"I Live to think for myself. I refuse to be a mindless sheep following the crowd into cookie-cutter oblivion. Otherwise I'd just be a zombie with no heart or passion in life" - Hervey Taylor IV


Thursday, September 19, 2013

| | | 3 Witty Remarks
They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. I beg to differ. You most definitely can teach an old dog new tricks... but you just probably shouldn't.

In this case, the new trick is riding a bike. And the old dog... well, that's me. Flattering, I know. Somehow I managed to make it 23 long years without learning how to ride a bike. I remember being young and carefree and riding my tricycle down the street with my sister and friends. And somehow that did not transition to riding a bicycle.

The real story of why I didn't learn how to ride a bike, I'm not actually sure. I have a very vivid story in my mind of what happened and why I didn't transition from 3 wheels to the infamous 2 wheeled version that everyone else in the world has learned but me. However, I've been informed by my mother that my version is not really what happened. Though, she can't quite recall the true story either. I think it's because my sister is her favorite and my story only slightly paints my sister in a bad light. Sometimes my sister gets a bad rep in the memory of my childhood (like the time she broke my finger during high school softball tryouts, leaving me to never play softball again). It's only because I was a devil of a child and instead of blaming myself for tragic life events, my mind has painted stories that may or may not be true of historical events in my life. It's a survival/coping mechanism I'm told. In all truthfulness, my sister is probably one of the best people I know. And I'm, well, not one of the best people I know. So I can see how the facts may have been messed up in 23 years. But nobody has the real story so we'll go with mine.

It started like this... the epic day I was going to learn how to ride a bike. I was a wee little thing with no fears or cares and that was the day my training wheels were coming off. I felt good. Everything was going to be great and I was going to be riding my big girl bike all around the neighborhood showing off.

I remember my dad behind me holding the bike steady and pushing me down a slight incline to get me started. It's all about momentum he told me. Once you start going, the bike holds you up, even for somebody who has as little balance as me (which hasn't changed in the passing years). And then there are some gaps (I think from the concussion I probably received). But I remember my sister being there behind me excited to help her little sister learn to ride plotting her master plan against me, evilly. She was pushing me along keeping me upright. As I gained momentum she let go pushed me hard down the small GIGANTIC hill and I flew. Not knowing really how to break, I crashed and probably just fell over went flying through the air, skidding across the gravel, and hitting my head vigorously on the pavement. And that is the exact moment I decided I was never going to get on that metal death trap again, and I didn't until about two months ago.

There were moments in my life where I was like, hey, you should probably know how to ride a bike. But it wasn't necessary. Not in a city like Las Cruces which is a spread out hot desert. If you're going to have a bicycle as your main/only mode of transportation around the city, you're probably going to die. And besides, who wants to be the 13 year old out in the neighborhood with her Dad pushing her and her bicycle down the street teaching her to ride. Please. I had already skipped a grade (aka nerd central), was a chubby little kid, and was in the marching band. Add that little bike scene and there's no telling the kind of trauma I would have experienced. Kids are cruel.

So really, it wasn't a big deal I didn't know how to ride a bike. Until I got to the very green (hippie) city of Ann Arbor where everybody rides bikes... everywhere. It's like what they do. That's when I told myself, you know what, woman up. If a 6 year old can ride a bike, you damn well can too.

That's when I went in search of the perfect bike. I had conditions of course. If I was going to ride a bike, it had to be cute. No road bikes. A simple bike. And preferably a basket attached. Everyone around me seemed to be excited for my bike riding experience and set off finding me a bike. I was sent several emails containing craigs list bikes that fit my bill... and that's when this beauty appeared. And I had to have it.

So I drove an hour away...  and shoved it in the back of my tiny versa. And drove an hour back to Ann Arbor.

And then I waited for months... until finally three of my guy friends took me to the park behind our house. And attempted to teach me to ride. It was tragic, and quite frankly a little pathetic. And there are videos... of which I am never going to show anybody. Ever. Turns out I still have no balance and I could barely keep the bike going for more than 30 seconds. After I almost ran straight into the guys and a picnic table (steering is hard work) I decided to call it a day and confirmed I'd go out later and try it. My matter of fact roommate told me he guessed my bike would end up in the basement never to be seen by me again and I would go along my jolly way of not knowing how to ride a bike. He was probably right actually... but because he said that, I had the instant need to prove him wrong.

