Sunday, November 13, 2011

Holiday Survival for This Untenured TT Faculty Lady

Wow, this month is going to be a s**t-storm. I'm presently at a conference and these two hours of relative silence in my hotel room have given me a lot of future-thinking to do. Usually, I've got distractions at work (undergrads, grads, committee meetings, speakers, etc) and home (whining: why can't I have juice, chores, hygiene:ugh, cooking) and there is no time to just…silently…think. I don't even have time to think about who I am! Why, I'm me of course, but what does that mean?

Well, I still don't have enough time to contemplate my purpose or my existence, but I've got enough time right this moment to think about how the next few weeks are going to be crazy. On top of the usual teaching load and research duties, I've got Thanksgiving at my house. Somewhere in there is the DoE Early Career deadline… And I haven't started. The DARPA Young Faculty Award is going to pop up soon, and I question if I should also be trying for the ONR Young Investigator. 2 proposals to review, 3 papers to review. One manuscript of my own to edit and submit. How can I possibly do all of this and still teach and maintain my lab? Well, somehow I do - I always do. That proposal always gets in on time, the paper gets written, the students get taught. I shouldn't worry about it, and just accept that I get stuff done even if it means some tough weeks ahead.

I've hired a mother's helper to come in one weekday night so that my husband and I can get caught up on work. I'm suspending weekly meetings with my individual group members until early December. I'm working extra time as soon as my son is asleep. I know that it'll end right around Christmas. I've just got to hang on…

I think that I'll just take all the help I can get. Let the maid clean my house. Hire babysitters. Cook frozen casseroles from the store. It's only temporary insanity. Fortunately, my family understands this craziness because my sister and husband are also professors. My son understands; we've taught him to chant "NSF give me money!" Too cute.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Oh yeah, that's what pregnancy is about

My friend had a baby yesterday and I am so happy for her. This morning, I was remembering my first son's birth and the precious moments afterward. Holding him, marveling at him, feeling so proud. Then I realized: oh wait - I'm pregnant now - I get to have that moment again! It took me seven months of pregnancy, but I'm finally feeling maternal again.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Nesting = Paper and Proposal Writing

I'm now in the third trimester and my "nesting" instinct is kicking in. I'm frantically writing and submitting papers, trying to clear off my desk. I've got a few proposals to get in before the baby comes in January. I've disappeared because I'm just so busy!

I had the nicest experience today, where my undergraduate research adviser was visiting my university to give a seminar. He is a super-famous guy, who has won every award possible. Since it had been about 10 years since I was in his lab, I was nervous that he wouldn't remember me. I was wrong! He greeted me with a big hug in front of the whole room and started off his seminar with remarking on how proud he was of me! I just about started crying.

When I was an undergraduate, I was a researcher in his group on and off for three years. I attended a few group meetings, and meet with him once per semester. I was completely intimidated by him because he was the most brilliant person I had known at that time. I was afraid I might say something wrong, but when I did, he was nice about it. One semester was particularly rough for me because of personal reasons, and I had to drop out of research six weeks into the semester. When I told him I was dropping research he said that it was no problem and that I could come back anytime I wanted. I came back the next semester, and there were no hard feelings.

These moments keep me going, and lift me up from my sink hole of papers, class notes, and rejected proposals :)