Dilemma

I have a relatively minor problem that has been eating me up inside for the last couple of weeks and I have finally decided to bring it to the blog, if only to just get some thoughts down somewhere about it.

Several months ago, I signed up for Science Online 2010, aka the science blogging conference, even though I’m not as into science blogging as I once was.

See, I have this problem.  I have no idea what I want to do with my life.  Nothing sounds good.  Things that once interested me, such as science education and outreach, have little appeal for me these days.  But then, nothing really appeals to me anymore.  I think, I hope, that it is a lingering symptom of the depression.  That possibility is more appealing to me than the idea that I have completely lost all the ambition I ever had.

Related aside:  This complete lack of ambition and motivation is distressing.  Wait, that’s too mild a term.  It is completely, absolutely one of the most fucking upsetting things ever in the worst possible way and makes me cry buckets everytime I think about it which is frequently.  Like right now, for instance.  It also makes writing my thesis terribly challenging directly and indirectly.  Since I’ve lost all of my ambition, I have no ambition to get a PhD and I have no ambition to get a job which means I have no use for a PhD which reinforces my lack of ambition to finish my PhD.  Frankly, just about the only thing motivating me to write my thesis at the moment is the horrifying thought of telling everyone who knows me that, despite being less than one hundred pages and one public talk and one private grilling away from getting my PhD, I have just up and quit.

Right, back to my dilemma.  So, you would think that, what with not being interested in science outreach, education, or just science in general (or anything at all for that matter), I would not want to go a conference about science online and science education and science journalism.  But, since I’m not interested in anything at the moment, I am holding out hope that one day I will again find things interesting and one of those things will be science outreach and education and in the event of that happening, it would behoove me to go to this conference.  In fact, I have been hoping that this conference would spark something in me and I would start to feel jazzed about science stuff again.  I am hoping that this conference will revitalize me and I will once again be a person who cares about science and outreach and education.

So, what’s the problem?  Money.

Ever since I found out I will need to pay tuition for my last quarter, I have been freaked out about money.  This has gotten worse due to medical expenses and being unsure of exactly how much our insurance will pay and there is a high deductible.  And, of course, going to the conference is an unnecessary expense (I’m paying for it out of my own pocket, of course).  So, now I wonder if I should be going or not, knowing that I have no real interest in any career at all and maybe once I do have an interest in a career, it won’t be science-related (though, logically, that seems unlikely).

So, I worry.  I think about whether or not I should be going to the conference every morning when I wake up and every night when I go to sleep (if you think I’m exaggerating about that, I assure you I am not).  I am filled with anxiety because I know that if I am going to cancel I need to have done it yesterday because there is a waiting list for people to attend.  If I cancel, it will still cost some money because it will cost money to change my airline tickets.  And, if I cancel, I will lose this opportunity to potentially become revitalized.

If I don’t cancel, then, of course, it will cost more money than if I do cancel.  My husband assures me that we can afford for me to go to the conference.  I should just accept this.  He handles the money matters in the marriage and he’s very money conscious (which is why he handles the money matters; please no comments on whether it’s appropriate for a liberated woman to allow her husband to handle all of the money concerns for her, I have enough to deal with).  So, I should just believe and trust him and stop worrying, but I can’t quite bring myself to do that.  What if there is an unexpected medical expense and our insurance won’t cover it?  What if there is a problem with the car?  What if we get pregnant and we need the money for the baby because, well, babies cost money?  What if we really should put that money into savings or a retirement fund because I have almost no money set aside for retirement and when I get to be 65 I have no money to live off of because I never was able to get a job because I never recovered my ambition and there’s no family to take care of me because we were never able to have kids?  What if I go and I have a horrible time and I have so much anxiety, I can’t leave my hotel room?  What if I don’t go and I never recover my ambition and I always wonder if I could have been revitalized by the conference?  What if I go and regret it?  What if I don’t go and regret it?  What if, what if, what if???????  The What Ifs become more and more far-fetched and unrelated but they just keep popping up in my mind over and over and over again until I go crazy from it.  Literally.

So, I worry.  Should I go, should I not go?  Every night.  Every morning.  Most afternoons.  I make a decision and then am immediately filled with so much anxiety that it’s the wrong one, I think I’m on the edge of a panic attack.  So, I have to calm myself down by not thinking about it.  But, I have to think about it because if I’m not going to go, I need to tell someone now.

God, I am so screwed up.  Somebody stop the crazy train.  I would like to get off it.

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Knitting

Alyssa asked to see some of my knitting.  Well, I have a knitting blog I normally share that sort of thing with.  However, I don’t mind putting some of my recent projects up here.

Knitting is, well, it’s hard to describe with one word what knitting is for me.  I find it to be a big stress reliever.  I think it’s the rhythmic, repetitive motion that does it.  I also like that you can see the thing you are making take shape and I get a real sense of accomplishment from that.  This was important in lab when it seemed like all I did all day long was pipet clear liquid from one tube into another tube.  Now, that sense of accomplishment is important to me because I have no tangible evidence of what I do while writing.

