Saturday, March 20, 2010

Time Marches On

I could start this blog by apologizing about how I haven't written in so long, but I was never a consistent bloggger. And no one reads this anyway!

It's the end of spring break, although there is snow on the ground. We didn't go anywhere this year because it's too stressful with three dogs that don't get along and we're trying to save money for all our trips to weddings this summer. I spent a good deal of time over the last few weeks looking up trips to exotic destinations and imagining that we could just pick up and go and spend hours on a beach somewhere reading books. I knew we weren't actually going to go, but I enjoyed the distraction, the research. I love looking at options, even if there is nothing to show for it at the end.

The dust is settling in Iowa. I feel more comfortable in my life here and in my job as a professor. I have more friends. And a routine. Things are more familiar and comfortable. I have different pockets of people I know from circles in my life I become a part of. And that feels good. But, this winter was hard on me. Christmas break wasn't much of a break and involved way too much traveling and stressful experiences. I came back feeling unrefreshed and uninspired. And then winter settled in and sucked the life and energy out of me. I've been working late on campus every night and coming home exhausted. I usually love cooking and haven't even stepped foot in a grocery store in months, let alone cooked anything. But, I'm trying to look ahead...and remember that every winter sort of feels like this. And things get better and the days get longer and you start to have things to be excited about again.

I really had a fun time this past week having a break from teaching. I have managed to stay away from the office and we had a few warm days, so I built a raised garden bed. Broke two drill bits in the process, but I was still proud of myself for building it! I figured out how to unclog a drain and cleaned out the garage. I organized a closet and had people over for a clothing swap. I went shopping and to the dog park. So, now that it's Saturday and I have 50 papers to grade and classes start again on Monday...I'm sad again. Hopefully, I can hold on to some of the momentum I've gained in the past week and keep my spirits up through the rest of the semester.

It's funny how when you're a professor, your life ebbs and flows around the university's calendar. The beginning of the semester brings a new routine and new students and those weeks where you're still getting adjusted. And then a lull where you feel like you've gotten a handle on things. Then, stress with grading and deadlines. Then a mid-semester break and a sprint to the end.

I'm still learning a lot about myself these days...trying to figure out how to balance the things and people that are important to me, how to keep myself productive and moving forward, how to be a good friend and a good wife. And learning a lot about what it means to get older and make decisions about the trajectory of your life and where it's headed. I'm only a few years away from 30...and that scares me!

Anyway, I really don't have much else to say...except maybe I should get back to grading and try to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Spring Fever

Does spring fever refer to situations where it's so nice outside that you can't concentrate? Or the feeling you have when you want Spring to come? Because I am feverish in my desire for Spring to get here. I was patient all through winter. I knew it would be bad. I expected it. But snow in April? That, I did not expect. And the fact that it gets into the 20's at night means it is not safe to plant flowers outside. This makes me sad.

But, time is so funny that way. In other senses, I feel like I haven't gotten much done this semester. I wish I had more time before the semester ended to feel like I got things accomplished. Jesse keeps reminding me that time and productivity are not linear. Just because I didn't get things done for a few weeks doesn't mean I can't get a ton done in one week. Plus, I'm not a student anymore and my life doesn't revolve around semesters as much...things just have to get done at some point.

I think I'm finally settling into my life here a little more, but part of me still feels lost. It's Easter this weekend and for some reason that makes me sad. Easter wasn't my favorite holiday, but it was a memorable one. My mom used to let me buy a new outfit to wear to church on Easter. I loved that. One year, in fifth or sixth grade, I somehow got away with buying a purple spandex dress with a built-in t-shirt tie to wear. It was not church appropriate, but at the time, I thought it was fabulous. I actually still have that dress. Funny how clothing holds memories like that.

So, it's Easter and I have no new dress to buy and nowhere to wear a new dress to anyway. I'm not part of a church and I don't have family nearby to have a big meal with. I honestly keep forgetting it's Easter...and that makes me sad, too. Not sure what I'm sad about exactly. But it makes me feel like an outsider and it makes me miss all my family back on the east coast.

Today I was supposed to go to a new faculty workshop on effective writing habits. I was running late and hungry and didn't feel like walking a quarter of a mile to get I didn't go. Strangely, I could really use some pointers right now. I know I should be better at this whole self-motivated thing...but I guess I'm not a very consistent person. Sometimes I get a lot done, but lately, I take my time. Try not to stress. But then, that worries me.

Part of it might be that 2008 was a crazy year. Finishing my PhD in record time was a sprint. And I'm out of breath. Even though this year was hard, at least it was a sort of "active recovery", as they refer to in fitness. You're still moving, but at a slower pace, so you can catch your breath and recover.

