Tag: learning

Updating my comfort diagram: reflections & planning for the fall

So I spent a good chunk of last week working on my 3rd comfort diagram. I’d been introduced to the concept about six months ago by one of my coaches during a zoom call (I’d been more or less rambling on what I thought my future plans were).

I’d decided that I was going to do a new version of it every three months, but also introduce a new zone between the comfort and stretch zone–the bounce zone.

I’d chosen the name ‘bounce zone’, because I didn’t feel like there were things that I’d been working on from the stretch or risk zones that could be moved all the way into the comfort zone (i.e. I didn’t feel like they’d become fully ingrained habits yet).

3rd rendition of my comfort zone diagram. Growth is being made, everything is back and forth.

You might notice that I still have blogging within the bounce zone. This is because at times I feel like I have ‘writer’s block’ and my inner critic/imposter syndrome pops in every so often and I end up not posting as frequently as I had originally planned.

As I was working on the diagram, I decided I would add one or two things into the stretch zone:

Intuitive eating, which is something I’ve been working on for the past few months. I have it in the stretch zone only because there are a couple of points that I’m still slightly struggling with:

(1) Eating enough protein during the day (especially at breakfast)

(2) Savoring the meals/snacks (i.e. taking more than ten to fifteen minutes to each the meal), and finally

(3) figuring out what type of intentional movements I enjoy doing, figuring out how to incorporate them into my day and then ignoring the rest. I know it may look funny putting movement (or exercise) in with nutrition, but they’re tied together in society.

The second thing I added to the stretch zone is learning more about UX (user experience), as a possible freelance/remote direction to go in.

I’ve actually completed a couple of courses over the past six month where I learned the basics on clinical research and intellectual property. I’m currently keeping them in the ‘stretch zone’ as I haven’t quite figured out how to tie them into the direction that I’m thinking of going (which is freelance/remote/contract focusing first on writing, and then possibly adding in data analysis, project and product management at a later point). Both topics were interesting, but I also realized that I probably wouldn’t want to go in either direction full time (in terms of clinical research–unless I was at the bench, I possibly would have to travel between clinical research sites frequently, and to become a patent agent would require passing the patent bar exam).

While I would like to possibly travel (depending on when the various variants of the SARS-CoV2 virus are contained), I don’t want to constantly travel for work, and currently I don’t want to go in a direction that would require a large amount of money and a standardized test.

But what has changed over the last three months?

Cross-stitching and science writing have bounced their way into the bounce zone, while time management and refreshing a foreign language have bounced their way back into the stretch zone.

I’ve realized that I enjoy doing more abstract design and creation (in other words not having to follow a set pattern), and my first cross-stitch project is actually a continuous circle with a few bumps in the road made up of different colors. I’m going to see how many different colors it takes to fill up the fabric, and not worry about little mistakes that I may make along the way.

I’m slowly making my way into science writing again. I managed to land a volunteer medical content writing position with a online Canadian magazine (Medical News Bulletin) last month. While it is a volunteer position (and they own the ‘rights’ to my work), I am learning the ins and outs of science communication for the lay audience. Hopefully then, this will flow over to the blog and I will be getting out at least one science related blog post a month (and possibly one to two science related pages a month as well).

I’m also trying to focus a little more on my spiritual health as well over the past few months, and it has bounced (along with oracle cards) to sit along side meditation in the bounce zone. This has been an area that has been bouncing between the stretch and the bounce zones the past couple of months (and will probably still bounce the next couple of months). I’ve always been fascinated and intrigued by ancient cultures and practices more so than contemporary practices–and have felt like an outsider growing up due to those interests.

Over the past month, I’ve picked up quite a few non-fiction books related to ancient cultures and practices for two reasons: one because they interest me, and I actually have the time to indulge in those interests; and two–they may serve as ‘reference’ books for a couple of short story ideas that I have bouncing around in my head.

