Ever feel buried under your work? Like you’ll never see the light of day? It’s odd to think that there are other countries who do it differently, but here in the states, we tend to do that a lot. Or at least that’s what I’m told, I try not to overload myself, but lately it seems there’s no way to avoid it. The problem stems from me, not the stuff around me though. I didn’t have to do so much and I certainly didn’t have to want to do it so quickly, but I have the strong sense that I need to in some ways, because I feel like I’m just plain late. I know it’s just a me thing, but I’m behind some cosmic deadline, or at least that’s the way it feels. And for the past few weeks there was an avalanche of work that I didn’t see coming, then again you never do.
It’s all fun and games until someone starts to notice you. I’m finding this out the hard way. For the past four years or so I was comfortable with the lack of attention my research and me as a person was getting. I figured I would keep my head down, graduate, and if I was lucky make a name for myself afterwards. But then I got a grant for my research because I needed it, came up with a really big idea, got a job in a hospital, defended my dissertation proposal, and DARPA called, it’s been one hell of a year and I’ve basically written it all out here to keep track. More for myself than anyone else, but I’m glad to have you all along on the journey with me. Of course, I’ve basically been missing for the past few weeks and that’s my own damned fault because I got greedy.
Like I said, I’m behind schedule. Not the graduation schedule, although I’m behind there too, but my life schedule. I don’t know, some grand schedule that doesn’t exist anywhere else but inside me. A schedule that manifests as an itch to be done, to be doing my thing, to have the freedom to do the research I want, although to be fair I sort of am doing that now. It’s hard to describe, I just feel behind, not even with respect to my peers. I went into the military so my path has been a winding one and I’ve made peace with that. Instead I just feel behind with respect to myself, whatever that may mean. I feel like where I’m at and where I should be don’t align and that’s caused some headaches for me, but I am working on resolving that and that has been the source of all this headache.
Since I’m behind, again whatever that may mean, I’m playing catch up with myself. I’m trying to graduate. I’m trying to do the stuff that lets me do the stuff I really want to do, there’s a process and I need to get it all done. But that also means unexpected things popping up, like the DARPA conference, which my deadlines have come and gone now and I’m fairly comfortable with the end result! So far super secret technique (SST) appears to be working, I’m trying to do something “fun” with it for when the DARPA coordinators tour the school lab, and I’ve got a second conference right after I get back from the DARPA conference to showcase basically the same data.
Yep, since we last spoke (or rather when I last wrote anything) I had a second conference that I got accepted in, nothing as crazy fancy (to me anyway) as the DARPA conference goes, but it’s still a good experience and I’ll have a chance to win some money. I was already selected to be a speaker, so the first hurdle was cleared a bit ago, now I just need to put together a brief talk so I can go and do that, which will literally be the next day I get back from the DARPA event!
See, busy, but I did it to myself. So the blogging goal has been on the back burner. Which I feel like I should apologize, since it was the longest break I’ve taken in the past four years, which is saying something. In fact, I think (I haven’t checked this) that I’ve missed more days this “little” break than I have the entire four years. So considering I’m doing this as a hobby, that’s not too bad of a record. But it also speaks to the level of work I’ve got going for me at the moment. Basically as the title of the post and intro suggest, I’ve been trying to dig myself out of the work I’ve been thoroughly buried under.
And let me just say, it has been some work. The good news is all this work goes toward my degree, so I’m simultaneously making progress to graduation and I’m already working on the, “what comes next” part, which I have to say is very exciting for me. But I’m (as usual) getting ahead of myself. I’m already very far into this post and besides announcing the other surprise conference, I haven’t even spoke about the stuff I’ve been busy doing, so let’s give a brief rundown of where I’ve been and what’s been happening.
DARPA wanted a poster and slides, I’ve been working hard on making those happen. The poster I’m happy to say came out amazing (in my opinion). It looks so good and I cannot wait to hang it and show it off at the DARPA conference. I hope it makes me memorable, which is part of the purpose of the event, so the people in the position funding projects know to look out for me when/if I apply for funding. I plan on making a big splash and my poster will help with that. The slides are great too, don’t get me wrong, but the first impression is going to be the poster and how I interact with the people. I’m an introvert to the extreme, like extreme, extreme, but when it comes to conferences like this I fake it well. It’s exhausting, but I manage a good extrovert impression, or at least I think I do.
Unfortunately, I only recently got the data for the poster at the beginning of September, so since then nights and weekends have been spent writing code, teaching the people helping me how to do the work, and doing something with the processed data. Now the teaching part was somewhat required, they helped collect the data so it feels only right, but it has slowed me down considerably. In fact, when I’m going through things with them I’m getting zero progress made, which means I lost precious hours each weekend for about a month, but it worked out so I don’t regret doing it. Plus they will be helping me again on the second phase of the project, so it’s not like they haven’t already done way more than enough to earn the time.
Between work and school however, there’s been several clashes. Both are fuzzy when it comes to hours logged. Technically I work 40 hours a week, but sometimes it’s more like 60 hours, sometimes it’s less, it depends on the day of the week and even that fluctuates. So finding time for school has been tough, it’s basically doing the same thing twice, I could focus all my waking hours on school or work and I would be happy to do either, but doing both at the same time has been exhausting. It just so happens that I have some time these next few months to get some of my dissertation done, but after the new year I know things will be very busy and physically demanding at work, so navigating that with my dissertation work will be… let’s say interesting.
The past few weeks has been a good reminder that while I want to do it all, sometimes I can’t juggle everything. It’s been a tough lesson to be reminded about, especially at such a crucial and frankly critical point in my career. But better now than stumbling at the finish line I guess. A lot has happened in the past week or so and I will probably go in more detail and unpack everything over the next few days, but for now it’s nice just to be able to find time to write again.
I just hope I continue to have time to write…