Tag Archives: love

My Break-up Nature Paper

I have an article in Nature that is going to be published at the end of the month. As a biologist, it’s kind of a big deal. Academics are horrible elitist snobs and the truth is, where you publish your work matters and Nature is at the top of the food chain. So this is a notable accomplishment.

I got the final acceptance letter of the manuscript exactly one year after a significant relationship ended. That break-up was instrumental in fueling the progress of the project. I was left homeless for several weeks, relying on the hospitality of friends, and spent long hours working in the lab on nights and weekends so not to take advantage or disrupt my hosts’ everyday lives. I spent my summer holed up, digging deep into the ancient literature (for my field that means the 1950s and 60s) and writing the manuscript, the perfect excuse to not go out and enjoy the weather or have a life. This fall was a whirlwind of travel, revisions, rebuttal letters and calls to the editor and finally acceptance.

It’s normal for me to hate a paper by the time it gets published. You spend inordinate amounts of time fussing with the explanation of the details of an experiment, the formatting of the figures, finding the balance of conveying the meaning and relevance of your results without overstating. It’s exhausting and by the end of it you can no longer see the story through the words. This particular paper has been more painful than most for a whole variety of reasons.

I know that I should be proud of this accomplishment, that it’s worth celebrating, but I find it impossible to do so because my thoughts almost immediately turn to the driving force of this paper. I vowed that I would try and get back ‘out there‘ once this paper was finished. Now that I received the pre-prints and we have a tentative publication date, that time is nearer than I’d like or am ready for. I’ve held on to this heartache longer than I should have. Tying it tightly to this paper was an excuse to not let go or possibly allowed me to avoid dealing with my feelings. I don’t discuss it, my horror story of a break-up but I carry it around with me; my own personal rain cloud. I’m not angry, but rather, severely disappointed in what happened and, at least for me, disappointment is a more difficult emotion to resolve than anger.

I’ve been hibernating lately (which the weather in Minneapolis facilitates nicely this time of year), acting the recluse, mostly because I’m terrified of the idea of letting somebody into my life, and becoming a part of somebody else’s. The problem is, that I miss it terribly and readily admit that I am lonely, but I haven’t gathered quite enough courage to make it happen.

Looking at the pre-prints of the Nature paper (meaning that it’s typeset and actually looks like what will be printed and is no longer a drab Word document) allowed me to read the article with a new perspective – as reader and not as an author. It turns out, it’s pretty cool stuff. I had forgotten that. Yet, woven within the text are the discussions over authorship order, the last minute hobbled-together experiments, the frenemy-like correspondance with reviewers and the agonizingly slow response from the editor. Ultimately, the paper is stronger and better written because of it all. But those challenges are not easily forgotten.

IMG_1528

 This is a self-portrait from a few days ago. I like it because this girl (although I don’t know if you can call somebody approaching 32 a girl) looks interesting. She has bright purple hair and likes to wear jewelry, but not makeup, and has a style that garners compliments from strangers. She has a nice smile and intelligent eyes, and although you might not see it in this photo, has a highly expressive face. She’s even been called charming and people like to be around her. Yet, without a doubt, there is more than meets the eye, as life experiences shape and change who you are. I just hope that it’s for the better.

I don’t have a good conclusion for this post, or my life for that matter. It’s only fitting, I suppose, just because you’ve published the paper doesn’t mean that you are finished with the story…

I don’t have the words

Sometimes I think about how frustrating it must be to be a baby – to know that you need something for your well-being, but don’t have the words to communicate it or, more importantly, to even articulate it. No wonder they cry all the time. I’ve been feeling that way myself lately. Yesterday I cried, silently and shaking, in the bathroom stall at work. Why? I have no idea. It seemed the thing to do.

setting the table

At this moment, I don’t have the ability to articulate what is that I need for my well-being, in life, in love, in my career. I’m a 31-year old baby. And that is more frustrating than not having whatever it is that I need. I’ve been feeling restless lately, yearning for a change but not having a clue as to what that might be. It’s left me feeling (and acting) extremely defensive about everything you could possibly think of so as to prove my talent, my skills and my judgement.

cantaloupe almond milk soup with mint (and pancetta)

Should I move? It’s no secret that I don’t have much affection for the Midwest. Minneapolis, I like, but the Midwest is not the place for me. And frankly, the unhappy memories overwhelm the happy ones (which do exist) that are associated with this particular place and time of my life. But I want to move to a place where I plan to live for more than just a few years. Which means I need to find a job. A real job.

fresh pasta with garden veggies and pesto (and Robin)

Should I apply for faculty positions? Despite my desperate desires to leave the Midwest, I don’t want a second post-doc position. I’m craving independence but am totally scared out of my mind at having it. I’ve been a post-doc for 2 1/2 years – am I ready to be on my own? I’ve had a good summer, work-wise, and I worry that it’s over-inflated my ego and I am getting ahead of myself. It’s been known to happen. Or is it just a return to self-confidence? I worry especially because I am struggling to find focus with my research interests. I have a clear idea of the biological questions that I want to ask and investigate and have a good context in which to study them, but am lacking the detailed specificity that you need to write grants, apply for jobs and perform experiments (not necessarily in that order). It’s the whole articulation problem I’ve been having recently. The good news is, that I know that I want a faculty position at an academic institution, something that I wasn’t even sure of a year ago, or even six months ago. Finding one? That’s a whole other ballgame.

