Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A new way to "date"

Sunday night, I found myself curled up on the couch and having an ugly cry. Snuggled up next to me were both cats as well as Grey, hugging me tightly as I vented all my frustration with the job hunting process. What triggered this breakdown was being 2 weeks out from my last interview and having no response about my status for this position. Wiping away angry tears, Grey whispered "Babe, you've got to let this one go. Don't let it get to you." The only reply I had for him was that this whole process was one giant reminder as to why I loathed dating so much. My teenage self reemerging as I was dealing with rejection all over again.

I found myself reflecting back on Sunday night after I got the official rejection letter on Monday. Instead of tears of frustration, I found myself surprisingly sober as I research how to respond to these CEOs and prepared to send out a couple more pain letters. There's so much similarity between dating and the job hunting process it's a bit eerie. And because of it I'm finding I'm once again forced to tackle existing demons surrounding self-worth and how I perceive myself in the world. And reassessing what it means to fail.

Over the past few months, I've begun picking Grey's brain to figure out how he hunts for jobs given that he's been fairly successful recently. Part of what he's got going for him is that he's now considered a "known" in the industry world. His name is now attached to some well-known firms and his managers are also well respected, adding weight to his credibility. But another thing that comes up is how Grey approaches the whole process. He's gotten very good at using any rejection or no as a networking opportunity and he also has figured out how to find the opportunities he knows will be a good fit for him. In other words, he avoids the usual "dating pools" (think speed dating, bars,, etc) as the likelihood he'll come out with something that interests him is a lot less likely and instead follows the sources and networks that are aligned with his interests. And he's also taken an approach of internalizing the "it's not you, it's me" response from those who have rejected him. In his eyes, if they don't want to work with him, then it is either not a good match or their loss.

All of this is completely contrary to how I've approached dating in the past. I remember my younger self obsessing about a potential love interest, worrying that somehow I came off has not likable or worthy of dating. Causal dating was never in the cards as I really was focused on the end goal (and hence why I really didn't date). Looking back, I see so many bad relationships where I should have run in the other direction. Guys that treated me awfully mainly because I gave them permission to do so. It's all the more reason Grey is so special, but also it reflects a pattern of how I've approached so many relationships in my life. Jobs included.

The truth is, I was very unhappy in my last position. Hearing now about the hours my former coworker works (10 pm nightly is the norm, with her rarely seeing her family during the week) leaves me shuddering. It would be one thing if this experience would have opened doors or created future opportunities, but like most toxic jobs the track-record is one where very few do (and those that do usually do so through a ugly divorce process). Being able to admit to myself that not having my contract renewed was actually a blessing is very odd. Admitting that I deserved better is even odder.

All of this has lead to some interesting changes recently. First is allowing myself to grieve the loss of what could have been. But then instead of dwelling and picking apart all I did wrong to lose an opportunity, I'm spending time focusing on what I learned. With this recent rejection letter, Grey pointed out that they want to keep my resume on file and to stay in touch. Today I need to test those waters to see if future opportunities would be possible. In addition, I've been getting bold and reaching out to people I previously would have seen as untouchable. I'm also cherry-picking for what positions I'm applying for. Will this opportunity actually allow me to meet my long-term goals? Because if I can't honestly answer that, then the application is being done in desperation. And no one likes to be the friend with benefits.

So I'm learning a new way to navigate this process. Dating like a guy, so to speak. All the while quieting the voice in the back of my head where I'm second-guessing all the boldness of assuming that I deserve to enjoy what I do for a living.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018


Over the weekend, a dear friend delivered her baby. I've known my friend for over a decade and from the beginning was aware of her desire to be a mother. A doula who went to nursing school with the plan of going on to become a midwife (ironically, that didn't happen and she's now moved into hospice care), she was there for me when the Beats first arrived. Just as she's been there for so many others as they welcomed their children into the world.

Her journey to motherhood wasn't an easy one, though. Like so many, she found herself unable to conceive and I mourned with her the loss of her biological children. I would then go on to support her as she made the decision of pursuing donor egg IVF. Then it was celebrating with her with that first positive pregnancy test, rejoicing with each milestone met. This weekend was the finale of her journey, involved a massive group text, with well wishes and wishes of encouragement. There was a lot of joy surrounding the news of the safe arrival of her daughter.

Then someone mentioned how much she deserved this. And for the first time, I was given pause.

Because even though I do believe my friend deserves every happiness in the world and I'm over the moon for her and her husband, this comment comes on the heels of other arrival news.