Some people say that they don’t have the patience to knit, but I find that knitting gives me patience.  I can stand in the longest line ever, sit on the longest flight ever if I have my knitting to do during that time.  Knitting also helps me pay attention.  I found that knitting during seminars really helped me focus on what was being said in the seminar.  It seems a little counterintuitive, but it was like there was a part of my brain that needed to be kept busy with something for the rest of my brain to focus (otherwise, I would doodle, or fidget, or just space off).  I  even used to knit during lab meeting.  My advisor didn’t seem to have a problem with it, probably because I was still asking questions and making relevant observations and comments.

These days, knitting also provides some of the few social interactions that I have.  I have joined a knitting group that meets twice a week.  Without that knitting group, the only person I would talk to would be my husband.  And while I love him dearly, I need some other people to talk to every once in awhile, you know?

So, knitting is pretty important to me.  I didn’t get to do much of it while I was still working in lab (you know, beyond what I did at seminars and lab meeting) but I have lots more time for it here.  Here are a few of the things I’ve made recently, most of them presents for Christmas:

One of a pair of socks for my sister

One of a pair of socks for my mother

A toy for my nephew

Scarf for a charity project

More toys for nephew

Bag for bath gift set for SIL

Washcloth for gift set

My advisor is NOT reading over my shoulder

Considering that my advisor is half a continent away, it would be difficult for him to be reading my thesis as I type it.  And, even if we were in the same place, I am certain that he has more important things to do than stand at my shoulder and make comments about every sentence that shows up on my computer screen.

And yet…I must think someone is standing at my shoulder while I type because I am having some difficulty getting the words to flow from my mind to the computer screen.  Somewhere (maybe in one of the comments here?) I read you need to give yourself permission to write a crappy first draft.  I thought I had done that, but it’s still tough going.  So, I’m going to do it here.

Mrs Whatsit, I give you permission to write a crappy first draft.  Your committee won’t see it.  Your advisor won’t see it.  The blog definitely will not see it (hard to stay anonymous when your thesis is out there for the world to see).  Your husband will not see it.  Your lab BFF will not see it.  Nobody will see it but you.  You can write as many awkward sentences as you need to in order to get the whole story on the computer.  It doesn’t have to be perfect now.   It doesn’t have to be close to perfect.  In fact, it could sound absolutely awful.  Just write.

Stir crazy

Today, I sat down to work on Chapter 1 of my thesis and, after staring at the computer screen for 45 minutes doing almost nothing, I thought, “I have got to get out of here!”

I do not think I am the type of person who can work from home.  After spending several hours a day in the study (our fancypants name for the second bedroom in our apt.) I have gone a little crazy.  Actually, I think it’s more the fact that I very rarely leave the apt. for any length of time.  I go to my knitting group twice a week and that’s pretty much the most time I spend outside of the apt.  I find myself running to the grocery store to pick up one item.  Or, going to Target to wander around for a half an hour or so.  Today, I knew that wasn’t going to cut it.  I went to the yarn store for awhile, then to the bookstore to buy a book, get a chai tea and read for awhile.  It felt really, really good.

I think this does not bode well for my idea that I would be a stay at home mom whenever it is that we manage to have children.  I really thought I would be just fine, but I think I have finally met my limit in terms of spending 23 hours in the same place every day for weeks on end.  It’s not even that I just didn’t want to work on my thesis (although there was probably some of that in there, too).  I tried sitting in the living room and knitting for awhile, thinking that might make me feel better and I could go back to work, but no such luck.

So, I need a new plan for writing.  A plan that includes a coffeeshop with free wi-fi.  I need access to pubmed.  I need lots of papers, too, and it will be a pain in the ass to carry them around with me, but I have to spend time outside the apt.  I haven’t worked at a coffeeshop yet because it’s hard for me to focus for more than 45 min. at a time, so I work for 45 min., take a short break, then start working again.  It seems like it will be a little harder to do that at the coffee shop (can’t get just get up and wander around for 10 minutes or so) but–and I can’t stress this enough–I have got to get out of here on a daily basis or I am going to go insane.

Paper draft: finished

My paper, aka Chapter 2 of the thesis, is complete from my perspective.  It has all of the sections it’s supposed to have, complete and ready for Advisor to comment on and edit.  I sent it to him yesterday and he said this was “outstanding” and he’ll get to it sometime after the ASCB Conference which is in early Dec.  Apparently, he is quite busy with another paper and the class he is teaching and doesn’t have the time to devote to my paper until after ASCB.  *sigh*

At any rate, the thing is out of my hands for now, so I am now tackling Chapter 1, the intro/lit. review.  Advisor said he would look over an outline of it which is great but that means I need to make an outline that makes some sense to people other than me.  At first, it seemed like a duplication of work, but in doing this, I can now see where the holes are in my outline and my knowledge.

MSWord rant:  Why doesn’t the autoformatting feature of Word put things into standard outline format?  I was taught that the format should go something like this:

I.
A.
1.
a.
i.

Word does it in this order:  I.a.i.1.  It drives me nuts!  I can hear my typing teacher yelling about it in my ear.  It’s wrong, wrong, wrong and I just can’t get over it.  It’s like a dripping faucet or someone tapping their fingernails while you’re trying to work.  I could format it myself but that would be a lot of extra effort for a simple outline so I’m just going to leave it even if it does give me the heebie-jeebies.  Okay, end of rant.

I’ve also set a schedule for myself in terms of getting Chapter 1 finished.  I’m splitting it into sections and giving myself deadlines for each section.  Hopefully, this will make me a little more productive.