Getting an academic job in one million extremely difficult steps

Future Assistant Professor

Well, apparently this is happening.¬† ūüôā

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog.¬† What have I been up to, you ask?¬† Oh nothing, just GETTING A NEW JOB IN MINNESOTA.¬† You know, no big deal.

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On managing people: a rookie’s perspective

Managing people

My new job never ceases to challenge me. ¬†I’ve talked about it before, wondering how long it would take for things to calm down after a tumultuous transition from grad student¬†to postdoc. ¬†But¬†you know what? ¬†I’ve come to the conclusion that things are not going to calm down. ¬†Stress, anxiety, and exhaustion are¬†my new normal. ¬†I know I’m not alone in dealing with work-related stress, and in the grand scheme of things am doing pretty well in life, but man, this is tough!

I think it’s safe to say that the work I’ve been doing lately is, hands down, the most challenging work I’ve ever done in my life.

The latest challenge? ¬†Managing. ¬†At 36 years old, this is the first time I’ve been responsible for a bunch of people on a daily basis. ¬†This summer I have five students working for me full time, a combination of undergraduates and high school students. ¬†Thankfully all the students are wonderful, very bright and motivated, and really a pleasure to work with. ¬†The challenging part is keeping¬†everyone moving forward simultaneously.

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Finding balance in a stressful situation

Stress

I have just emerged from a month-long project at work that was challenging, stressful, and exhausting. ¬†I worked for most of the holiday break while everyone else was relaxing, and I finally submitted my project on Friday. ¬†To say that this project took a toll on me is an understatement. ¬†I’m so glad it’s over.

I’m still struggling quite a bit with my new job, both in terms of the work itself and in maintaining some sort of enjoyable personal life outside of it. ¬†The hardest part is dealing with the increased level of stress on a daily basis. ¬†Even if I get home from work at a decent time, I’ve been having a really hard time calming down my mind enough to enjoy anything in the evenings. ¬†I’ve barely been sewing or, for that matter, doing anything other than zoning out in front of the tv before crashing and falling asleep by 9pm. ¬†And I have stress dreams about work every night, ugh.

I’ve been questioning my ability to do several things lately:

  1. Remain in my current field, which will only get more challenging and more stressful as the years go on.
  2. Maintain this blog when I can barely manage to carve out any time for creative hobbies.
  3. Find a new equilibrium in my daily life, something both sustainable and enjoyable. ¬†I feel like I lost this on the day of my thesis defense in August and haven’t managed to get it back since.

I keep telling myself that change is difficult, and it’s only been a few months. ¬†Pushing yourself to learn new skills and take on more responsibility can be challenging and unpleasant, but how else will you grow if you never push yourself? ¬†I’m proud of my progress and, when I step back, I really do enjoy my work. ¬†I just have to adjust to this new day-to-day situation.

Today, I feel beaten to a pulp by this last project. ¬†Tomorrow, maybe I will feel stronger. ¬†Next week, maybe I will feel great! ¬†I’ll have to take it¬†one day at a time.

Here’s wishing you all strength and courage in whatever challenging situation you’re currently dealing with. ¬†Perhaps we can all find support in each other. ¬†ūüôā

Highlights from my trip to Spain

I’m back today with some photos from my recent trip to Spain! ¬†We had such a great time and really enjoyed seeing so many different parts of the country. ¬†We focused¬†our travels on¬†central and northern Spain, making a loop from Madrid to the northeastern coast and back, with several stops along the way. ¬†We made hotel reservations in advance, but other than that, we let our rental car and guide book lead us¬†on an impromptu adventure each day.

Madrid

On the streets of Madrid

We flew into Madrid and spent the weekend there, exploring this extremely vibrant and lively city.  To our surprise, our hotel was essentially in the TImes Square of Madrid, so we had a front seat to all the action!  Much of the architecture looked like the building above Рcream and beige colored buildings about 5-6 stories high.  This was quite a welcome change from the steel and glass skyscrapers that we have in Boston and New York.  Typical of European cities (at least in my limited experience), everything was infused with history and was just beautiful.

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In transition

Me getting my feet wet in the Atlantic Ocean

Soaking up the sun and surf in San Sebastian, Spain

Life has been quite a trip lately. ¬†I’ve started my new job and have been adjusting to my new schedule, and let me tell you, things are different around here. ¬†My commute is longer (and more unpleasant thanks to packed¬†subway cars), I leave home earlier and get home later, and after work I have just enough energy to eat dinner and crash around 9pm. ¬†Unfortunately this means that I haven’t sewn anything in ages. ¬†Even the idea of sewing makes me exhausted these days.