A couple of weeks later, I took my bike out (now equipped with a cute pink bell... because duh, everyone needs a bell). I went to a secluded road behind our apartment that doesn't get a lot of foot or vehicle traffic and has a slight incline to it. And I tried to teach myself to learn how to ride a bike. For two straight hours I tried. And the people that did pass by looked at me like, who is this grown woman who doesn't know how to ride a bike? Is that even possible for somebody to not know how to ride a bike. And I was starting to get annoyed, and bruised up from the wheels hitting my legs when I would try to break because I still couldn't quite figure out the back peddling breaks. I was sweaty and the people kept giving me strange looks and I kind of thought I was going to cry. And that's when I finally cracked. A big black truck filled with four 20 something year old guys, turned the corner on to this dirt road. They very slowly started to approach me, and then slow down even more, and blatantly, open mouth stared at me and pointed and laughed... yeah I full on cracked.

So I starred straight at them. Jumped on my bike and furiously started ringing my bell like a straight up crazy person. It scared them. They rolled up their window. That'll teach them, I thought. Will Smith taught me how to fight bullies: full scale psychological warfare. Act crazy enough and everyone will leave you alone.

And as I was acting a crazy fool, it occurred to me that I was riding my bike... I was flying past the truck laughing like a maniac because I did it. After 23 years, I learned to ride a bike.

But man what I would have given to have somebody video tape the way those boys jumped as I started ringing my pink little bell, roll up the window, and then hit the gas peddle to get as far away from the crazy girl riding her bike.

Back Up! Back Up! Mind your business that's all. Just mind your business.

The Undergrads.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

| | | 1 Witty Remarks
This first week and a half of the semester has been a whirlwind of crazy and getting used to new schedules. There are so many children everywhere. And by children, I mean undergraduates. The bane of my existence as a grad student. They take over all of my local watering holes (aka bars... even though half of them are technically not even 21 but ID's don't lie), restaurants, parking, busses... they're all flooding with undergrads.  Even my peaceful 6AM running time has been kidnapped. I used to see not a single soul out and yesterday I saw 4. What is that? Aren't you sleeping undergrads? Do you not have class till noon? I think you're doing college wrong.

The little town of Ann Arbor literally doubles when school is back in session and since I am officially old, I naturally hate all things that I wish I was: young, care free, and with soooo much free time.

A good chunk of the country (75% actually) went back to school weeks ago but Michigan is behind in the times and doesn't go to school until after labor day. It is apparently a law that started because child labor was invaluable. I mean, why hire farm hands to harvest your land when you can get your 10 children to do it. After all, that is why you had 10 children, right?

What I can tell you is that times are changing... though at a much slower progression than I would have originally thought and starting this late is stupid. The later you start, the later you get out. I miss being done the first week of December and not thinking about anything educational for a month (NMSU was so generous in their breaks). Instead, school roughly gets out the week right before Christmas and goes back the week after New Years... slashing my break time drastically in half. Not to mention our complete lack of Thanksgiving break which is essentially just Thanksgiving day instead of the whole week.

Not that this actually matters much for me anymore because science/grad school hates breaks, and holidays, and anything that actually makes one happy. This is a scientifically proven fact.

This also doesn't matter much because I'm not actually taking any classes. Unless you can count a weekly seminar in which I listen to people talk about their research.

Anyway, even though I'm not actually taking a class, I am teaching one. I know what you're thinking: is this girl qualified to teach a group of 360 undergraduate students? No probably not. Except, I actually think I might be good at it. I didn't think it was possible.

I'm historically bad at a lot of things and my aversion to public speaking made me question why I was doing this. And then I remembered I am required to teach. So I sucked it up and went to the absolute sorriest excuse of a GSI orientation in which I wasted 2 work days and learned the exact opposite of anything useful.

And then the real class time started. And I have to say, I really like it. I'm teaching Genetics which is one of my favorite subjects to begin with.  I have 3 discussions and about 75 students total. Because this is more of group talking and discussion based class than a lecturing style, I really got in to the swing of it. All I had to do was remember

1) I actually am smarter than them.

2)  2 years ago wasn't that long... I can relate, right? 

So besides the one kid who answered his phone in the middle of the professor lecturing... while he was sitting directly behind me... and then had a full blown conversation and then I nearly decapitated him in the middle of class. Yeah, besides that it's been going well. Granted, I've only taught one class so it could all fall apart by Friday judging by how things in my life go.

Side note, I got my very own pre-med undergraduate to mentor in lab which I thought was kind of cool, that my PI trusted me enough. And then after the fact I found out everyone else in lab said they didn't want one or will be "graduating" (supposedly) in the next few months. Therefore I was the last and only option. You know me, always trying to impress.

