Thursday, April 26, 2012

Just rambling...

You know that website Pinterest - serious suck me in waste my time thing. I try to limit my pins to things I may actually use someday, though I do like strolling through other people's quotes and styles boards. Quotes don't usually speak volumes to me. Some are cute, but in 60 seconds I have generally moved on and forgotten them and I don't need yet another thing to follow. But I have some good online friends who collect quotes and I like strolling through them.

The other day someone posted one that has stuck hard with me.

I seem to keep coming back to this in my head. It seems like in the last five years I have had a lot of this... events that have changed me. I wonder if in some weird alternate universe where you don't know my face, if some unsuspecting person met me five years ago and then again today, if they would see the same thing? I don't think so.

Of course there are the obvious ones that many of us go through - marriage, becoming a parent, etc. But there are others, small things that change you in surprisingly profound ways.

The first one that pops to my mind isn't a small one, but has probably provided the largest source of change in my life over the past 5 years, has been the process of my mom dying at a young age from cancer. How can that not change you? And in the larger scheme of things it is the way it is supposed to work, children are supposed to lose their parents first and not vice versa. (I can't even imagine the reverse.) But watching someone grapple with a diagnosis, then over time see the options deteriorate and then finally losing someone at a relatively young age. It's hard.

How has this changed my life? (How has it not... I am sure you agree.) It has affected the way I view objects. Lifetimes of stuff that have deep meaning to really only one person - yourself. It has affected the way I view life - let's get the stuff done in life we want to do! I want to vacation. I want to quit putting off things and experiences we want. (We bought a trailer last spring to camp around the Northwest and eventually beyond.) It has affected the way I see our healthcare system - even though my mom had excellent insurance she still struggled to get things paid for daily, why when someone is living their last few months, should they have to struggle with this? It has affected the way I see time spent with my kids. It has affected my view of my job - I love my job, but really in the larger scheme of things, how important is being right here? It's not. Obviously we all need money and I am reasonably employable I believe elsewhere. Why not seek other experiences?

I have a very successful coworker who recently told me very matter of factly that his family doesn't have long lifespans and so he plans to retire in 3-4 years. I have rolled this over in my head. There are no guarantees, but if the odds are not "ever in your favor"? What would you do?

Which brings me to my job... nope, I am not looking to jump ship anytime soon. I am lucky, I really like my job. But in the last 5 years as I have waffled between science and management, I have experienced things that have changed my perspective of what I do for a living. One of them is a direct link from above - I don't necessarily want to spend my entire life toiling away in a lab. In order to broaden my employability and keep my options open for life in another place, I have embraced management.

Take that a step further... I have been changed by working in management. I have learned that I can manage someone, but only to a certain degree, I can't control them, I can try to guide them, but in the end, and there will come an end, a person is going to do what he is going to do (be a dumbass) and it is his career, not mine. I first tried to embrace this as a grad student - taking control of my career and not letting things happen, but making things happen. Then again as a post-doc. I have mastered this now - I make things happen and don't wait for things to happen to me. I can't afford to jump on bandwagons. I have to stand up for myself and not be trounced on. I also have to trust that management isn't always blind. I have to trust those who are there to back me up as their job, but I can't rely on them.

This has - to a certain degree - hardened me as a person in my day to day interactions (but not as a mom). I have been forced to remain stoic while being criticized, crying only in the privacy of my home. A coworker recently told me he was surprised at how thick my skin was and had expected the opposite of me. I am not easily swayed, I view it all as "just business". When it comes to delivering bad news, I am not the one that shies away anymore.

Which brings me to my last one. I have, in the past, had a sort of lone wolf mentality at work. This was brought on early in my career when I was hired on permanently from being a post-doc and promptly told to move on by the project I was working on as they felt they could no longer afford me. Over the past few years I have built relationships at work with people I can trust, I can confide in, and who will back me up. After years of doing my own thing, this is a nice change of pace and I am not letting those people go and instead, I am working to expand this network.

So back to the personal side... AB and I have for nearly our entire courtship, lived far away from family. This has changed who I am. I don't rely on a lot of people usually. Having kids has forced me to rely on others, but I am not always comfortable with that. We have an excellent support network among our friends, but we don't have the grandparents or the big family dinners and as much as I dislike saying it, my kids have to be reminded who their families are. As the kids get older they are starting to remember people though. We, for the most part, are very used to it just being us. This has been a challenge over the past couple years as we have had a family member move near us. This has changed me in ways I won't delve into here. It has changed me in that I have someone to help out and I just have to let go and accept help from someone I know loves the kids with all her heart.
Now that you have listened to me ramble - what changes define you?

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