Thursday, May 21, 2009

Peace of Mind

A rare glimpse of our problem child, Wrigley, at rest.

I am feeling good these days. Being able to say that at this stage in my life under these economic conditions is a triumph. Sure, I am busier than ever working, traveling, getting ready for the next move but I have peace of mind which is absolutely invaluable.

I don't think I was ever officially clinically depressed this past year, but I think if I hadn't used the tools I acquired recovering from my previous bouts it could have happened. A little over a year ago, I got my Ph.D. with no job offer in hand. This was discouraging since I had heard so many stories from professors about how easy it was to find a job once they graduated, how in demand physics Ph.D.'s were. I applied for a fellowship for my dream job in D.C. and got turned down for it almost exactly a year ago. I was disappointed, but never truly believed I could get it since it was only awarded to a handful of people each year.

The weeks without an impending job turned into months and I became distraught and withdrawn. I went on a couple interviews and the fit wasn't right. I tried not to take it personally, my advisor said I was too specialized. But nevertheless, I didn't want to talk about it with anyone except Deano, whose future was on the line as well as my own. That's partly why the blogging decreased. Talking to friends and family decreased too.

I accepted this current position knowing it was temporary, it would be tough, and the pay would suck. The result? I put my head down and worked my ass off, planning to stick it out one maybe two years and hopefully my time here would pay off career wise. So as you may imagine, this regimen still did not make me very happy. Sure I had Deano and the kitties. We spend every other weekend together as a happy family, while on alternate weekends he is scheduled to work and I rely on discipline to be extra productive especially in my competitive workplace. In this I found a little joy and a stronger bond with Deano via the age old "we're in this together" perspective. Our brief time together is spent not only traveling to minor leage ball parks (his passion) and awesome New England diners (mine), but also conspiratorially whispering about how weird it is here and what crazy things the Rhode Islanders do. But my overall feeling was that how things were going, the place I was in careerwise and geographically was making me miserable. And I didn't want to talk about it. I just wanted to get past it and close this chapter in my life.

I am trying hard not to build up my new job too much. But things have changed for us so much since the offer. At first, I wasn't sure if I was going to take it. Of course my first thought was that becuase the position was created from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, I had been called to service in my own little way by a president who was finally taking science funding seriously. But I had already started the application process for a permanent position on the periphery of science because I was so fed up with the hierarchy of the scientific community, especially academia. That's a whole other post that will have to wait until the frustration is a little farther off in the rear view mirror. But when Deano told me to take it without even thinking twice and my new group was so helpful and supportive I knew I made the right decision, the first one I can be sure of in a long time. I am sleeping better, I have a better temperment, less anxiety, and something to really be excited about. I feel more confident in my abilities after months of doubting myself. Sometimes I even tell Deano that I'm glad I didn't get the job the first time around. Living a consistently charmed life leaves you with less of a sense of appreciation. He doesn't necessarily agree.


Red said...

Nat - it all works out in the end and it sound like you are moving in the right direction! It is great to have a support team (Deano)(and Wrigly)but don't forget you got blogger bud's rooting for you (and Fermi) too!

Nice Cat!

Dianne said...

Wrigley looks very content there
I love the way they curl up

I'm happy that you're happy - you all deserve to be

hugs to you and Deano and the critters :)

Hot4Teacha said...

I wish we didn't ever have to suffer, but if it helps us to truly appreciate the wonderful things in life, maybe it serves its purpose? I'm so excited for you right now - you have life by the coat tails, ride 'em!

Natalie said...

Thanks for visiting! Yes, we always had faith things would work out. It's just that road getting there got quite bumpy for awhile. Personally, now that things are getting resolved, I am grateful for the experience and that it tested our will and the strength of our relationship. I know I have blog buddies rooting for me, but just writing about the fact that you don't feel like you are succeeding can be difficult.

dianne (di#1),
It's rare to actually see Wrigley sleeping which was why I took the picture. And when he does curl up, he curls up tight because he is nothing but skin in bones. He's the pickiest eater I've ever met! Thanks for your support, I am so grateful to have you in my (cyber)life. I think of you as my blog mom, which is why I always share the important news with you first. ;) The critters send Mia and Siren kitty high 5's!

hot4teacha (di#2),
Thank you, and I agree. I have a lot of theories about why this past year has been good and what purpose it may have served overall. As I mentioned before, Dean has a hard time seeing it that way, but he;s too busy enjoying minor league baseball and looking to the future to worry about how bad things were for such a short time. AND, I might have life by the coattails, but you're not doing so bad for yourself either, chickee. :P

Scott said...

