How can it be spring already?!
Thinking back to where I was a year ago, I likened my existence to the equivalent of being enveloped by a horrible black fog that followed me everywhere I went and overshadowed every single thing I did.
But the way I feel these days is so different from how I felt back then that it is almost difficult to comprehend it even happened. I’ve gone from struggling to get out of bed and barely having the energy to shower to not only working full-time on my new thesis proposal, but also wholeheartedly taking on new leadership opportunities outside the lab.
Thus far, I’ve made and (most importantly) been able to sustain many positive changes in my life. I now write and manage social media for a new science podcast called Goggles Optional, blogged briefly for the Biophysical Society, got chosen as a program leader for the Stanford Biosciences ADVANCE Summer Institute – which I applied for in hopes of inspiring the same type of positivity in our incoming first-years – became a website editor for the Stanford Biosciences webpage, and want to start a biosciences outreach seminar series in the fall. Not to mention, I’m connecting more with my classmates and labmates and have some special new people in my life. (Read: SOCIAL LIFE!)
I realized I needed to create a life for me outside of being in the lab and I’ve really tried to seek out opportunities that I’m interested in and will help me work toward my dream career (as a science writer/communicator!) as well as make me a more well-rounded person.
But, as I sit here and read science articles and try to focus on my new project, my labmate voiced a concern that my own brain had been nagging me about for the past several weeks.
“Archana,” she said, “I’m worried about you having time to actually do your PhD project.”
Her well-meant concern did not surprise me because, honestly, I’d have to be stupid to have not thought of that before. The exact phrase that came to mind is this Korean proverb.
걷기도 전에 뛰려고 한다.
Literally: “Trying to run before even walking.” 쉽고 작은 일도 못하면서 더 어렵고 큰일을 하려 한다는 뜻. That is, intending to do something challenging while being unable to accomplish something small and easy.
I wondered, am I – as the English proverb goes – biting off more than I can chew? I am struggling to write a new thesis proposal, which should be my first priority, but also concurrently signing up to do a hundred other things that will take up time and energy.
That is not to say that my thesis proposal and qualifying exam (which has been my major source of stress and struggle for the past year) is something “small and easy” – but, relatively speaking, it’s a hurdle that many, many people have been able to face and overcome. I can’t tell you how many times I have agonized over why I can’t do the same.
For the first couple years I was at Stanford, that hurdle prevented me from seeking out all these extra opportunities I’m now involved in. I was putting extracurriculars on the back burner for when I was in a “better place” with my project. But the fact of the matter is, that was never going to happen. Stuff is always going to be happening in the lab – there are always going to be strange results to scratch my head over, complex analyses to be done, protocols to troubleshoot. If I wanted, I could spend 14 hours a day/7 days a week in the lab – but to a severe detriment to my mental and physical well-being.
And when I really think about it, yeah, it seems like I’m doing a lot but the time commitment for these extracurriculars doesn’t even match up to how many hours I spend (and will continue to spend) in the lab on a daily basis. All I’m doing is giving up the hours I’d otherwise spend on tumblr or twitter or watching Korean dramas or, sadly, studying Korean or Japanese.
As of now, it doesn’t feel like I’m sacrificing anything because I truly enjoy these new activities, just as much as I love studying languages. This isn’t goodbye, by any means, to this blog or to my pursuit of Korean and Japanese proficiency. It’s just an acknowledgement of other things that I find exciting and satisfying in my life.