The Grad School Struggle

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

| | | 1 Witty Remarks
Well, I'm back. But this time I think it's for real. No really, I've had some time to mull it over.  So, after nearly 10 months off from the blogging game I'll start this as a kind of re-introduction post to me. For those of you who don't know, I'm a 23 year old, native New Mexican, struggling pre-PhD candidate at the University of Michigan.

It's currently just after midnight (nearly two hours after my normal bedtime) and I've been inspired by my lovely friend Stacy to start up this blog again. I've been told many times by various friends how much they missed my shenanigans and awkward life moments as I document them on this blog.

I can come up with every reason in the book as to why I stopped writing... my life got less interesting as I got to grad school, I'm too busy, I'm not the same person as I was before. To some extent this is all true. But the real reason, is when I got to grad school, I kind of lost myself. Or maybe I had never even had myself to begin with. I'm not quite sure yet. What I am sure of is I still haven't found myself. And I'm also quite certain I was afraid to let you in on the very large fact that I don't have anything 'together.'

I guess I could say I was once a big fish in a small pond. I was good at what I did, which was school. My whole life school is what I did. I did other things on the side mind you, my sorority, Panhellenic, marching band (because I was that cool kid!), horseback riding, volunteering etc. but what I did best was school and yeah, I was pretty good at it.

And then the pond changed in to a lake and then an ocean and before I knew it I was chugging water just trying to stay alive. And I was failing miserably. Not only was I failing, but I hated every second of it. Not because I was failing but because of what it was. This is not the science I wanted to do and this was most certainly not the life I envisioned for myself. And I found myself in Nashville at my Aunt's kitchen island, wine in hand crying and trying to figure out how to tell my parents I was indeed dropping out of grad school right after the Christmas break.

Fast forward 8ish months and here I am still in graduate school. Actually, yesterday I just started my second year and I have to say I am quite content with where I am. I love my lab. I love my friends. I love my new roommates. And at least 75% of the time I love my life.

So how exactly did I jump from a complete breakdown and almost quitting to being satisfied with where I am today? Well, I learned and accepted a few facts about myself.

  1. Academia is not for me. Once I decided I wanted to go in to research, I knew I was going to be a professor. But as I  actually started to see the reality of professorship: too competitive, struggling for money, tons of grant writing, lots of hours for quite frankly not a justified amount of pay... I realized this life was not going to be for me and I had to accept that.
  2. I do not live to work. I work to live. I do quite enjoy my work otherwise I wouldn't be doing it. But guess what, I love me more. Not saying I don't work hard, because I do, but I won't work 80 hr weeks every single week like I used to. I can't do it. My body and my mind cannot handle it. And I enjoy my outside life way too much to be cooped up inside all day every day. Finding a balance between work and play was key.
  3. I need a stress reliever. I need something I can do several times a week to completely take my mind off of work and life and get out some of my pent up aggression/anger. For me, this is running and kickboxing. And hey, I get a great workout to boot. Which really means I can eat more food and drink more beer. 
  4. Science hates me. This was probably the most important thing I learned. Science does, in fact, hate me. With a passion. 80% of my stuff doesn't work out the first time, or the second time, and sometimes not even the third time. The more I expect this, the less stressed I get when it happens. And I can happily trouble shoot and continue on my slow... very very slow... uphill battle towards ever getting a PhD. 
  5. I'm not going to cure cancer and I'll probably never be published in a journal like Science and I'm ok with that. First off, I don't even work on cancer so I'm probably definitely not going to cure that or any other disease or do anything to get me a Noble Prize. I do basic science research on yeast genetics and I find it pretty interesting. Which doesn't mean you (or frankly most people) do  but that's ok. I'm going to be successful in my own way, but I don't need to be famous to do it.
I'm sure I learned plenty of other things too. Like, I learned how to ride a bike (story coming soon). I learned how to parallel park. And I learned Japan was an island... mind completely blown. I obviously lack all geography skills. 

And I know I still have a long way to go. Like how to not freak out each time I have to give a public presentation. Or how not to procrastinate everything. All good things to probably put on my check list of life lessons. 

But all in all, I'm still pretty much me. I'm still awkward. I still have horrible grammar. My friends still love to make fun of me. I still love wine (though I've drastically cut back on my drinking to the much happiness of my parental units). 

Don't worry, I promise to keep in touch. 

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