Monday, October 31, 2016

#MicroblogMondays: A Halloween Blessing

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

Pumpkins and paint. Costumes to be assembled. Anticipation of a night of tricks and treats. Spookiness around each corner. There's been excitement in our house, with questions about when Halloween is coming (usually combined with bouncing). Flashes of my own childhood have been at the forefront of my mind.

But so has the memory of 3 yrs spent avoiding all triggers. 

Today marks the beginning of the holiday season. A period focused around children and one specific version of family. Those who don't fit into this definition are either omitted or forgotten. Those who struggle with any emotions outside of complete happiness are often shunned.

In light of that, in the midst of an evening focused around ghouls, goblins, magic and make-believe, a night where alter egos are celebrated, allowing sides not normally seen to be displayed, I want to offer a blessing and reminder. For this night is also a sacred night to those who celebrate Samhain. A marking of a new year. And with that comes an entering into a period of death, a winter, that is necessary to usher in rebirth.

So to all who hurt today, finding triggers around those spooky corners, I wish you an evening with moments of peace and the knowledge that from death, life can be reborn. Though not always in the form or manner that we planned for, there is beauty that can come. Blessed be to you and to all.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Measuring myself

"I read somewhere how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong, but to feel strong. To measure yourself at least once. To find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions."
~ Christopher McCandless (aka Alexaxder SuperTramp); Into the Wild

I rarely cry with movies. Though many stories have characters I can connect with, it's rare that the emotions of a moment, such as death or tragedy or loss, for the character bring me to tears. So it was a rare moment at the end of Into the Wild where the tears easily flowed. The touching of a personal truth.

For a long time I've struggled with finding my road through life. While others around me happily settled onto a particular path, I've never found something that I can truly settle into. On the one hand, having the comfort of predictability and stability seems ideal, especially during moments where I feel overwhelmed. To not live paycheck to paycheck, to be able to afford regular vacations and to know exactly what the work day will entail. On the other hand, though, is the knowledge that such stability often leads to me being bored at best, if not severely depressed. Its in those moments of stability that I've craved finding meaning and adventure. And so I find myself dropping the stability and looking for opportunities to live more on the edge.

In the past, this testing limits has come in different forms. From moving to Seattle with only a small cushion of money and no job lined up, to pursuing graduate school, to pursuing risker outdoor sports (rock-climbing, cliff jumping, skiing out of bounds and hiking trips through rougher terrain) dating Grey (we initially didn't get along) and decisions made will in the treatment trenches, those moments/decisions to do something outside my comfort zone have brought insights and benefits that I wouldn't have known otherwise.

With job hunting, I've found myself facing the dilemma almost daily. I come across opportunities that would offer stability and good pay, but I usually find my stomach turning with the thought of solely being confined behind a desk, clocking hours solely so someone else can become a little richer.
On the other end is the excitement that comes with science education research, pursuing grants and utilizing my skills in a way that truly would have an impact. The problem there, though, is knowing that there's a lot of risk with grant writing as one's position is constantly focused on finding grant opportunities continually applying as funding rates are at an all time low.

In a weird way, I'm measuring myself. This transition in career has become a strange journey of applying all the lessons I've learned and determining what road ahead is the one to pursue that will allow me to live with myself. To have no regrets both in making the best decisions for my family's security but also finding enough meaning in my world so that I'm also being true to this need for adventure.

Maybe that's why those tears came so readily last night. Why today has been more of an emotional one. That though Chris McCandless's story ends with him dying alone in the middle of the wilderness due to starvation and poor planning, he did so living a life filled with meaning and purpose.

Monday, October 17, 2016

MicroblogMondays: from infertile soil

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

This past weekend Grey and I took the Beats apple picking. Per recommendations from Grey's coworkers, we selected an older orchard that was only 30 mins away, allowing us a morning of fun without having to sacrifice nap time.

As Grey and I chased two excited preschoolers among the trees, Grey pointed out the large granite stones embedded in the earth. Tapping them, I immediately had visions of how destructive they would be to a plow, making farming for crops a next to impossible event.

Yet the trees didn't seem to mind. In fact, as Grey pointed out, they were thriving. Soil that was not fit for farming was actually perfect for an orchard.