Various non-fiction books that I’ve bought over the past month

I like Graham Hancock–I have his book ‘Underworld: The Mysterious Origins of Civilization’ in my storage unit. I bought this book back in the late 1990s after I finished reading the Egyptian Book of the Dead that I got for Christmas one year. The others were bought because I’m either fascinated with the civilization (Mayan) or feel like they could be good ‘reference’ books for short story ideas.

My time management has been slipping for the past month or more, due in part to the warmer weather (so I want to be sitting outside more often than I do during other times of the year, and preferably without my computer), and my anxiety has been spiking due to the rise in the number of SARS-CoV2 cases due to delta variant running rampant through the country.

So, I’m going to have to just ensure that I have various time management apps up and running on both my computer and phone (and possibly add in the different news sites to the ‘blocked for the day’ list)–because if I can’t see the news, I can’t stress out over it and have my anxiety spike (yes, I know that doing this is showcasing my privilege–but sometime protecting ones mental health means embracing certain things that I would usually try not to embrace).

Refreshing the foreign language also bounced back into the stretch zone for almost identical reasons as time management, with the addition of my inner critic/imposter syndrome poking their heads out and ridiculing me on my progress.

Therefore, the next three months are going to be focused on:

(1) Time management,

(2) learning (aiming for spending at least three and a half hours a week working through various e-courses; this breaks down to roughly thirty minutes a day),

(3) reading (aiming to read non-fiction for another three and a half hours a week (again, another thirty minutes a day),

(4) craft time (also three and a half hours a week at minimum; thirty minutes a day, while focusing on cross-stitching, jewelry design/creation, photography, and doodling), and

(5) writing (this will be the most varied area with different projects, but aiming for four to six thousand words a week).

Progress is being made–writing is slowly becoming an enjoyable habit again (after years of dreading having to do it), meditation at night is helping with anxiety (for the most part), and I’m going to work on incorporating it more often during the day. The staircase out of the pit of burnout does seem to go on forever, but I only need to take it a step at a time, and I can sit with a book on a stair whenever I need to catch my breath.

Question time–what are your favorite e-course sites and subjects?

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Proud to be a geek: ‘Celebrate your geekness day’

Today is ‘celebrate your geekness’ day, a day that was created by Wellcats Holidasy as a day about being proud of what you do, who you are, and what you’re ‘obsessed’ with. I will freely admit that I’ve always been a ‘geek’, and I’ve been proud of being a geek. While I may seem ‘quiet’ and slightly ‘unsociable’, it is more of the fact that I’m wondering what I can add to the conversation. Depending on the topic, I may either be more of an active listener or an active participant. While I am a ‘geek’ on various subjects, I also admit that some areas I’m reconnecting to, so I may not be that big of a ‘geek’ in terms of random knowledge.

I like these five reasons from ‘a big think edge’ blog post back in 2018 on why one should embrace thier inner geek:

  1. The term communicates that you are intelligent
  2. You may be more socially competent and mature than the ‘cool kids’
  3. As a geek, you are viewed in a increasingly positive way
  4. You are technically savvy and an early adopter of new technologies
  5. Geeks bring different perspectives and knowledge to the conversation

I agree with all of them, with the exception of number four–I really don’t care for updating/upgrading my electronics and such unless I either absolutely have to, or the update/upgrade has something really going for it.

So what are things that I consider myself a ‘geek’ about?

Hobbies such as:

Birds (and bird watching)

Photography

Reading (fiction, especially romance)

Knitting and other crafts

Being outdoors, gardening and nature

Learning, especially on topics related to:

Science

History

Geography

Archaeology

Anthropology

Paleontology

My pets

What am I currently learning or teaching myself?

Python coding, cross-stitching, jewelry making, and brushing up on subjects such as intellectual protperty and clinical trials.

What are my end goals?

Continuous learning, finding harmony between ‘work’ and ‘everything else’, and bridging the communication gap beteen the scientific community and the general public.

What is one scientific topic that you wished was communicated better?

