Hi! It has been exactly one year and one week since I moved to Boston to start grad school, and, as one does around anniversaries, I'm reflecting, getting a little nostalgic, and feeling generally overwhelmed about how fast time passes and how little control we have over it. (Perhaps my friends in the physics department are working on remedying this? Any updates, people?)
I don't keep a diary, but I do have a moderate Twitter addiction which has effectively chronicled my life and my hot takes on life over the past 12 months and has served to remind me of of just how much has happened. Based off a reflective skimming of my tweets, in the past year, I have:
- Done work at NASA!! (a.k.a. my version of going to a Beyonce concert, see pic above)
- Tried every bagel shop in a half hour radius of my home
- Submitted over 2000 lines of code and 200 pages of math in the form of homework
- Shared hysterics, heartbreak, and an ungodly amount of sushi with the fellow residents of my graduate dorm - the most amazing, supportive, and fun living community I've ever been a part of
- Had to redo an experiment because a rogue dog entered my lab and the subjects wouldn't stop petting it
- Applied to the PhD program in Aeronautics and Astronautics (as a dual degree with the policy program I was already in)
- Got accepted to the PhD program in Aeronautics and Astronautics! (I still can't believe it. I cried IN A MEETING when my advisor told me)
- Switched my thesis topic twice
- Had an extremely hype viewing party for the launch of the Falcon Heavy with all of my classmates. This was our version of the Superbowl. In the Snapchat video I just re-watched, at least 7 people scream and punch the air in victory as the rocket passes max Q.
- Got very into The X-Files, again
Self-realizations I guess tend to hit you all at once, but only after the evidence has been piling up for so long that it reaches a critical mass. Today, upon reading what is basically the SparkNotes version of my first year of graduate school, I had an emergent realization. In a field full of numbers, I am a person who loves words. I use a lot of them. I'm forever going back over my emails to cut them down, and then cut them down again to just the bullet-point essentials.
My routine need to chronicle life in the form of tweets, blogs, and notes in my phone about random thoughts that occur to me in the middle of the day is testament to this characteristic, as is the fact that I am usually alone in my offer to do the write-ups for group projects. My fellow engineers look at me as though I've just announced that I prefer stabbing myself in the eye with car keys to NOT stabbing myself in the eye with car keys.
Anyway, this is who I am in grad school. I am A Person Who Likes Writing. So, I'm going to try to do more of it! This is in part why I made this blog - as a way to write and learn how to take photos and to maintain the parts of my life that aren't all technical, all the time. I think in grad school, and in academia in general, there is a norm and expectation that we should be singularly focused on our research area, and that time spent doing other things is time not spent productively.
I disagree with this on a fundamental level (1) because I think spending time on the things that make you YOU is really the only sustainable strategy for longterm happiness, and (2) I recently read an article that attributes the renowned productivity of ants not to their insane capacity for work, but to their ability to take useful breaks. Downtime is scientifically supported as important for getting stuff done!
Let me know if you have any strategies for making time for your hobbies, or feel free to leave a comment just to chat. I'd love to hear from you!
Below: my office and fav study spot, respectively!