Adjusting Expectations

So yeah, this blog hasn’t been happening as much as I’d originally planned. Initially, I’d hoped to be updating here reliably every week, and maybe turn it into something I could use for an NSF broader impacts point. That… hasn’t been happening, and every time I tried to make myself write a blog post, I found myself wincing and putting things off. A few days ago, I acknowledged to myself that the blogging thing wasn’t going to happen, and then I suddenly got the desire to write again. Go figure.

Most of that is grad school. I’ve spent a lot of time adjusting in the last few months, which has left me with almost no energy to blog here. Almost none of what I’m dealing with has been unexpected–I don’t know my new system and lab as well as I’d known the old one, and I’m trying to learn new skills I’ve never encountered before. I’m teaching for the first time, and teaching a difficult biology lab in a subfield I have no experience in to boot. Everything is new.  I’m setting my expectation that I put in at least 40 hours a week on campus, when I used to just do things that I absolutely had to get done on campus there and then go home for the rest of my work. And then of course I’m dealing with the usual first-year grad student insecurities, like worrying I’m not doing enough at work and feeling incompetent as I try to teach myself brand-new things. Turns out that knowing that they’ll happen doesn’t meant they actually stop, which, fair enough.

It’s actually really funny watching myself react in more or less exactly the ways I had been warned I would. On the bright side, being forewarned makes it easy to lend a hand to my cohort-mates when one of them is feeling particularly in over their heads, because I have all the logical explanations about why we all feel freaked out and unproductive. And we all have different enough backgrounds that there’s always someone who does know what they’re doing and is grateful to help you out in exchange for feeling a bit less incompetent. I’m feeling okay right now because I really do have a lovely, solid grounding in the evolution and behavior sections of our year-long core course, but I suspect I’m going to be asking for a lot more help than I’m giving when I get to the ecology section. Which is fine, after all. That’s why I’m offering to help people with evolution and behavior now.

Tribble is adjusting, too–she’s not really happy that I’m going from on campus for about four hours a day up to eight or nine hours a day, but she’s dealing pretty well. The stuffed Kongs are helping, as are the twice-weekly park trips. I’m trying to balance socializing with my cohort and keeping her company, and I think I’ve almost found the sweet spot, but it’s pretty hard to pull off as a single person. It helps that my program is full of evolution/ecology people, so everyone likes doing things outside–I have a cohort hiking trip coming up this weekend, and she’ll be coming along on that. The main problem I’m having right now is that it takes 45 minutes to get from apartment to campus via the buses, and that’s just not a workable commute when I live only 5 miles away, so I’m trying to learn to bike to work. It’s been a challenge, especially since I hadn’t previously ridden a bike since I was about eleven, and even then only when forced.

Agility is going pretty well for both of us, even though the place we’re at now is a little small for us in the long-term. Eventually, I want to be competitive and dabble in trials, but we’re not there yet and until we’re a lot better at distance work I don’t think that that’s going to happen. Right now, we’re not much good at it–I keep having a terrible time remembering to point with all of my body where I want her to go, and we’re still working through Tribble’s tendency to take one look at certain obstacles (like tunnels) and decide to just bypass them entirely. Still, I’m pretty sure that with a bit of practice we’ll do fine.

Actually, I think that’s a pretty general statement for me right now: I’m not doing the best I can right now, but it’ll come with practice. And after all, what more can I ask from myself but that?

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