Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Post 96: Maintaining momentum when everything else is against you.

I don't recommend to anyone to be a graduate student who needs to seek work in order to keep life trucking along. Whenever you need to be working along side school, it slows you down, even when you are an expert productive procrastinator like me. At some point, the weeks become months become a year or two, and you're tired, grumpy about the process, and you really, really want to be done.

So much work to dooooo! :D
I'm there. I'm definitely happy to see the end of these revisions and to get this project finished. I think that this research is important and worthwhile, and hope that it contributes to some understanding of contemporary science-policy relationships within a rapidly changing world that is trying to respond to climate change, even as it's changing the rules of the game of life.

Happy little lemon flower and green lemon soon to ripen at a friend's place! :)
So this is me writing again about self care and getting good sleep and being kind and compassionate with yourself -- these are things that I am known to struggle with: I am inclined to stay up late in order to get work done, or to have an internal negative talk with myself about not getting enough done in the down time I have (although getting work done during down time isn't exactly giving myself a break and taking down town -- sometimes I can see my own mistakes in reasoning).

Blueberry gyoza at The Noodle Box. Good food = happy Heike.
I've recently started to use an app called "SAM" to help me process some of my unhelpful internal habits around anxiety, in particular. So far, mixed results, but I am feeling a bit better about some things. I did yoga for 40 minutes before a work meeting on Sunday, and that felt good. I'm trying to cycle to work a few days a week to build some exercise into my work routine, and honestly, given the horrendous traffic along Craigflower, Highway 1, and the Island Highway, it is faster, some days, to cycle my 20 minutes up the roads or along the Galloping Goose to get home. So, biking for the win! (I will actually admit some glee to passing my commuters in their cars when I'm whizzing past on my bike. I don't have to compete for traffic, and even if it's raining, I've found it refreshing to ride.)

Healthy Heike also includes lovely afternoon walks. :) 
In the long run, it's best take care of your health and your happiness, and keep life only as difficult as it needs to be in grad school. Long hours of sitting, not getting exercise and not balancing out enough work and fun and down time so that you get sick, overworked, burned out, or have stress injuries, won't help you get your thesis done. There is a requisite amount of time that your bum's got to stay in a chair in order to get writing and revisions done, for sure, but do, do, do keep an eye on your health and your happiness.

Self care is immensely important, and grad school is the perfect place to put your resilience to a test. Be ready for it.

Even now, when I'm close to being done, I'm working full-time, and it's a challenge to get everything done, feel like I'm putting my best foot forward, and managing to keep on top of everything, but then I think of the race between the turtle and the hare, and the turtle does, in the end, cross the finish line. :)

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Post 95: New Job Update and Revisions!

I've made it through my first month of work!! Yippee!

Work has been quite an adjustment to my usual schedule, and the workplace environment is different. By the end of this month I feel like I'm getting my feet under me. Meeting new people, getting into a new routine, figuring out basics like "Have I packed enough food for the day?" and a slight wardrobe adjustment have been fine -- these are simply questions and thoughts that I haven't asked anew for a little while, because of the previously established schedule. So, my take on the first month: my new colleagues are awesome, I miss campus, and yet I am excited about all the happenin' things at my new job. I have a diversity of project on the go, from a presentation on a backgrounder on mining in BC that I researched, to providing help on a few different projects my coworkers are working on, to helping out with a Division strategic plan, to building an inventory of Environmental Assessment Board decisions under the Environmental Management Act, with accompanying summary-analysis documents that I'll write... and lots more. I am enjoying the dynamism, for sure!

Walking the Gorge at sunset on my way home from work. Gorgeous November evening.
Thesis-ing continues! Amazingly, my committee member prioritized my thesis for a very quick turnaround (I am eternally grateful; I know she is immensely busy), and read the whole draft and provided comments. My committee member has a keen eye and is very skilled at getting to the heart of exactly what the issue is, and her feedback on my thesis draft was no different. So, a bit more reading, new writing, and further editing needed on what's currently there. That was to be expected.

Here is my heads up about getting feedback: getting feedback is not as easy as we would like it to be. Make yourself comfortable. Have a cup of tea at the ready. Getting feedback on revisions can be a little bit emotional, as someone else has taken a fine-tooth comb through your thesis, and is giving you constructive feedback. I always feel a bit of horror when I get feedback, because I can see all the places where I made simple errors (grammar, didn't finish a sentence, etc) that slipped by because my document is

These cute little white flowers in the neighbourhood greeted me on my walk to the bus!
132 pages and I was tired...., as well as engaging with the bigger picture of, "What's your thesis doing? How are the ideas organized, explained, situated, framed?" And sometimes, too, the "What do you mean here? Clarify? Explain  more." type of comments as well.

It can be a lot. I find I often feel deflated after getting feedback, and it takes a little bit to get my realist lens back on, in terms of assessing what are they asking, what needs work, what do I need to prioritize? I think it is a learned skill not to take the feedback personally, and to recognize that the work is not an illustration of your character and person.

The coolest seagull, chilling on a post right by work. Sunshine break! 
So here's to that. My committee member's comments are really good, and very fair, and it's apparent that I have a few sections that need some more explaining. So here's to a few more hours of sitting down, reviewing articles and books and getting to a better thesis draft!