It took multiple days to write a single paragraph and other odd, but true tales
Maybe I’m just weird. Okay, I’m definitely weird, but that’s not the point. It’s been three full years since I started my PhD and I’m still pretty self-conscious about idiosyncrasies, or at least the ones I’m aware of. Some of them aren’t a big issue, some of them may just be preferences, some of them just could be from the way I was raised. Whatever the reason, I thought it would be fun, or at least funny, to share some of the weird things I’ve done.
I’ve been blogging pretty routinely for the past few years now, we’re already over a month into 365 days of academia year 3 and somehow I still find something to talk about. Hopefully that luck holds since we’re nearing the end (hopefully) after I graduate we’ll have to come up with something else, but in the meantime here we are. I was going through my old posts and realized I never bothered to share the fact that I’m a pretty weird dude, or at least my brain works in weird ways. How it never occurred to me to share any of them is beyond me, so let’s rectify that! Here’s four strange, but true tales of yours truly.
1. I spent three days writing a single paragraph.
It’s true, in fact the past few days I’ve been working on this super cool, very exciting paper that I cannot wait to publish. There was a lot of work that needed to happen and I put a lot of time and effort to make sure it was as good as I could make it the first time around. I’m happy to say that as of last night, it’s in my Co-PI’s hands and hopefully we’ll be submitting it soon or at least passing it on to our co-authors for review.
The problem was some of the discussion he left for me to write. I found something very cool in our data that my Co-PI didn’t notice. When I pointed it out to him and gave him my thoughts on what it meant, he was surprisingly excited. He let me have half a page in the discussion to elaborate on what the finding meant and I was honestly stuck. I knew what I wanted to say I just didn’t know how to get the words on paper. Ironic since I have no problem spewing random thoughts all over my blog, but it just wouldn’t come out. The problem was the way my Co-PI wrote his portion. He went incredibly in-depth into the mechanisms and what they meant. I felt fully outside my comfort zone here and I didn’t think I would be able to do it.
After three days of reading and stressing I wrote the paragraph in a few hours. Yeah, all that stress and a few hours of work later I was done. Maybe it just took that long for me to get my thoughts in order, but man has it been a stressful few days. Overall I think I captured what I think was happening pretty well, but that is to be determined once my Co-PI reads over everything. More updates on that as they happen!
2. I’m overly communicative in my emails, by a lot
This is probably (I like to think anyway) a good thing? More often than not, when I need to reach out to someone it’s because I have a lot of information to pass along or have a very specific question that I need answered. I don’t like wasting people’s time so I tend to write long and very formal emails even when the responses are less than a sentence in reply. I also do this because I don’t want any miscommunication about things. I’m very independent so when I get set on doing something you don’t normally need to hover over me to see it get done, I can take care of it on my own. So when I need to give an update, I want to be as thorough as possible. This means several paragraphs worth of email on occasion. I haven’t had anyone complain yet, at least not to my face, so I figure better to err on the side of caution.
3. I once wrote 10,000 lines of code, only to rewrite it using 150 lines.
I’m not a smart man. I know this about myself. I will never be one of the greats who can derive equations from logic. I can’t even derive equations from memory. Heck I can barely remember what day it is and (bonus fact!) I recently had to figure out how old I am because I stopped keeping track of it a while ago. Turns out I wasn’t as old as I thought, both good and bad since my body feels like it’s about 80 at this point. So sometimes I do things the hard way. The very, VERY hard way. Case in point, I was in a rush to get something done last year (and I failed miserably) so I brute forced my way through the data and in the span of less than a week I wrote about a hundred thousand lines of code. One of the programs I wrote was over 10,000 lines of code alone and I still can find it easily looking at the file size because it’s by far the largest chunk of code I’ve ever written.
Of course since then I went back to use it, found it to be useless, and rewrote it. The code I have now is about 150 lines and does far more than the 10,000 lines ever could. Sure, a lot of it came from learning and practice, but the reason the old code was so long was because I’m not that smart. I didn’t see a better way to do the things I wanted the code to do. I came around eventually obviously, but if I were smarter, I would’ve saw it from the start.
Just in case you think I’m exaggerating…
4. I tend to hyperfocus on stuff, just not the stuff I would like to focus on.
If that last one wasn’t weird enough, how about this? Yeah, I probably have ADHD or something along those lines, which would explain why I’m chronically tired? I don’t know, but I do know that I tend to hyperfocus on things. That wouldn’t be a bad thing, but I don’t get to pick and choose what I focus on. Sometimes I have singular and overwhelming focus on the task I need to do. I can get things done incredibly fast when that happens and I am always happy when this is the case because as far as work goes, I’ve got a lot!
The bad news is that’s about 5% of the time. The other 95% of the time I’m stuck focused on something that doesn’t matter. Or I will spend hours trying to get myself to focus on the task I really need to be doing. It doesn’t usually help, but I will forever be stuck trying to get myself to do the task I should be doing or it just won’t get done.
This tends to cause me to procrastinate in getting important things finished. I can’t tell if it’s better to wait until I can focus on that task to do it or if I should try to spend a few hours getting myself ready to focus on that task. I try to wait until it happens naturally, but when a deadline is coming up that’s hard to do. Or at least it stresses me out enough that I end up worrying about it, caving, then trying to get myself to focus.
Basically my brain is awful, I hate it, it hates me, and that’s the relationship we have. Academia isn’t the kindest place for someone like me, but it’s where I really want to be. There’s just so much knowledge in the universe and I want to know as much of it as I can, even if it’s just a tiny fraction of a tiny fraction of a very narrow topic. I enjoy learning and I don’t know what I would do with myself if I went another career path, but it probably wouldn’t be very rewarding.
Maybe one day academia will come around and not be so toxic, I mean one can hope. Certainly most companies I could work for wouldn’t be any more understanding or less toxic, so I’ll take what I can get I guess.