To add to the longer days, my new job is hard. ¬†Hard in a good way though, in the way that pushes me to learn new skills and think in new ways. ¬†Hard in the way that makes my brain hurt but leaves me excited for the next day’s challenges. ¬†But still, hard! ¬†I’m the kind of person who can admit when I’m wrong, when I need help, when I don’t understand something, and when something is difficult for me. ¬†And people, I am having a hard time with this. ¬†Growing pains, I suppose. ¬†But hopefully I’ll come out of this position wiser and stronger in the end… assuming I survive that long. ¬†ūüôā

I feel like I’ve been fumbling around a lot lately, struggling with my work and struggling with my new routine. ¬†Things definitely feel like they’re still in transition, both at work and at home. ¬†I know I’ll find a way to get back to sewing and the other creative pursuits that have been with me throughout my entire life, and I know I’ll settle into my new role and responsibilities at work. ¬†It’ll just take time.

One interesting side effect of my new life is that I’ve been plowing through novels on my subway commute. ¬†I’ve found that the only possible activities to pursue when you’re packed ass-to-ass, face-to-face with a bunch of complete strangers is to (a) look down at your shoes; or (b) hold up a book about 3 inches from your face. ¬†If you choose option (b), you get the added bonus of an opaque barrier between your face and the next one. ¬†If you have any good book recommendations, I’m all ears!

It’s been interesting to go through this transition after having a relatively stable schedule for the past 5 years. ¬†Looking back, though, I remember having a hard time settling in at the beginning of that period,¬†so it’s no surprise that I’m back in this position again. ¬†I’m looking forward to finding my new normal… eventually.

In the meantime, I hope you’re all doing well, enjoying the change of seasons, and perhaps settling into a new routine of your own. ¬†Do you have any advice on finding peace in a new world full of chaos? ¬†Lately I feel like this all the time:

Serenity Now

Commencement

Me with my grandmother

Sewing friends, I have some exciting news to share with you today. ¬†After 5 long years, I am absolutely thrilled to announce that I am now the extremely proud owner of a Harvard PhD. ¬†All went well¬†with my thesis defense earlier this week, which means you may now refer to me as Dr. Carolyn. ¬†ūüôā

Not surprisingly, earning my degree has proven to be a very emotional experience, and I suspect it would be impossible for me to adequately describe how I feel in words. ¬†Those of you who have gone through this process can relate to the wonderful feelings of accomplishment and relief combined with the strange anti-climactic sense of “that’s it?” ¬†Mostly though, I feel proud and excited for the next step in my career, and I feel a sense of validation that all the years of frustration and sacrifice¬†were worth it in the end.

I received a lot of good feedback during the defense from professors and colleagues, but the following comment from one of my committee members really struck a chord with me.  With a puzzled look on his face, he said:

“Carolyn, this was such a complicated project. ¬†Why did you choose such a complicated project for your PhD??”

Haha, if only I knew what I was getting myself into! ¬†He also referred to my project as an “odyssey.” ¬†I think I would agree.

Anyway, my defense day was wonderful, made even better by the fact that John and my family could be there with me to celebrate, not to mention the absolutely gorgeous (not too hot!) weather. ¬†My new job doesn’t start until October, so after finishing up some paperwork at the university, I’ll have a glorious 6 weeks off. ¬†Can anyone say sewcation??? ¬†ūüôā

Thank you to all of you for your encouragement and support over the years, and especially during the past few months. ¬†As I’ve said before, the sewing community is such a wonderful group of kind and generous people, and each and every one of you has helped me along this journey in one way or another. ¬†Thank you from the bottom of my heart, and here’s to exciting new adventures ahead!

Five weeks and counting…

Garden 1

As the days get hotter and stickier, preparations for my thesis defense become more and more frantic. ¬†Multiple daily showers are met with multiple daily freak outs. ¬†I’ve given up wearing my nice handmade clothing because it instantly gets soaked with sweat as soon as I walk out the door, and who’s going to see my outfit when I’m holed up in my office all day anyway?

Garden 2

I’m in full production mode, which consists of writing as many pages as possible each day and sticking to a schedule in which there is NO room for any more unexpected¬†disasters… you know, the kind that have plagued my PhD since day one.

Garden 3

It’s a very exciting feeling to see five years of work finally come together, to get closer and closer to achieving a lifelong dream, and to know that I have a fun new adventure waiting for me on the other side. ¬†I just have to stick to the schedule and write, write, write. ¬†No summer vacation for me this year… just plenty of hours chained to my computer and covered in sweat. ¬†ūüôā

Garden 4This PhD has been a very interesting journey, simultaneously filled with doubt and frustration, excitement and amazement.  I think the dominant feeling these days is anticipation.  Someone once told me that in order to survive a PhD, you have to really want it.  Well folks, I WANT IT.  This degree is so close, I can taste it!

Five weeks to go. ¬†Just have to keep writing…

In the meantime, I took a few minutes to enjoy the beautiful summer evening tonight. ¬†Let the record show that these plants are still alive despite my constant presence and notorious kill record. ¬†ūüôā