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


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

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

Brief update on sewing, work, and life

June sewing updateLife has¬†been quite a wild ride lately! ¬†I haven’t been doing much blogging, but I’ve been sewing, working, worrying, working, stressing out, working… oh, and did I mention working? ¬†As you may recall, I’m finishing up my PhD this summer, and I think I’m entering the infamous end-of-PhD panic mode. ¬†Is that a thing? ¬†I’m pretty sure it’s a thing. ¬†It must be a thing because IT IS TAKING OVER MY LIFE. ¬†Oh the humanity.

Here’s a quick and dirty update from the battlefield:


After all your hilarious and brutally honest comments on my Sarrouel Trousers (aka #diapershorts) muslin, I decided to screw social convention and make a pair for public display. ¬†A beautiful floral rayon pair. ¬†And yes, I displayed them out in public! ¬†My obsession with She Wears the Pants continues, as I’m currently working on a Velour Blouse (check out Stacey’s version) in peach cotton voile with pink rayon accents. ¬†So far so good. ¬†I’m not convinced the style will work for me, but at least my broad shoulders can support the extra wide neckline.

Also, a first for me: I agreed to alter a friend’s bridesmaid dress. ¬†In blue poly chiffon. ¬†(!!!) ¬†Working with the chiffon hasn’t been as tricky as I was expecting, but it hasn’t exactly been easy either. ¬†Plus, since the original dress was several sizes too big, I wound up taking the entire dress apart and putting it back together again. ¬†It was quite a¬†learning experience! ¬†Fun though, and I’m always happy to help a friend.


Post-PhD planning has begun, and what a terrifying prospect this was! ¬†After many months of uncertainty, difficult decisions,¬†disappointment, elation, soul-searching, crying, and endless discussions, I’m happy to report that I can now see the light at the end of this 5-year-long tunnel.

I HAVE A JOB.  (Right here in Boston!)

That’s right folks,¬†an occupation other than “student” is in my future! ¬†Is this really happening?? ¬†Honestly, I almost can’t believe it.

For those of you academics out there, I just accepted a postdoctoral position. ¬†For those of you non-academics, a postdoc is basically a glorified graduate student. ¬†Nearly the same job description, nearly the same ridiculously low pay, but hey, you can make people call you “doctor.” ¬†ūüôā


Every day has been a new adventure lately. ¬†One day I’m exhausted and can barely keep my eyes open long enough to eat dinner and collapse. ¬†One day I’m all smiles and telling everyone how much I love my work and how excited I am for things to come. ¬†One day I’m screaming in frustration¬†at how near-disasters occur and there’s nothing I can do to stop them. ¬†I’m not an overly emotional/dramatic person, and this roller coaster of human experience is a¬†little overwhelming. ¬†I have a feeling things will only ramp up¬†as my defense date approaches, so I’d better learn to hang on.

I’m going to try to take some good blog photos this weekend, so hopefully I’ll be back soon with more sewing and less waxing poetic about the undulations of life. ¬†For now though, I wish you all peace in life and work, and hopefully lots of sewing time this weekend. ¬†ūüôā

Life-changing career moves

The day I quit my job

It feels like I’ve been hearing a lot lately about sewists taking the plunge and making sewing/crafting their part-time or full-time job… and I couldn’t be more excited for them. ¬†Lately I’ve read about Lynne opening a re-styling/re-purposing shop, Tilly and Lauren quitting their day jobs for craft-related endeavors, and Erin planning her move to full-time crafting after she finishes her PhD. ¬†And I’m sure there are many more out there!

While I have no plans or desire to make crafting my bread-and-butter career, I can absolutely relate to wanting to feel passionate about your job and being fulfilled by your work on a daily basis. ¬†To those of you diving in head first, I say go for it!! ¬†I’m sure it will make all the difference for you. ¬†: )

The photo above was taken in 2010 on the day I quit my old job, and I love how it captures the feeling of freedom and excitement that I was feeling about diving into a new chapter of my life. ¬†Granted, my new career is in academia and has nothing to do with sewing/crafting, but I felt the same sense of euphoria that I’m seeing in other sewing bloggers lately. ¬†I love it!

I’m a firm believer that enjoying your life on a daily basis is extremely important to one’s overall mental, emotional, and physical health. ¬†We spend the majority of our waking hours at work, so we had better enjoy it, right? ¬†I don’t expect work to be my favorite place to be or my favorite way to spend my time, but being bored/miserable at work is simply not an option for me. ¬†I have to feel passionate about it in one way or another, and that’s exactly how I feel now that I’m back in graduate school.

Anyway, I just wanted to recognize and congratulate these very inspired, creative, and brave women who are taking the plunge and following their passion. ¬†Here’s to new careers and many exciting opportunities to come! ¬†: )

Have you made a life-changing career move, whether related to crafting or not?  Tell us about it!

Where did all my sewing time go?

Sleepy Maggie

I’ve had no time to sew this week. ¬†Don’t you hate it when that happens? ¬†Between work, errands, and spending time with family and friends, it is just so hard to find any quiet down time during the week. ¬†I’m feeling quite like Maggie in the photo above – pretty sleepy and ready for a nap. ¬†Too bad it’s only Thursday!

I found this article from The Onion, and it’s sad but true. ¬†Here’s a quote:

Just find the thing you enjoy doing more than anything else, your one true passion, and do it for the rest of your life on nights and weekends when you’re exhausted and cranky and just want to go to bed.

And I don’t even have kids! ¬†How do parents do it?? ¬†Anyway, I’m off to work for another 8 hours of no sewing. ¬†Hope you’re all faring better than I am this week!

Carolyn crazy eyesP.S. – Since I don’t have any sewing photos for you today, please enjoy this photo of me with “crazy eyes.” ¬†Why did I make that weird face? ¬†(And yes, that’s my blueberry crush dress!)

The Mad Men dress goes to work

Mad Men dress styled 1 - Vogue 7298

I wore my beloved Mad Men dress (vintage Vogue 7298) to work yesterday – styled with a cute floral cardigan from Ann Taylor. ¬†Hooray for wearing handmade garments to work! ¬†: ) ¬†Problem: when you work in a lab with hazardous chemicals that you might spill on yourself (ahem), wearing precious garments might not be such a good idea. ¬†I’m pretty sure I spilled acid on the skirt at one point and almost had a heart attack. ¬†Argh!! ¬†So far I don’t see the characteristic acid stain (ask me how I know what an acid stain looks like), but we’ll see. ¬†Crossing my fingers that disaster has been averted here. ¬†Such drama!

Mad Men dress styled 2 - Vogue 7298           Mad Men dress styled 3 - Vogue 7298

I did enjoy wearing a fabulous handmade garment for the rest of the day though, despite the acid splatter in the morning. ¬†I got a few nice compliments from labmates who know that I sew, and I do feel ¬†kind of fancy prancing around the lab in a nice dress. ¬†Haha, am I crazy? ¬†I dress like such a slob for the lab everyday, so once in a while I have to remind myself that I am, in fact, a woman. ¬†: ) ¬†I used to wear nice clothes and heels to work everyday (when I had an office job), and I miss it! ¬†Oh well, it’s one of the many sacrifices I make to do the work that I love. ¬†Go science!

Can you picture me wearing safety goggles and latex gloves in this outfit?  Ha!

Do you wear your handmade creations to work?  : )