On Sunday, my MIL informed Grey that family friends were great-grandparents once again. Of the arrival of a baby girl to their grandson who could barely keep a job and his wife who refused to work as she felt she should be cared for. Of the elder child, who is now a brother to this infant, who is dealing with such severe eczema that his skin is peeling off around this wrists and face and at the age of 4 is still not speaking.

And on this, I thought about "deserving." Because if I'm honest, though I believe my friend deserve every happiness and her daughter deserves her amazing mother and father, this other newborn deserves better than the parents she got. Just as so many in this community that I consider dear to me deserve to also be parenting.

Infertility and loss fuck with you that way. Turning terms like "deserved" and "blessed" on their heads and making you wonder about the games that are played. The polar opposite reactions to the exact same news: in one case I'm celebrating and sending well-wishes while in the other I'm mourning for the newborn.

So I'm left with wondering quietly about "deserved." Because the truth is life is far from fair. And though there are many children who find themselves in loving families, I can't help but think the outcomes for so many would be very different if deserved truly did exist.

Monday, February 26, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Finding the view

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

It's Monday, which means I'm craving out 2 hours in the library to get a plan formulated for the next month. Emails need to be sent and my schedule rearranged. All this while half my contact list are just starting to roll out of bed and think about checking their email.

I learned long ago that I need periodic distraction to do long stretches of sitting. The best form for keeping my butt planted in a chair is some sort of view, allowing me to gaze out the window and take in the outside world all while willing me to finish all that needs to be done so I can rejoin it.

Here's my view this morning as I type away on my laptop. Likely not optimal, but it will definitely serve the purpose.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Good omens

This past week was my last workshop of the outreach program I've working with for the past 6 months. There were a total of 3 students, ranging in age from 12-14 years, with one who had a severe case of ADHD combined with some other behavioral problems. Given that there was zero guidance from the parents on how to engage this student, each day was it's own adventure.

The end result was that by the end of yesterday I was thoroughly exhausted. Commuting was an interesting experience given that my body was making it clear that a nap would be preferred to braving public transit and my brain had pretty much checked out when it came to details like timetables and traffic signals. So it took me about 3 blocks to realize I was walking in a heavy snowfall that wasn't sticking to the ground for very long. To notice the silence that was filling the streets, silencing all the external noise from the streets as well as the chatter in my head.

I was once told that snowfalls like this are good omens. That the peace and silence that comes is meant to signify calm and wisdom during moments of change and uncertainty. Snowfalls in general have happened during life-changing moments that usher in good things. And given all the uncertainty at the moment, a promise of good is very welcome.

So today, though the snow has melted, I'm focusing on this good omen and hoping for some good news soon. I could really use it.

Monday, February 19, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: vorfreude

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

It snowed on Saturday. And as beautiful as that snowfall was, the demand of snow clean-up so my landlord could show our unit left me officially done with our current situation. 

But instead of hating on my landlord and everyone else who has abused us, I'm choosing to be filled with vorfreude for this pending move. Daydreaming about seeing daffodils and tulips again very soon.

Saturday, February 17, 2018


I'm officially in limbo with a timeline. On Wednesday, following a lot of encouragement from BnB and Grey (including Grey editing a draft of an email), I reached out to the CEO of the company I interviewed with. I didn't expect any follow up, so I was pleased when I received a response that evening:
We should be wrapping up this stage around the end of next week and will be in touch then with next steps.
We really enjoyed meeting you and hearing about your work to date!
Feel free to interrupt as you will.

Since calming down (read no longer obsessive checking my email) and on the heels of getting some responses to the Pain Letters I've sent out (FYI: Those work!) as well as arranging informational/informal interviews with a couple of companies that has resulted in an offer for a freelancing opportunity, I've been thinking more about the power of wins, even the smallest ones, in helping motive people. In the business world this is referred to as "Reward Power" but we see this mindset in our daily lives too.

Yet despite this knowledge, we live in an era where there's a mentally of using the stick more than the carrot to motivate people. Just open the newspaper to get the latest examples of this form of motivation, with stress-inducing tactics being used daily to promote the wants of those arguing. And yet, there's so much data about how these tactics rarely work without the coupling of some form of positive reenforcement. That without the wins, the consequences will simply backfire.

On Thursday I had a phone conference with an assessor who observed He-Beat. One of the major concerns the Beats's old daycare brought up was ADHD and an inability to follow basic directions. I came to the meeting armed with information and questions. So imagine my complete shock when I learned that the assessor did not have these concerns but also that neither did He-Beat's current teacher. That not only has separating the Beats been a wonderful thing for both of them, but also that his current teacher is skill at positive reenforcement and he is thriving with her. That giving him a chance to succeed is what has been making all the difference and was something that the Beats's former teachers failed to do over and over again.

