First of all, the concept of summer vacation in grad school is a joke. Just because I’m in school doesn’t mean I get the summers off (here’s a horrifying thought: how long would it take a person to complete a PhD if they had summers off? I don’t even want to think about it). And whether or not you get any sort of vacation at all is really up to your advisor. I mean, sure they say we’re entitled to two weeks vacation or whatever it is but the reality is that if your advisor doesn’t want you to take a vacation, then you are not taking a vacation.
Fortunately, my advisor is of the “vacations are good for the brain” mentality and, as such, rarely complains when we want to take one (within reason, of course). I thought he might make an exception in my case since I am supposedly close to graduating and the sooner I get out of there the sooner he can stop paying me. However, when I sat down in his office and said, in a perfectly serious tone of voice, “I need to take a break or I’m going to shoot someone,” he simply said, “Okay.” I must have the look of a woman on the edge.
Having not done anything summery whatsoever this entire season, I’ve decided to cram it all into a 10-day period. First stop was Iowa where we celebrated my nephew’s first birthday at a park with a pond (cookout? check. Searching for frogs with young children? check). My sister baked him his very own little birthday cake and then stripped him down and let him go to town with the cake. He did a pretty good job of it, too. Unfortunately, my sister forgot to coordinate her own clothing appropriately and wore light colored clothes and the frosting was chocolate. Ooops.
Next stop, the Iowa State Fair. It is the grand-daddy of state fairs. It’s listed in 1000 Places to See Before You Die, it’s that good. There, I indulged in the summer tradition of wandering around a fair in the heat while eating the unhealthiest food you can find. I had a foot-long corn dog, a funnel cake, real lemonade, a stick of honey, a hard-boiled egg on a stick (free at the egg producers booth) and a strawberry smoothie. Yum. The only thing I missed was a shredded pork sandwich. Maybe next year. Then, we pet lots of farm animals (does anyone know why they shave llamas to look like poodles?), saw a disgustingly huge hog, and looked at prize-winning dahlias and tomatoes and ears of corn. And, we watched an ice sculpting demonstration which was pretty awesome. Also we saw the butter cow (a life-sized sculpture of a cow done in butter; I don’t know why they do this, it’s just a tradition) and the butter Shawn Johnson (‘cuz she’s from Iowa, ya’ know). It was a hoot.
Then, I drove home and the very next day, I went to California to see my husband. It’s summer almost all of the time in Cali so it’s kind of cheating to go there. It was relaxing and revitalizing, it’s exactly what I needed. I swam in the pool, I went for walks with my husband, I knit on a shrug while sitting outside on the balcony. It was awesome. The only thing we didn’t do was go to the beach. Maybe next time….
I didn’t truly realize how much I needed a vacation until I actually went on vacation and came back to lab. Lab doesn’t seem as oppressive as it used to. I can actually look at my lab bench and not want to vomit (always important when trying to finish your experiments). In fact, I feel like I might be able to do this thing. It helps that the yeast are finally starting to cooperate. Maybe they just needed a break, too.