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Saturday Night Sayings–Day 13 of Photography Challenge

Decided to have fun with laying out different sayings and trying to find a good combination of sayings to share. Initially I had a set of twenty cards, and when I laid them all out, and tried to take a picture, the messages were blurred and lost. So I decided that I’d share a small set at a time over the next few weeks. Apologies ahead a time–I’m sure that one or two of them are going to be repeated within the different sets.

Saturday night sayings.

These first four are especially resounding for me right now–two of them have to deal with both personal and professional development: Never stop learning and stay curious. I will be the first to admit that after graduate school, I did stop learning for awhile–I had switched focus a little in my first postdoc, but there wasn’t much learning on the job (skill wise). I did learn a few more skills over the next few years as I did my second postdoc position and then the two different senior research specialist positions.

I am starting to push myself to start learning again, and I am remembering the enjoyment of learning (yep–I’m a nerd). In addition I’ve always been curious–one reason why I fell in love with science–there is always something new to discover and learn. I love being out in nature (weather permitting, and temperature dependent [I don’t care for super cold or super hot–though I know how to deal with both]) and taking pictures or just sitting outside and enjoying the breeze and being outside.

The third quote: Why not?–this is a reminder that anything really is possible, and we shouldn’t have to answer to people for wanting to learn or for being curious. It is also a reminder that we shouldn’t have to explain either to people when we want to back off a little and relax and take things slow and try to enjoy life every so often.

The final quote: Don’t settle.  This is a reminder that I need to really figure out what it is I want out of life and not to settle for anything less than what it is that I want.  I’ve realized that at times I’ve just settled in a little and taken the path(s) of least resistance. Doing the postdoctoral position(s) was just following the basic academic roadmap–the switch to being a senior research specialist, was a shift away from the basic academic roadmap. Now I’m trying to figure out the direction that the new road map is going to take and aim for a position in industry.

I’m going to start looking more into say three or five different types of industry positions (or non-academic), and then see which ones mesh more with the things I want to try to do with my life: travel (one [maybe two] vacations a year to some place new), par down on the belongings, and get back into a fitness and health routine that I know I need to focus on. There will be post updates throughout the year on the new job search–so check back every so often to see where I am on my professional development/journey to an industry (non-academic) position.

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Settling into the job

So I’m settling into my position as a senior research specialist in charge of DNA sequencing. Right now I’m just making sure that I have my feet under me, to where I can handle doing the sequencing on a day-to-day basis without too many mishaps (loose lid……), before trying to do anything more in terms of protocol modifications/development–that will probably be after the new year.

Right now I’d say my job is 80% technical (with 75% of that being pipetting for anywhere from thirty minutes to three plus hours, depending on the number of samples for the day; and the other 5% is taking care of the machine). Of the remaining 20%, I’d say 15% is dedicated to customer service (looking at the data before the customers get it, and letting them know what happened with their samples (which ones failed/which ones gave noisy reads/and which ones ran fine). The last 5% of my job is administrative paperwork (filling out log sheets, order forms, making copies, tabulating charges, and getting the paperwork to the finance guy in the department).

While it can be tedious and repetitive, it is also interesting because if something doesn’t work–you get to work with the lab to try to figure out what when wrong, and what a possible solution to the problem could be.

I’ve also decided that while I’ve applied for academic positions over the last few months (mainly to make the weekly quota of job applications for unemployment)–that isn’t where I really want to be anymore–I don’t want to be stuck teaching 12 credits a semester and trying to get a research program up and running at the same time. I’d rather find a good position within a company that does outreach (or maybe spearhead an outreach program for a company), then try to survive in the academic rat race.

I’m starting to listen to my gut and realize that it is okay to turn down a potential job offer if it doesn’t seem like it is going to be what I want out of life. A few years ago I may have wanted to have my own lab and do my own research–now I want to work for a company that is trying to do something good in the world (say try to find a treatment for cancer, or a neuro-degenerative disease), and still be able to have a life outside of a lab.

I want to be able to work on crafts, continue working on personal development, getting into shape, spending time with my pets, friends, and remember that there is more to life than the nine-to-five rat race (that is found no matter where you get a job).

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