We're a little crazy, about science!

The promise of tomorrow

We’ve reached the end of the 365 days of academia project, year two! Last year I wrote in depth about my past and in particular my suicide attempt (here). At the time it felt like a good way to wrap up an entire year of basically pouring my heart and soul into this blog. Writing every day for a full year, I didn’t think I would do it and now I’ve done it two years in a row (minus when I was trying not to freeze to death!). Since last year we looked back, today we’ll talk about why I’m alive. The short answer is in the title of this post, the promise of tomorrow, but I think I can explain better.

While most kids probably don’t want to grow up, I couldn’t wait. I hated my childhood. I grew up in an abusive household, okay households. There was a lot of moving around and being passed back and forth between family members because no one wanted to take care of a kid that wasn’t theirs. The story goes something like they were abused as children so they did the same thing. In fact, my grandmother before she passed said she, “beat me harder because she knew I could take it.” Yeah, that was the example of love I had growing up, so of course I couldn’t wait to be an adult and get away from all of it.

Yesterday was awful, today is bad, but tomorrow… tomorrow was hope. Tomorrow was full of possibilities and wonders. Tomorrow could be anything I could dream, and while the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, tomorrow always held promise of reaching the end. Obviously time waits for no one and even though I couldn’t wait to grow up I was forced to make it to the next day. Tomorrow became today, today became yesterday, and one day I blinked and yesterday was ten years ago.

The point being I’ve survived this long by looking forward, by moving forward. Sure it’s a coping mechanism, but it’s one that is healthy enough if you don’t overdo it (like most things in the world). A whole lot has changed since I started this blog, for one i have two degrees and I’m roughly halfway done with the third. I’ve built robots and read minds (EEG). I’ve done things I dreamt of as a child and things I couldn’t even imagine.

I’ve always dreamt of being a scientist. I wanted to build robots and my own Ironman suit (well before the movies, which I love). While I haven’t done the later, the former I am happy to say I’ve been there and done that!

Yep, stands on its own! I’ve mentioned my baby before, but here it is! I love it, it’s probably one of the coolest things I’ve made to date. I’m still working with a collaborator to turn the knee joint into a prosthetic knee joint because it’s the most advanced robotic knee in existence at the moment, even three years after I designed it!
(yes, I’m bragging, it was hard work and the knee is the most complex joint in the body!)

It’s always funny to see Twitter posts asking what your five year old self would think of you now. I always want to tear up a little because, if we ignore the mental health issues and the suicide attempt, if we look past the anxiety, the depression, the PTSD, if we squint hard enough to blur the scars of life that I’ve accumulated, I’m exactly where I wanted to be. Five year old me would be in utter awe of the things I can do and have done. I try to keep that in mind when I’m struggling, the promise of tomorrow was today and here I am. Alive, barely most days, but I’m here.

As we wrap up another full year of the 365 days of academia project, I am yet again at a crossroads. I’ve already chosen my path and I’m (hopefully) going to not regret it. I’m excited at the promise of tomorrow, as I always have been. Tomorrow is going to be better than today was and a dream compared to yesterday.

A few things I’m looking forward to! My first publication since I’ve started in this lab. I actually am juggling a few publications that I’m first author on, but I have one in review (again), one about to be submitted (sometime this month), one that should be submitted in the next month or two, and the last one that will be submitted probably before the end of the year. I have another, but we’re still collecting data for that one.

I’m starting a job, for the first time since I’ve been out of the military I am going to get paid (hopefully) a living wage. It will be nice not trying to balance on such a narrow tightrope. That assumes it all goes well, but I have hope. It will be a good change too, I can focus more on my career after my PhD while finishing up my PhD. It will make me more competitive when it comes time to look for a postdoc or when I try to find my own lab. I’m excited, nervous about it because it could be very painful for the next month or so, but excited.

My PhD proposal defense will be happening in the next few months (probably November or December). I am very close to getting to collect THE dataset (THE dataset for those who don’t read often or just found me is THE dataset that I will use to defend my PhD and hopefully graduate!) so something to look forward to! That will probably start sometime next year, so less than six months. Wow, time flies! It simultaneously feels like I should be done and I’ve just started.

This time of the year is always rough for me. It’s probably why I wrote about my suicide attempt at the end of the first year of this project. It’s around this time I tried to kill myself (well a few months shy anyway) and generally speaking the fall term is the hardest for me to cope with because of that. I already feel it happening, my slide to a not-so-happy person. Where I just feel robotic or overly emotional, sometimes both. I mention it a lot, but I always feel like breathing is just too much damn work. Where I’m celebrating the fact that I even got out of bed.

I manage though, mostly because I have the promise of tomorrow to look forward to, so I make it through my day by counting the time between meals. I just need to make it to lunch, I just need to make it to dinner, I just need to make it to bedtime. Then I repeat that until I’m either in a slightly better headspace or life gets slightly easier and I don’t feel the same amount of crushing weight I do on a regular basis.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. I still struggle everyday with the thought of killing myself. It would be so much easier I tell myself, but I don’t. I want to make a joke and say it’s because I’m lazy, but the truth (since I have that damned policy about being honest here) is that I’m scared. Not so much of what happens when I’m dead, I hope it’s just *poof* nothing to be honest. It’s the pain and suffering that leads up to the exit I don’t want. It’s also the fear that life could get really great and I would miss out on it.

I mean life has gotten objectively better for me. It’s more work for sure, but it’s better. Maybe not “better” in the monetary sense, but more stable at least. The thing that really keeps me going, the reason I force myself out of bed every damn day is that I want to be helpful. I want to help people and make the world a slightly better place than it was when I arrived. I’ve had such a hard life and I think that if I could make someone’s life just a touch better than maybe sticking around was the right call. So I drag myself out of bed and dive into my work as best as I can with the limitations of my existence.

There’s hope in the fact that tomorrow isn’t set in stone yet. That it’s far enough away that anything could happen. Maybe I’m just coping and admit that. Still, there’s hope in the promise of tomorrow. If only because tomorrow has the possibility of being better than today.

Today we end the second year of the 365 days of academia project. Tomorrow is the start of year three and the promise of adventures that I can’t even dream of today. I want to thank you all again for coming with me on my journey and I hope tomorrow will be better than today for all of us.

One response

  1. Tomorrow and what I might miss out on keeps me here. Keep chasing tomorrow!

    Liked by 1 person

    August 18, 2021 at 8:01 pm

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