I'm hoping to burst out of this slow motion movement soon. But I don't even feel a rush about that...

I got a new puppy. I mean, Jesse agreed, but it was definitely more my idea. My mom's first response was "Are you that lonely that you really needed to get a THIRD dog?" She wasn't crazy about the first dog I got, even though he was technically a graduation present from both my parents. I think I just needed a little creature in my life to take care. And I realized, I've gotten dogs around all the big transitions in my life: I got Kito when I started grad school, we got Sake after we got married, and then Yoshi when we moved to Iowa. Three Shibas and the three huge life-altering changes that they represent. I was never allowed to have dogs growing up, so I guess I'm making up for it now.

Yoshi caused a whole new set of problems. Turns out three dogs is a lot more work than two. And I forgot how disruptive a puppy can be in your life. Jesse and I had some issues to work through about that...but now that he's been part of our little "pack" for two months, he is fitting in and life is running more smoothly.

Lots of things are going to change in the next few months. New people are joining our faculty, new grad students will be coming in the fall. I looked at my bus pass today and thought about that. It expires on December 31st, 2009. And I always wonder how different things will be by then. I'll still be standing at my usual bus stop, holding that same bus pass...but things will be different. I always think about things like that, for some reason. Looking at blank calendars of months to come. Or at expiration dates on bus passes.

For now, I should really try to wake myself out of this meandering state I've been in. Try to get something productive done on this Thursday afternoon. I show up every day at work, even though I could work from home most days. I figure that eventually, my office will feel like the kind of place that I can have great ideas in and get lots of stuff done. In the meantime, at least I'm developing the discipline of showing up. That's one step in the right direction, I guess.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

My new so-called life

Isn't it funny how things can change so drastically, and somehow people just adapt? That always amazes me. Even when I realize that it's happened to me -- somehow I made a big jump, a leap of faith, and managed to survive.

We packed up our life and moved to Iowa. I finished my PhD, I got a job, we bought a house. Major life events. Stressful ones, at that. When you wake up day to day, sometimes you don't realize how much things have changed. You don't realize how different your life is from just a few weeks before. And then there are other moments. Maybe just walking through the grocery store or driving down an unfamiliar street...and it just hits you. This is my life.

Last weekend I went back to Maryland. I have never had to take a plane to get home before. It was much more of an ordeal than a three hour car ride. But it made me appreciate being back at my parents house that much more. And it made me a little sad, too.

I have an office now. With my own phone. And business cards. And a locked door. A wide screen computer and my own printer.

But I don't really have any friends. Well, that's not entirely true. I have three or four friends. But compared to the community of people I had by the time I left grad school, I don't have any friends. I miss that sense of familiarity. The way you can just start talking, without any context, and they know what you mean. Or just the comfort in knowing that you'll always have a buddy to go shopping with or bounce ideas off of. Or ask, does this look okay?

It's always a strange experience meeting new people. Figuring out how to present yourself. How you want them to see you. Wondering what they'll see without you realizing.

No one believes I'm a professor. It was funny at first, but now it causes me anxiety. I want to be taken seriously. I want to look the part. I want to be good at what I do.

I know that every transition comes with gains and losses. And sometimes gains seems like losses and losses seem like gains. And you're not sure how to add it all up in your head. To make sense of the choices you've made.

My mom keeps saying to me "All your dreams came true!" This surprises me. I have never identified my career aspirations as dreams. In fact, I don't know if I've identified anything as a real dream. I guess running a marathon was a dream, and I did that. Owning a house was a dream, and now we have one. Complete with the fenced in yard that I so desperately wanted for my dogs. But for someone to tell you that you've arrived. You've made it to the destination labeled "your dreams"...that just seems somehow scary to me. It makes me analyze me new life in a new light. I'm not really sure what conclusions I'm drawing from that. But it never occurred to me until she said that finishing a PhD and getting a job in academia were my dreams. I almost didn't make it. All it takes is a look through the archives of this blog to see there were many times when I almost gave up.

I know this is disjointed and incoherent. But this is what's going through my head on a Sunday night when I'm sitting in my office trying to catch up on my work for the week. And talking to friends on the phone, hearing about familiar places, picturing my old cubicle in Sparks and my favorite computer in the grad student just hits me tonight that this is my life. And I guess I better get used to it.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Did you Publish Today?

I love this article -- if you're wondering what I've been doing all these years, read this!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Where has the time gone?!

