Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Resolutions revisited and a better 2012

Apparently, it's that time again - resolution time!  I am not a huge fan of overly specific resolutions, but I thought I would revisit my resolutions from last year and make some intentions for next year.

When I entered 2011, I had high hopes.  Everything that was changing seemed like a positive thing - new job, new home with Brendan, new life here in Boston.  But everything changed pretty quickly when Brendan got very sick in the summer and spent time in the hospital on and off through the end of October.  Almost losing the man I love scared me to no end, and a lot of things changed during that time.  Goals were derailed, my current job became very difficult, and what was supposed to be our exciting time living together became a struggle.  But we came out of it strong, and that's what's important.  Seen through the filter of our experiences this year, any "failed" resolutions don't seem like such a big deal.  We have each other, and have our health now - those things are what matter.

But, without further ado, here are the 2011 Resolutions, revisited:

2011 New Years Resolutions & Goals

Fitness/Health Goals:
- Run more. 
Partial fail.  I did, in fact, run Broad Street in the spring (10 miles), and ran Bay to Breakers in May with my friends from school (12K), but I didn't train too well for those, and after that, my running tapered off a bit.  I kept up with a training plan for a while during the summer, but stopped running entirely when Brendan got sick in August.  I’ve been doing a little running on the treadmill at the gym, but am holding off for good weather in the spring to really start up again.

- Get more toned. 
Did it!  I joined my gym in October, and since then, have been doing at least one (if not 2-3) strength training sessions a week.  I’ve been going to Group Power classes and lifting weights when I go alone, too.  As of the weigh-in at the end of my “Biggest Loser” challenge at the gym, I had lost 4 pounds of fat and built up 0.5 pounds of muscle!

- Lose a bit of weight. 
Partial fail, partial win.  I gained some when Brendan was sick and I was scrambling to hold it all together – but since he’s back at home and I have time for the gym, I’ve lost 3.5 pounds, to bring me back to where I was when I moved in (but in better shape – see above).  I’ll keep at it this next year!

Career Goals:
- Finish my Ph.D. strong. 
Definitely a win.  Everything came together suddenly in January, as seems to happen in science, and I finished a decent story to get my second first-author research paper.  I finished writing my thesis, which I’m pretty proud of – and got my Ph.D. in April!

- Enjoy my actual thesis defense. 
Check.  I actually enjoyed giving this talk – it was nice to share all of my research at once with the people who love and support me.  The question part?  Not so fun.  But it was over before I knew it!

- Get a strong start to my postdoc. 
…and here’s where the major fail lies.  The postdoc I started just…didn’t work.  For several reasons.  I did manage to contribute to a few people’s projects, though, and we’ll see where that goes in the future.  Luckily, there’s a new start around the corner!

Life Goals:
- Become financially stable. 
This started out really well, and tanked out towards the end of the year with some unexpected car-related expenses and extra costs with driving back and forth to the hospital.  I have some $$ saved, but it’s probably just enough to pay taxes – I would like to get better at this this year.

- Take at least one vacation (or mini-vacation). 
We had planned to take a week trip to Maine instead of just a weekend – but that changed with the whole Brendan’s-health issue.  We did get up for a day trip to Maine, I got to spend a long weekend in San Francisco with friends, and I went home twice – other than that, major fail.  I still need a vacation!

- Enjoy all the life changes that come this year, and take them in stride. 
I have to say, life brought us more changes than we expected this year.  And both Brendan and I handled it.  Not to say that there weren’t a few minor meltdowns – but I think this one was successful.

- Work on not stressing and panicking when things don't go right immediately. 
Also, overall, a win – see above.

- Savor the first 7 months of living together with Brendan. 
This ended up being a little different than planned – most of the last 7 months have been filled with illness and hospital visits.  But we are really getting into a groove now, and living together has been fun most of the time.  So while we need to actually do this again this year – I think we got there eventually.

Despite all of the struggles of this year, I think I made it through what was a pretty crappy year with most things still intact.  And I've decided that 2012 will be a better year - the even numbers are always better, anyway :)

So what will 2012 bring?  I am in the process of lining up a new postdoc - I just need to decide exactly where.  And hopefully we will have our first full year in the house together, with no more little "detours."  I'm hoping that after a bit of shake-up at the beginning of the year, this year will be one of stability, relationship-building, and excitement.  Here are my resolutions for 2012:

2012 New Year's Resolutions and Goals

Fitness/Health Goals:

-        Stick with the gym.  I have been great at going to the gym since I joined, and have built my schedule around the 5:30 am Group Power and Spinning classes, which ensures I’ll go at least 3 times a week.  To stick with it, I need to stay committed to the schedule – which means going to bed before 10 most nights and getting out of bed even when I don’t feel like it.  It does help that after the gym and a shower, I can take a ~20 minute nap before work – I’d better enjoy that before we have kids some day and that all goes out the window!

-        Continue to get toned and lose weight. I have built some muscle this fall/winter – but I want to be in really good shape, for the first time in my life.  I want to be able to do the “abs” part of the workout classes without dying – and I want to be able to see some definition, which means burning some more fat, too.