Failure is a lot more draining then most people understand. And its failure I've been thinking about this past week following the news of this past week. Seeing the portrait of an individual who seemed to fail in all aspects in life and lacked some of the basic privileges most of us take for granted, I cannot help but wonder if a root of so much unhappiness is never feeling like there are any meaningful wins. I understand that most situations are extremely complex and seemingly impossible to tackle, but if infertility taught me one thing it's that those wins in the face of trauma can make the difference between getting out of bed in the morning vs losing one's mind.

So today, I'm back at it. Reaching out to total strangers and introducing myself as someone who thinks their company sounds pretty amazing (not hard to do). All on the heels of rewarding He-Beat for his good behavior this morning, watching his face light up with the knowledge of a job well done. All the while me knowing I can do this as I've gotten a recent boost of confidence and positive feedback as otherwise I would be kicking myself for being so bold.

These wins are making the difference.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Up to 30

My newsfeed came alive last night as I was making my way to pick up the Beats from school. Sitting in the car, I scrolled through the updates: 17 dead, suspect is known. All this morning, the newspapers are picking apart every detail about the 30th school shooting in 2018. The 10th deadliest mass murder in US history.

I wish shock and horror were emotions I could feel over such news that has become normal. That I didn't have to have discussions with my kids about lock-down protocols.

Like Juilette Kayyem, I'm tired of all of this. I'm tired of the fact that nothing is being done by our leaders to address a glaring problem.

But then again, our current leadership has made it clear they are only interested in themselves and their wallets. A generation of sociopaths at the helm who aren't able to turn the tide as it's completely against how they've lived their lives.

That's the thing with change: those that resist it tend to lose when the pain of not doing so becomes unbearable. Holding back the tidal wave becomes impossible. My hope is that tidal wave is coming, growing in strength and fierceness with each incident, lie and exposure. A hope that people will decide they've had enough, wanting to rebuild the bridges that were destroyed.

For now, all I can muster is sadness and numbness with the knowledge that we are now up to 30. And the empty words from those who are suppose to be doing something are falling on deaf ears.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Wooing humans

I knew I was in trouble after the second text message.
"Good morning! Just checking in on your beautiful kitties. They are absolute sweethearts and are doing great! And Jaxson is such a flirt. ;)"

Sitting waiting for my interview, I couldn't help but laugh given I knew exactly what was happening. And I wondered if I would be returning to Boston only to find that I was now missing two cats.

Jaxson has a long history of being a Don Juan. When I first adopted him, I was living with 4 other women and he was constantly failing to win their approval. What cemented a change in his approach in wooing was when we adopted Daisy, with him enduring 3 solids days of getting the crap kicked out of him by a female who was half his weight. It was while Daisy was on Valium (prescribed to calm her down and give Jaxson a fighting chance), that he modified his approach for interacting with the opposite sex. He became more cuddly, perfecting his glances and friendly approaches. Most of all, he learned that giving affection would result in gaining in.

And with that, not only did Daisy decide he was okay (and they have been inseparable since), but he became quite a force to be contended with for every single one of my girlfriends regardless of whether they were attached or not.

Over the past decade, Grey and I both have received comments about how unusually friendly Jaxson and Daisy are. While most cats tend to hide or pretend to be uninterested when there are visitors, these two are always front and center, greeting people at the door and making sure they have an opportunity to inspect everyone that enters their home. Jaxson usually brings an additional level to this interaction, following all of this introductions with putting on a display of affection. From flopping over and rolling around while purring, to giving paw taps and nuzzling and topping it all off with slow blinks combined with making sure just to touch you, I've seen him win over individuals who proclaim they are only dog people.

Where the problems come in, though, are when he claims someone. Especially when that someone (who is usually female) has a partner. The worst incident was during a dinner party, where the couple visiting was clearly still in the middle of a disagreement. Within minutes, Jaxson was in her lap, giving her all his love and attention while occasionally farting in her significant other's general direction.

Pets are funny this way, given the intimate interactions they have with another species on a daily basis. There's a lot of things I've learned over the years from not only Jaxson and Daisy, but most of the animals I've interacted with. From Jaxson, though, I've had a constant reminder on how love not war can win the day time and time again. From calming a severely stressed Cristy to milking hours of pets out of people, he's truly impressive to watch.

Plus Grey has learned adapted a few of his moves too, which sadly can be quite successful. Demonstrating that there is an art to wooing humans.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Working through the waiting pain

It's been 7 days since my interview. The emotional roller coaster that comes with waiting reminds me of how much I loathed dating in my younger years. Between moments of despair where I'm kicking myself from not making a better impression to high moments where I'm feeling optimistic to moments where I just don't care anymore, it's been an interesting few days.