I've been thinking a lot about this observation and how this theme plays throughout life. There's my current theme of career transition (so much going on there at the moment), but there have been other themes too. From life goals to dating to family building. There's what I originally had in my mind as being ideal and perfect, fighting to make something work that clearly wasn't a good fit.

How I use to curse this seemingly infertile soil I had been given.

Without that soil, though, I wouldn't have discovered some amazing fruits. Something precious that most aren't willing to consider given the toil involved.

We're told we reap what we sow. But often it's more than that given where we are sowing seeds. Infertile soil that can yield something special.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

In a moment

I've been cranky lately. Maybe it's the weather change combined with things being up in the air, but my mood hasn't been the best lately. This morning on the bus wasn't much different. Hiding behind a pair of sunglasses I attempted to distract myself for all the negative, growing more agitated with all the heavy traffic and how late I was running.

After an hour I decided walking 2 miles would be faster. So off the bus I hopped, passing a long line of cars and finding myself frustrated by the number of times I had to cross the street due to construction.

Then I saw the police lights. Followed by multiple filming crews. Suddenly I found myself on a block totally devoid of traffic. Police tape wrapped around a large intersection. And then the red curtains.

People on both sides just staring.

"He's dead," someone whispered into their phone.

"Never try to outrun a semi," another said.

Just like that, getting into work didn't matter. Experimental plans could be modified. What mattered more was checking in with Grey and checking on the Beats. Because in a moment it can all be gone. Today some family has to face that.

Monday, October 3, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: Kissing Frogs

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

On Tuesday, I found myself sitting in a small office at the medical school. On the other side of the table is the coordinator for a program I had applied for. Grabbing a box of tissues, she passes them to me before saying "I'm so sorry." And with that, we talked. We talk about the position I thought was a golden opportunity and about how the faculty who have been doing the interviews had completely cut her out of the loop. How she thinks I would be terribly bored and frustrated with the fellowship the way these faculty have been running it. I listen as she vents her frustration and anger, threatening out loud to terminate the position all together as the faculty are not meeting the criteria of the program and are treating the fellow like a slave.

Then she looks at me and confesses her confusion that someone with my background and experience would even need this type of training. "Don't get me wrong, I would love to work with you," she states, "but Cristy, you don't need this. With the postdoc you're completing now, you're more than qualified to take on the job market." And with that, we talked about options and things for me to consider. That she wants me to continue to use the resources she's generously allowed me access to these past few months and is happy to help in anyway. But it also was clear I need to start thinking outside the box as there are options I'm not even aware of yet. It's just a matter of tapping into them

And with that, I found myself in extremely scary territory: I'm officially job hunting


In a way, job hunting involves kissing a lot of frogs. You find yourself going down one path or another, trying on the different options to see if there's a fit. Some frogs seem right from the beginning only to fizzle out, while others are ones you need to check off the list with a firm "NO." Still, there are some frogs that do pan out, becoming more that what was initially expected.

Thing with all this kissing is you never know. Hence the importance of some good lip balm and a tooth brush.


For the last week, I've been putting the pieces back together and trying to figure out how to make this next step. The truth of the matter is that most PhDs are trained for an academic setting. We format our CVs to emphasize publications and who we trained with. But the rest of the world doesn't exist this way. Skills are the emphasis and the ability to show you can integrate all you've learn over the past 6-10 yrs into the real world is highly valued. The problem is we're not taught how to do this. Slowly there have been talks, panels and career fairs that allow for connections, but breaking into industry, nonprofit or government isn't as seamless as many assume it will be.

Still, I've never done well competing with hundreds of people for anything. I like thinking outside the box and working in ways most hadn't considered. Most importantly, I'm still very passionate about science education and communication. There's a need.

So I've been slowly activating my network; reaching out to those I know who are working in positions that just sound cool. I've been learning to network, looking into joining organizations and finally dusting off my Linked.In profile (feel free to contact me if you want to connect). But most importantly has been a mental shift. Of being willing to look into options for possibilities that most don't even know exist.

All of this is going to take some time. I figure about a year due to me also juggling research (one review written; hoping for at least one primary paper next year) as well as exploring all these new options. Still it's time. I've been a trainee for too long. Time to remove the training wheels and go out on my own.

Bring on the lip balm.
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