-        Bring back some running and yoga.  I miss both running and yoga, and I would like to bring them back in some capacity.  I don’t want to go crazy, or I’ll risk burning out – but I’d like to maybe train for a half-marathon again next fall, which means keeping up some sort of base fitness.  And I probably won’t join a yoga studio, but I would like to do some at-home video classes instead of just stretching occasionally.

Career Goals:

-        Finish off this first postdoc experience gracefully.  I have been here for 7 months – I would like to feel as if I contributed something.  This means spending the next few weeks working hard to tie up loose ends, not just slacking off.  I want to make sure I give something back to the people who have helped me so much in these last few months!

-        Get a good start to my new postdoc. I want to really apply myself this time, as I know I can.  I will need to actually do reading at home, stay late sometimes, and come in on the weekends.  I know that all of these things are necessary to success – I hope that enjoying my new job will help me commit myself to doing everything I can to succeed.

-        Figure out what I want to do when I “grow up.” I have always heard that a postdoc isn’t necessary if you aren’t going to have a lab.  Well, it is definitely necessary when you don’t know what you want to do – but if I think things through now and decide to go on a different path, I will have a better idea of what I actually want to get out of a postdoc – writing experience, for example, instead of experience leading students.  Defining my career goals and researching my options will help me guide myself through the next few years more carefully.

Life Goals:

-        Become financially stable.  Yep, I’m calling a “redo” on this one.  I am successfully taking care of several financial obligations – but I would like to save more of my money, either in savings accounts for vacations, etc., or in my IRA for the future.  Depending on where I do my postdoc, I may qualify to apply for student loan repayment from the NIH – this is definitely a goal if at all possible.  They pay postdocs so little that every little bit helps!

-        Build our home and enjoy life together.  I have spent two out of the last 7 months alone in the house, so this one’s a bit of a redo from last year as well.  I would like to cherish this time in our lives, when we are still learning how our relationship works and we don’t have that many complicating issues.  We should continue to say “I love you” every day, say please and thank you, and enjoy the perks of young life together.

-        Learn to be confident in myself without the approval of others.  I have always needed the approval of my parents, my friends, my boyfriends, to feel confident in my decisions.  In changing jobs and choosing to stay out where I am, I’m ruffling feathers a bit, and there is a lot of uncertainty at the beginning of the year.  I want to commit myself to loving myself and standing by my own decisions, even if I can’t make everyone happy.  It’s a big part of growing up, and it’s time I did it.

-        Improve communication with Brendan and plan for the future.  This is a big one.  Bren and I don’t fight often, but when we do, it’s often a result of poor communication rather than actually disagreeing.  I want to make sure we improve our communication this year and value respect for each other above everything else.  If (knock on wood) we are going to plan a wedding and a life together for the future, this is key.

So there you have it – my resolutions for 2012.  Here’s to a better year for everyone! 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holiday spirit

To say that the last few weeks have been busy would be an understatement.  A few weeks ago, I went to Pennsylvania for my friend Ashley's wedding (which was beautiful, by the way, check out her pictures on her site!); two weeks ago was my visit to my parents' house to visit family and enjoy winter in MN.  Last weekend featured a visit from one of my college roommates and a lovely wedding (of our other roommate) - fortunately, near my house.  The stress of travel, work, and whatnot have been wearing on me - and we haven't even entered hardcore holiday season.

I am in the midst of changing my future - next week is my site visit at another potential postdoc location, and I am super excited!  It will be a major relief to finally get started doing solid work, save myself some time and energy commuting, and (hopefully) enjoy my job much more again.  But right now?  Right now, I am preparing to give a talk to a bunch of people while also trying to clean the house for visitors, decorate for the holidays, and wrap presents (at least I'm done with the shopping - thank god for Amazon!).  I'm trying to hit the gym with regularity, keep myself from getting sick, and take care of my boyfriend as he is still on the mend.  Let me tell you - doing it all?  Isn't really working out so well.

In the spirit of a beautiful New England Christmas and time spent with family, our house should probably look like this:


But....ummm....we're not quite there yet!  I will try to get a picture when everything is up, though - we may at least manage to get the house clean and decorated this weekend.  Nothing like above, but we'll manage :)

Growing up - even up through grad school, since I'd go home for a week or two on break - I always thought that the holidays were a happy time to rest, enjoy yummy food, open presents, and cherish family.  Now I see, much more than before, that all the time leading up to the holidays is so stressful - it just isn't quite as "merry" as an adult, is it?

But at the same time, the meaning of the holidays changes as you grow older too.  Getting to spend valuable time with friends and relatives, getting to share your love with your sweetheart (and kids, at some point), getting to give back to the community - it all means more than a clean and decorated house or a bunch of presents.

There you have it - I guess the holiday spirit really does change as time goes on.  Cue music:

I hope that whatever you are doing for Christmas (or whatever holiday) this year, you remember to cherish those you spend time with, give back, and be generous with your time, energy, and love.