientiae: Change is the Only Constant

After some discussion, it’s nice to see that the Scientiae carnival will continue this year! Instead of doing monthly posts, the carnival will be done quarterly. I hope there are many contributors, both old and new, this year!

The first carnival of the year is hosted by JaneB over at Now what was I doing?:

A truism widely used in one of the fields my research area touches on (way to be vague?) is: Change is the only constant.

A recent post by Biochembelle has influenced my post today. If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any length of time, you know that my PhD experience was not stellar (to say the least). Looking back, I can see now that part of it was because I could not accept my mindset changing about my career.

When I graduated from my bachelor’s degree, I had no idea what I wanted to do. So, I took a job as an inside technical sales person for an industrial electric motor company. That lasted all of two months. At that point, I decided to go back to school, go back to astronomy, and get a masters. During that time, I loved research. I loved the people, I loved the subject, and I was having the time of my life. So, it was just natural to continue with a PhD with the future goal of becoming a tenured professor.

I moved across the country and switched fields. The first six months were okay. Not great by any stretch, but I attributed it to being in a new city with new people and studying something completely different. All of a sudden I didn’t have any close friends nearby for the first time in my life, and I had no idea what I was doing in my research. On top of that, a paper came out basically scooping my PhD project, so I had to start from scratch.

Things continued to get worse. I would get into these funks that lasted for days or weeks, hating my research and hating my classes. But, when I talked to other students or professors about it, everyone said they feel/felt that way during their PhD. Everyone convinced me that being miserable and frustrated all the time was perfectly normal. Clearly, they didn’t have a grasp of my particular situation. At one point it was so bad that, after a melt-down in our living room, my now husband suggested I see a therapist.

I knew I wanted to quit. My husband knew I wanted to quit. My therapist knew I wanted to quit. But, I just couldn’t do it. It wasn’t about letting other people down, though that was part of it. It was really about seeing myself as a failure. It was about finishing what I started, because I didn’t want to be one of those people who were never happy no matter what they did.

So, I pushed through. I finished my research, wrote up my thesis, and couldn’t be done fast enough. I was so incredibly happy when the committee told me I passed. Not because of the accomplishment (I couldn’t even stand to be called “Doctor”), but because it was finally over. I could move on to something I enjoyed.

I knew very early on that I no longer wanted to do scientific research at that level, but I just couldn’t bring myself to leave. I couldn’t accept that I had changed my view about research and about becoming a professor. Looking back, I would have to say it’s one of my very few regrets in life that I didn’t leave my PhD.

In the end, I do think I’ve learned from the experience. I now allow myself the option of leaving or quitting or giving up. I try not to do things I don’t want too (within reason, of course – we all have obligations and responsibilities that must be tended too!). Two years ago, if I had the problems I did with breastfeeding Evan, I would have just kept going, being miserable for months. Instead, I gave myself a specific time-line: if it wasn’t working after a certain amount of trying (six weeks), I could move on. And you know what? It worked. I was able to give it a good try. It didn’t work, so I stopped. No guilt (okay, some, but not as much as I thought), and things got so much better so much faster.

So, here is my advice to anyone out there struggling with something – be it your job, your relationship, or some other facet of your life: give yourself a specific time-line (don’t say “well let’s see what it’s like in a while”; say “I’m giving myself until July 1st”), give it a fair chance during that time, and if it doesn’t work out, change the situation. No guilt. There is nothing wrong with changing your path. In fact, it can be quite liberating!

Zero Motivation

I have about 3 months left before I start my pregnancy/parental leave (November 15th unless something comes up like bed-rest or Baby G arriving early) , and I have absolutely no motivation to work.

The plan is to use Baby G’s arrival as a kind of a deadline for my academic career – my “get out of academia free” card, if you will. So that means I need to wrap up my work before then. But, I’m finding it hard to concentrate on working on any of my projects, and I find myself wasting time at work by surfing the net, reading blogs, and finding other new, exciting (or not-so-exciting) ways to procrastinate.

I know I just need to deal with it, get to work, and get this stuff done. After all – it’s only 3 more months, and then I’m free!!

So, what would I like to accomplish before November 15th?

1. Get that frickin’ masters paper submitted, and hopefully accepted for publication.
This one is out of my hands right now. I sent the most recent draft to my MSc supervisor at the end of June and am waiting to hear back. Just FYI – it’s been 5 years since I handed over my first draft of this paper.

2. Get a good start on my new post-doc project so that it doesn’t die when I leave.
This includes documenting what I’m doing so I can hand over the stuff to whoever will be working on the project next.

3. Write up how-to packages for earthquake outreach material
When I first started this post-doc, I was given the task to buy a bunch of earthquake-related supplies to create hands-on activities. I need to write up how to use these materials so they just don’t sit in a box somewhere, collecting dust.

4. Finish up a lit-search for post-doc
Another smallish project I was given was to do a lit-search on a certain topic, write up a summary, and include abstracts/links to pertinent papers. I got a really good start on this, then it just died.

