Friday, March 07, 2008

It's been quiet here lately

Because I've been doing this:

Let me just say that the work-from-home-mini-sabattical has turned into a very exhausting, though rather succesful writing-bootcamp. An update is in the works, but right now I'm heading out to enjoy a rare sunny moment and get some fresh air.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

How I spent the leap day

One would think receiving an extra day should be great. Who doesn't need more time? Whether using it for getting all the stuff done that needs to get done, or as Jo(e) suggests, leave it off the calender altogether and indulge in extra sleep and fun, extra time ought to be good.

Personally I'd be happy to wipe yesterday off the calender:

I spent all day in meetings (including this rather emotional one), while having a terrible shoulder ache that only got worse during the day. By the end of the day I was supposed to fix some tables for a poster a colleague is making, but could barely lift my arm to my desk and decided I'd better go home. My colleague suggested I should see a chiropractor for the shoulder, but they don't open until Monday (I will go then if the pain persists). On the way home someone crashed into my car while reversing in the parking lot. The damage will be covered by her insurance, but I will be the one who has to go to the mechanic and get it repaired, plus I got to stand for half an hour in a freezing cold parking lot to fill out an accident report for the insurance company. I did none of the research related tasks I had on my list for yesterday, got home at 7pm too tired to make proper dinner and fell asleep in front of the TV (which I was watching from a very strange angle given that I was lying down on the couch, but couldn't bend much because of the shoulder pain).

So on top of having a really crappy day yesterday it now looks like I can add a visit to the chiropractor and to the mechanic to my day on Monday. I really need someone to help me run my life. It seems that each time I have cleared up time for writing (or God forbid, for relaxation), I am inundated with other life-stuff, which must be attended to, and then I haven't even talked about another health appointment, online banking, cleaning the house, contacting the shipping company about possible dates for our move, the deadlines for next week and the social event I have agreed to attend.

Rant over. Let me just say that I hope today will treat me more kindly and that I'm totally ready for spring and a new month and a new beginning.

When there's more than one side to the story

I resigned from my postdoc position yesterday. This should not come as a surprise to anyone as I signed the contract for my new job nearly five months ago, and I have been open about accepting the offer and leaving the postdoc prematurely all the time. I still have a year and a half left on the postdoc contract, but the money will be used to hire someone else, who does something I don't, while I will continue to work with the group, so technically it's a win-win situation for everyone.

Personally it is obviously a step forward both in terms of independence and better pay, and it is also the switch back to the university environment, I have been contemplating for a while. But, because there is always a but, I am truly sorry to be leaving the people and the research environment I am a part of here.

Let me begin by saying that I am in a field where collaboration is vital. Not only in terms of idea exchange and professional networks, but also in practical terms of organizing expeditions and being safe in the field. It is very difficult to get by in this discipline without effective working collaborations. The intensive social experience of being in the field together for weeks on end often fosters a special bond between people. Whether connections continue or not, the shared experiences under extraordinary conditions tie people together and can make even colleagues you have never met, but who works in the same or a similar area, feel like your kin. Sometimes the collaborations turn into professional/personal friendships and sometimes the professional matches of collaborators interests are more thought-provoking and inspiring than others. I have colleagues and collaborators who have become close personal friends, others who have become valued and respected professional aquaintances and connections. Some who spark my ideas and others who are inspired by mine. Some who are cherished field companions and others who are my support network, inspiration and intellectual challenge. It is, however, rare to find all these traits in the same people, but that's what I have with the research group, I'm working with now. We are field companions, professional collaborators, know each other well and appreciate each other's company whether at a party or discussing the solution to a scientific problem. These people have become a huge part of my work life and are a major source of inspiration and reason why I like my job. They are also sometimes obnoxious and make me frustrated, but isn't it so with even the best people.

When I leave this much of this will change. It's not like we will never see each other again, but it will be different. I will miss the way we interact on a day to day basis, and I will miss this feeling of connectedness to someone in the same department. I will miss the more personal side of our professional friendship. To have immidiate allies and someone to discuss tricky topics with and the combination of personal trust and appreciation with professional inspiration and development of ideas. As with all personal relationships, longdistance is just not the same.

We were talking about this yesterday, and about how to keep up the good work and still have fun together, while not working in the same place anymore. We were talking about what our future collaboration would look like, and how we could develop the line of research, we are doing now. As I mentioned in this post, I don't really know what the future holds for me research-wise yet, but I do know, that I will need to think outside the box, and start something different from what we are doing now. I started talking about, how I hoped, that eventually it would not only be me participating in our current research, while starting something new, but also them being involved in my new line of research. While we talked, ideas of how this could be done started to form. Completely new ideas of something that has never been done before. Ideas about applying our current research to something different, I will get access to in my new location. I heard my voice increase in volume with excitement, as I began to see the contours of the bridge between the two lines of research, and of how to continue the collaboration in a meaningful and rewarding way. Not only was this an answer to some of the research questions I can start looking for in the new place, it was also a great way of confirming how the collaboration can grow and transform and continue despite the distance. I still think it is sad to leave, but I left the meeting thinking that this will take our collaboration to a new level and that, once again, good discussions with great people, can generate ideas and solutions to problems that seemed insurmountable to me on my own.

I am late for this months Scientiae on renewal, so instead of letting this post be a part of the carnival, let it be a birthday celebration post for the very first birthday of the carnival for women in STEM fields. Thanks to Skookumchick who took initiative to the carnival a year ago and who put up this months theme, which made me think about the positive aspects of yesterday's meeting rather than writing a whiny post about how resigning didn't make me glow with joy at all, but rather made me feel like crap.