We're a little crazy, about science!

Digging out

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…

6 responses

  1. I know exactly how it feels, that sense of being late to where you’re “supposed to be.” Not as if I’m necessarily being outrun by anyone, but as if I might be squandering my particular potential.

    You know that I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed lately. I could make things quite a bit easier on myself if I just dropped all the hobby work on the floor, and didn’t do anything with Acuitas, the robots, or my writing for a month or so. No one is holding me to deadlines for those projects. But they’re important to me and I feel like I’m behind on them even when things go as well as possible, drat it. I’ve been maintaining my usual pace on them anyway.

    So we can just be neurotic about our life progress together, I guess. It’s good to see you back.

    “Plus they will be helping me again on the second phase of the project …” I’d been meaning to ask what the results you’ve found will mean for Aim 2. Are you still doing the whole thing? Have you found any more participants yet?

    Liked by 1 person

    November 1, 2022 at 11:11 pm

    • Oh good, it’s a semi-universal feeling then. I’m happy to hear it’s not just me… maybe? I don’t know that I would wish that on someone else, but at least it’s not just me, haha.

      Maybe I just get easily overwhelmed, but sometimes I need to let things slip a bit just to be able to keep up with the other stuff.

      I don’t want to think about aim 2…. haha. But seriously I’ll need to collect more data from a clinical population for that, while I’m planning on doing it in December, it may not happen until after the new year, which will complicate things for sure.

      So it would appear I’m doing the whole thing, but maybe not. It depends on this first bit and it also depends on what the data shows when we start collecting for the second aim (hoping to cut the number of participants I need for the paper/graduation down by like half). I would like to avoid doing it altogether if I could, but I don’t think that will be possible.

      Liked by 1 person

      November 2, 2022 at 5:38 pm

      • The out-of-time feeling can be unpleasant, but … I suppose I appreciate it as a sign that I have ambitions. It’s the doom and privilege of those who want to experience the significant and leave something to the world, as opposed to just surviving until age takes us. Sort of like grief being a side effect of the fact that you loved someone, and therefore it’s better to have grief than not, because the only way to surely avoid it is to never love.

        I hope that helps a bit.

        Liked by 1 person

        November 2, 2022 at 6:05 pm

      • That’s a great way of looking at it to be honest. Thank you for that.

        Liked by 1 person

        November 2, 2022 at 8:17 pm

  2. Karre

    So good to hear from you. I know this blog has to be hard to keep up, but I do think it helps you process things. It’s probably the only place you admit to yourself that you can’t do it all. You also get to take some time and reflect on what is going right. All of those experiences you built the person you are are now. Your unique perspective is pushing you above the fray. You are not repeating the same things ,you are boldly going your own way and learning from your mistakes. The things you are accomplishing would not have been possible without many of your experiences, so embrace it and ride the waves. It wasn’t a delay it was preparation. You are doing great.

    Liked by 1 person

    November 2, 2022 at 1:42 am

    • Thank you for the support! It means a lot to me and yeah it is hard to keep up with sometimes. I’m glad I took some time to myself, but it is ince to be back! Thanks again for all the support, you’ve been amazing.


      November 2, 2022 at 5:40 pm

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