5. Education conference duties
I really need to start and finish finding papers by Canadians who have done research on education at the post-secondary level in Physics and Astronomy. This work will be presented at a conference next summer, and then will be put into a paper after that. I’m also on the organizing committee for this conference, so I need to make sure someone else can take over my duties while I’m on leave.

6. Astronomy outreach
I have two events still to come – another open house on August 21st, and then another event on September 18th. I also need to decide what grants to apply to, if any, this year for the observatory outreach program, and I need to figure out what’s going to happen with the program while I’m on leave. Finally, I hope to secure an outreach position for when I come back.

7. Post-doc association stuff
I am a member of the executive for the post-doc association on campus. In all honesty, I haven’t done much, but I do want to make sure someone is able to take my place once I leave (or before).

That seems like a hell of a lot of crap to do in three months. So, why can’t I motivate myself to do any of it (except the outreach stuff, which is fun….and which I don’t get paid for :P)? Is it because the amount of stuff is overwhelming? Is it because I’d rather focus on preparing for Baby G’s arrival? Is it because it’s summer? A combination?

Gotta Know When to Fold ‘Em

My problem is that I don’t.

Over the past few years, I have definitely gotten better at saying “no” to things that I just cannot handle or don’t want to do. But, I still really have a problem with stopping my involvement with something. I think it’s because I feel like I will let a lot of people down if I don’t continue.

For example, this whole outreach program I’ve been trying to set up for the telescope that is slated to shut down later this year…I just don’t know about it anymore. In fact, I’ve felt this way since day one. Yes, it would be really great for that facility to be used for outreach and education. And, yes, it would be cool to develop the program.

BUT…

– I honestly do not like working with some of the people that I would have to be in contact with on a regular basis (and, as I learned during my PhD, is a very bad thing for happiness)
– I feel that I’m only doing this because I’m the “last line of defense”
– There is SO much work to even make the facility accessible to the public, most of which I don’t really care about.
– The project is just getting out of hand. In the beginning, I just wanted it to be a simple outreach program…now it’s turning into a circus, with symphony orchestras, charity balls, and VIP dinners.
– I feel that my time is being consumed by this project, even though it is not my job.
– I feel like I took it on so I could make a job for myself, instead of putting myself out there and searching for something that I really want to do (or…gah…even going back to school) — like it was the “easy” way out for me, so that I wouldn’t have to think about my career.

Even with all of these negative points (and other factors that I won’t get into now), I just can’t bring myself to say to everyone that I don’t want to do it anymore (even though I said in the very beginning that I will make no promises). I feel like people will be let down, because I’m the last person who is trying to do something with this observatory. I also feel like they’ll think I’m a failure or a “quitter” because I’m just not willing to put in the time and effort.

In fact, I even feel my lovely blog readers will feel this way about me because I was so (apparently) gung-ho about this project just a short time ago.

Initially, I had put myself on a time-line: if nothing came of the program by a certain date, I would end it. But, honestly, now I am so worried that something will come of the program and I’ll be stuck with it and the people associated with it.

I should also say that I still really like the idea of the program, and being able to get it off the ground would be an amazing accomplishment. I just don’t know if I’m up to the task.

(Please read comments #2 & #3 below for more, as it might answer some questions).

Harder Than I Thought

We started trying again this cycle to no avail, and the negative result is a lot more painful than I expected (for both of us). It has brought a lot of the emotion back from the miscarriage, especially when I think how far along I’d be right now, or when I see/hear about pregnant women or a newborn.

I was very, very angry today. Angry at myself for not being able to get pregnant right away. Angry at Baby G for leaving us in the first place. Angry at the universe for picking us to have to go through this. Angry that we didn’t start trying earlier. Angry at anyone who ever has gotten pregnant without even trying.

I know that I shouldn’t complain – that, in fact, I’m one of the lucky ones because I can get pregnant. But, I sure don’t feel lucky right now. All I feel is anger, sadness, and hopelessness…and that knitting this damn baby blanket is going to be very emotional.

Impostor Syndrome on High

Wow – did I ever have “damn, am I stupid” day today 😦

I met with my supervisor and gave him the rest of my thesis (a good thing, yes). He hadn’t read anything else I had given him over the past two weeks, but he told me he’d try to read everything by the end of the week.

Right after lunch he brought me my intro with corrections. For some reason I’m really taking these comments personally, and it doesn’t help that he wants me to add a TON of stuff. Now I don’t know where to start, or where to add certain sections…I just feel overwhelmed and freaked out. I only have 19 days before I have to submit it.

Then I went to a PhD defense – the student has 7 published papers…SEVEN!! Well, one was a second-author paper…gah!! Who publishes seven papers during their PhD?? I couldn’t follow her talk at all, not even the title slide!

Anyway, I feel like shit and just want to cry (and have on and off all afternoon – just ask DH). I just want this awful part of my life to be over already!

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