I guess the question is whether or not you have been enhanced in your current situation because of what you have gone through, or if you would have been better off getting the dream job right away. Both ways has advantages. It's a question we ask ourselves in many different forms. Is it better for a child, for instance, to have to earn his or her own way in life with no financial assistance from a rich dad, or to have college and a new home paid for and a cushy job as vp of a billion dollar corporation until the day dad kicks off? I find the weather here in New England to be harsh in the winter, but I continuously rediscover how beautiful it is here when winter finally melts away; but in California it was always nice and warm so I took it for granted. Rarely a day goes by that I'm not thankful for the job I have: working at home, making good and steady money (ok, so I'm in debt up to my ears!), indoors, wife bringing me lunch and giving me a peck on the neck--because I used to work outside in any kind of weather, falling occasionally from a height, smashing my thumb with a hammer, up at the crack of dawn and home at dark. I have to say that I wouldn't want my children to endure that kind of life, but I can't say I regret a single moment of any of it. I wish I had the same mom all my life, that my parents had never split, that we never moved when I was a kid, that I had the same friends I met in kindergarden--I would take some of it back if I could, but at the same time, I think of all the laughs, the adventures, the places I've seen, all the things I've done, and I have to smile just a little.

gabrielle said...

What a rare moment for Wriggles. I hope you all can enjoy the calm.

I am so happy for you!

Natalie said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comment. It is tough to say which way I'd rather have it. I love Deano, but he plays a big part in all this and the only reason I may have regrets are on his behalf. Of course this move is good for my career. Having a postdoc at Brown cannot possibly hurt my resume and I think it gives me an advantage when its time for my new employer to decide whether they want to hire me permanently. But on the other hand, this year has been a waste for Deano. He hasn't been able to advance his career and he sees it as one more year we don't have a house, a car from this decade or kids on the way. It's really tough to look at it as a net plus or a net minus until we get some perspective. But let me be clear that the weather didn't play much of a role in our opinion of RI. It was mostly the people. If you were to meet Dean, you would find him one of the friendliest, most personable people you've ever met. But he doesn't have a single friend here because everyone has their own cliques and are not used to newcomers. The only friends I've made are in the lab and they come from different countries. I've heard from lots of people that that's just the way RI is, like one big high school, which is not what we're interested in as far as settling down. As I alluded to earlier, these issues put a strain on our marriage and we came out much the better for it and for that I'm thankful. You wrote a lot about regrets from you past. I guess the reason this past year was so tough and why I'm wasting time thinking about whether or not I'll regret it is that I've never encountered an experience before like that. Everything about growing up, the good and the bad, shaped who I am and where I am today. So as far as that, no regrets.

The peacefulness on Wrigley's part lasted just long enough to snap the picture. Shortly after that he woke up and it doesn't seem like he's slept since.

Scott said...

I found a lot of people here in New England to also be cliquey as well, but I used to live in the California SF Bay area, and in some places it was so much worse--added to that, they were so shallow and with a thin veneer of friendliness that barely concealed their utter apathy to one another as people. That's not everyone, but averaged over my fifteen years lived there, that's the feeling I walk away with. New England is different. How people feel about you is right on the surface, which you can imagine from what I have just said I can totally appreciate. When someone doesn't like me here, I can see and smell it oozing from their pores. The beauty of that is, mostly there is no real good reason for it--something they heard someone who heard someone say about me. Because they aren't hiding it, it's a subject that can be addressed. Since they know that you know, sometimes by just being nice to them dispels their misconception.

Rhode Island is probably a different animal, but I imagine there are similarities. Deano's experience sounds a little like ours (my wife and me) experience in California. I've had friends that have said the same thing about Cali as well. Real friendly, warm, cuddly people, who for some baffling reason cannot make any friends. It is definitely a cultural thing, and I can't give any advice. My friend ended moving to North Carolina and finally found the kind of people that hear her music.

When living alone in San Francisco, I joined clubs and hung out with different groups of people. All it takes is one good soul to meet up with to change the experience to a good one.

I started the Rabbit book, by the way. I'm having trouble getting into it. The paragraphs seem to run on forever and I don't think I have the concentration skills to keep up with it. I find myself constantly thinking of other things, and after I've read for a while I realize I haven't been paying attention. I'll try for a bit more, but I think this one might not be for me.

dr sardonicus said...

One could say the real learning process begins after you graduate. Though I'm not necessarily sure that adversity is something we need to experience in order to appreciate the good in life, I'm glad to see that you are drawing strength from your experiences and will soon be in a position that hopefully you will find much more satisfying.