I cannot beleive its been so many months since I last wrote a blog! August of 2007? So much has happened since then!

There's been a lot of the same thing with school and all. My biggest news, though, is that I got a job at the University of Iowa! I'll be starting there in the Fall as an assistant professor in the communciation department. I'm really excited about it. It's a great opportunity and will be a wonderful first job.

Of course, this means that I have to finish my dissertation in order to take the position (which starts on August 20th, by the way). So I just finished collecting data for the last of my three studies and the next few months will be filled with dissertation data analysis and writing. I'm a little scared about getting it all done...but I'm also confident that somehow it will all work out. It always does.

Jesse is excited about the move, too. His job is flexible so it can go with him. Even though we are so sad at the thought of leaving our friends, most of them will be graduating and moving on soon. It will be fun to have some many friends all over the country to go and visit.

We also bought a house (!!) which we go to closing for on June 2nd. I guess we don't technically own it yet, but we will very soon. It will be so nice to actually be able to say somewhere and get settled. We are already arranging to have the fence built -- the dogs are going to love the yard. I'm going to start composting and have an herb garden. And we're going to have enough space for all our stuff. I'm really looking foward to it.

In other news, Jesse passed his patent bar exam so he is officially a "patent agent" now. I'm so proud of him! All those hours of studying really paid off.

In news about my family, Brett got engaged on Christmas eve! He and Breana are getting married in November in Mexico. So that should be a really fun vacation for all of us! Jodi is studying abroad in London this semester and is traveling around now before coming home to MD for a few weeks. Trevor bought a condo in DC last summer and just got a promotion!

So, yeah, a lot has happened in the past months on all fronts!

Because of all of this, I definitely feel like I'm in the middle or on the brink of a transition. It's hard to comprehend all the changes that will be happening. I just hope we can adapt okay. And I really hope we can meet some nice people in Iowa. If you know anyone in Iowa city, let me know! I have such a great group of friends...I know it's going to be hard to leave everyone and be without our support system.

All in all, I'm so grateful for all that we've been blessed with...and I can't wait to see what is going to happen next!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Summer Days...

So I never wrote to say that I passed comps...but I did! As my advisor said before my oral defense, "SLAM DUNK, Rachel!" That made me feel great. All these years of work and I was finally able to show that I have what it takes.

After getting over that hurdle, I finished up my very last semester of classes, collected LOTS of data in our cool interaction lab here, and now I'm teaching public speaking. We got to go to San Fran for a conference and then Jesse and I went to Napa and Sonoma Valley to tour the wineries. It was great!

Besides that, I've just been working hard doing research and trying to gear myself up for a year of writing my dissertation. I'm applying for jobs this Fall (as long as I get my diss proposal done). It's very exciting but there are a LOT of uncertainties.

Jesse and I did a lot of re-organizing and re-designing this summer, too. I have managed to work my way through every closet and room in our house. We even drove down to IKEA and borrowed my parents' van to buy new bedroom furniture and new bookcases for the office. It looks so great now -- we're really happy with how it turned out.

So, 10 more days until Fall semester starts...and for once in my life, I'm not taking any classes! I can't believe it. I'm teaching two classes though -- one 100 level public speaking course and then a 400 level interpersonal conflict course (which I'm very excited about).

Anyway, just wanted to write a quick update. Here's a picture of Jesse and I from Zach & Laura's wedding this weekend. It was a great time.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

So close...

I made it through my four timed in-house questions this week...and now it's Easter and I have this ONE more comps question to write before tomorrow and I am just OUT of energy. I'm sitting in the office, which is freezing cold, and I'm falling asleep while typing. It's really sad.

So, I'm trying to convince myself that this question doesn't have to be perfect. I just have to give it my best and let it go. Done is good, right? Just to complete it should be sufficient at this point.

I was talking to Brett yesterday and telling him how I had to sit in this room all by myself for hours and hours to write these questions and how it was such a weird experience. He said, "Well, it's almost like you're trying to become a monk and this is when they shave your head and give you the robes."

It's a good analogy, although I don't actually get my degree and get to wear the robes (literally) until I've gotten over the hurdle of writing my dissertation. Either way, I do feel "stripped" somehow. When I was writing as much as I could during those three hour chunks, it felt very raw. What other situations do people get to see your thinking in its most basic form - not having undergone editing and not having enough time to even re-think just have to go with your instinct and try to represent yourself well.

Anyway, I'm really just posting because I putting off this last question. Although it was torturous to be locked in a room and write and least I knew it'd be over at the end of those three hours. With this last question, I keep dragging it on and on...

More later! Happy Easter!