This morning, I made the decision to get back on the job application horse, specifically in the form of drafting my first pain letter. After spending the past couple of days researching and determining who the hiring managers are, I'm been ignoring every bit of worry and anxiety and reaching out to complete strangers with the idea of simply getting on their radar. So far, I haven't died from hitting the "Send" button. But my reward tonight is to crawl under a blanket with these two.

I hate waiting. Uncertainty is nothing short of the 9th circle of hell for me, especially when so much is riding on decisions that I no longer have control over. So I'm learning to work through the waiting pain, giving myself plenty of distractions while also being mindful that something will pan out in the end. Despite the fact that my anxiety is trying to convince me otherwise.

Monday, February 12, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: In the aftermath

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

This last week was filled with a lot of firsts. The first time I've flown alone with the Beats, the first extended trip for Grey (he began his new position this week, which is 10 days of him out on the West Coast), first purchases and uses of new electronics to keep the Beats occupied, the first time we've ever hired a pet sitter (and another post to come given that Jaxson has a new girlfriend). And the first time I've spent more than 8 hours away from the Beats.

I'll spare you the details of how traveling with two 4 years solo for the first time went, but the whole situation went better than expected even though its clear everyone involved was stressed out. Still we're all recovering from two 3 hour time changes and another weekend to recover is direly needed.

In addition to this, I survived my interview. I went in feeling prepared and excited, walking out feeling confident that all had gone well. I even managed to catch the earlier flight back to Seattle and got a free glass of Prosecco, which I took to be a good omen.

By Friday all of that had worn off, with me second-guessing the interview (was just shy of 2 hours even though they told me to expect 2-3) and me realizing I accidentally called one of the founders by the wrong name. Cue lots of kicking myself.

The truth is, there was a lot that could have gone better all around. From navigating the airport to entertaining the kids to working on my interviewing skills (hence all the beating myself up). But I learned a lot, particularly with what we can do this. All the things that were seemingly impossible before, like flying solo with 2 small children, spending the night away and me even going on an interview for an position in industry, is now possible.

The past few days there's been a lot of conflicting emotions, fueled by the fact I'm in limbo with waiting on a decision combined with knowing that I have to move on with job hunting and the rest of my day-to-day. There's so much uncertainty on the horizon with preparing for this cross-country move, enough of which that my grey hairs are increasing in number almost daily. But there's so much excitement too. Grey is loving his new position and the company is treating him incredibly well.

So we're living in the aftermath of this first leg of the journey. Attempting to get back into the swing of things for a chapter that is coming to an end. All with me trying to find a way to end it on a positive note, setting the stage for what is to come.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Traffic delay due to turkey

It's 4 pm and traffic is at a dead stop. Occasionally there's a slow crawl forward, but it's clear by the sea of red tail-lights no one is going anywhere fast. In an attempt to determine what is going on, I roll down my window, allowing me to crane my neck. And that's when I hear swearing and shouting, with phrases like "stupid bird" and "begging to be dinner" littering the air. Suddenly traffic begins to crawl forward and that is when a 4 ft winged brown figure comes into view, clearly agitated and making body motions that warn every human of the consequences of getting too close. The swearing and threats continue as people drive by, but it's also clear no one is willing to risk getting too close to this singular wild turkey that is roaming the streets of Cambridge.

All I can do in the moment is laugh, thinking of the reaction I will get once I give my explanation for why I'm running late.

The whole week has been an exercise in navigating turkeys. I'm currently two days into a workshop training 20 university-level students from China that requires 7 hours of teaching each day, not including prep. They are doing amazingly well, but given the language barrier we are all suffering from severe exhaustion (yesterday they were visibly relieved to have a guest speaker who spoke Mandarin).  In addition to this, Grey and I have been finalizing travel plans as I officially have an interview a week from Wednesday. On top of preparing a talk on material I haven't touched in over a year, I will also be flying solo with the Beats to Seattle as they will be staying with my amazing aunt and uncle while I'm doing said interview. Both kids are extremely excited about the upcoming trip. Grey is doing enough worrying for all adults involved. All of this on top of me teaching my other course, making arrangements for students to access training to do Illumina sequencing, learn Unix and figure out a weekly meeting to discuss research progress.

The odd part about all of this is even though I know I'm stressed from all that is happening and upcoming, I'm actually in a weird state of rolling with it. Part of it is I'm too tired from being stressed out to thinking of anything else, but like encountering the turkey in traffic I also know the only way to resolve any inconvenience or stress involves not pissing off the agitated bird.
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