nectarine mascarpone tart with gingersnap crust

Should I start dating? I wish I had an answer to this one. On one hand, it might help me move on. On the other, I don’t think it’s fair to use other people to fix your wounds. I want to be emotionally ready to enter the dating world, and I don’t think I’m there yet. Plus, I have a fair amount of travel plans in the next year and I may yet decide to up and move in the near future. Is there even time to date? Or are these just excuses so that I don’t have to risk breaking my heart again? Sigh. I just don’t know.

after dinner

I know I need to work on living in the moment. Finding joy in my life as it is, and not letting the fears of the future weigh me down. But that’s easier said than done, especially when you are down in the doldrums. However, I do have a couple of shining spots in my life and it’s important for me not to gloss over them: my friends and family. I have a trip planned back to the Pacific Northwest in a couple of weeks (and for a whole week no less!) that will no doubt nourish my soul, it always does.

kudzu approves

As for my friends. I love them. Each and every one of them. They might be few and far between, but they are treasures in my life. Last weekend Robin came up from Texas to visit. There was eating and drinking (you’ve been gazing upon photos from a dinner party I hosted to welcome Robin to the Twin Cities), shopping and playing dress-up, some arts and crafts and cuddling with the cats, but most importantly, there was just laying on the bed and talking in way that you only do with your best friend. No filters, no social niceties, no worrying about being judged, sometimes about the small things and most often about the big things. The fact that those people exist in my life is beyond belief and I am ever so thankful for them.

the morning after

Okay, so life isn’t so bad. So why I am I so restless? And how do I find the words to articulate what I need when I haven’t even quite figured out what that is?

Me, the single academic

I’m giving fair warning … I’ve had two glasses of wine and a productive and lovely evening with my advisor. I am about to pontificate wildly.

I am heartbroken. Nothing has changed. Except for the passage of time and that only makes my current state all the more sad. I’ve stopped talking about it, I’ve learned to cover it up better. I actually smile now. But, at the end of the day I am still the girl who cries herself to sleep. I don’t know how to fix that.

At work, I am totally coming into my own. I feel differently about myself. I am in charge. I am, in fear of giving up what generation I grew up in, psyched. For the first time in a very long time, I feel as though I can make a meaningful contribution to my field. I want to talk about what I study. I want to be known in my academic community. For the most part, it’s the project, the new insights, the unanswered questions of biology that have me working on the weekend, early in the morning or late into the night.

But there is another part to it. A part that I don’t ever really want to nod my head to. The part that knows, deep down, that I am able to, beyond willing even, to devote this much time to work, because I am single. That, this drive to be somebody doesn’t in some part stem from the feelings of rejection in my personal life. And simply because I have the time and space in my brain to think about it. That it isn’t otherwise occupied with another being. I feel guilty. I was willing to, happy even, at the prospect of compromising my academic life in the name of love. And, I would have been happy. I know that. I don’t doubt that. But it didn’t work out. Now, I have the potential to reclaim my academic confidence. And I am happy to do that too. No doubt, they are completely different entitities, but is one really better than the other?

So, this is my question: Are the two always mutually exclusive? Will I have to choose the academic, single life, where I can give my intellectual and career needs the time and attention they deserve? Or, will I choose the balanced life, one where life beyond the academic demands time center stage? Nobody ever dies wishing they spent more time at the office. But I have to believe that being an academic is not the same as being a corporate drone (because, certainly, no academic is in it for the money).

Will the stars ever align so that both are feasible? Or is it just an impossible dream that I am deluding myself with?

Death of the Relationship

This was not the post I was expecting to write.

I am supposed to be sitting in a moving van with all of my worldly belongings and the love of my life driving South towards a life that I had so desperately yearned for. But just a few short days ago, after all of the plans had been made, I was asked not to move to Florida.

It feels as though my entire world has crumbled down around me.

Now, my collection of possessions are sitting just blocks from my soon-to-be vacated apartment. I am heartbroken, homeless and lost of all hope.

Long-distance got the best of this long-distance relationship.

It’s a dark place to be.

And I am taking this blog to the heart of the darkness. I’ve lost my appetite, so don’t expect any light-hearted recipes and cute stories from my childhood in the near future. I thought about not writing about this; to keep it all to myself. It’s not about the boy and what happened. It’s about searching myself and finding a way. Writing therapy, if you will. To make it public will keep things in perspective; to be fair to all parties involved.

Healing takes time and space.

So instead of heading South with the person I built a life with, I am heading West for a while with my constant companions, Puck and Kudzu, to lick my wound in the welcoming, supportive and loving arms of my family. And to surround myself in the grey mist of the Pacific Northwest. A gloominess that mirrors that in my heart and mind.

In my heart, I know that there is majesty and beauty and sheer awesomeness beneath it all.

I just don’t know when the sun will come out from behind the clouds.

Swampkins*

What a weekend.

There were smiles, tears, hugs, good food and drink and even better people.

And there was love.

Lots and lots of love.

Two dear friends of mine from grad school got married. To each other.

Robin and Dave

Every time I think back on it – it brings tears to my eyes. It was perhaps the most beautiful and love-filled event I’ve ever witnessed. I say with great pride that I am good friends with both Robin and Dave, as individuals and as a couple – so their union turns me into a giant oozing ball of mush.

I met Dave when I was a first year grad student and he was an older and wiser student in my same program. As life would have it, I was nearly living with him (at the time I was dating his housemate) and over the course of the year, became great friends with him and my life has been forever better for it.

Robin entered the scene the next year when she came to grad school and now I can’t imagine a world without her. Remember my post about The Pacific Northwest and my inability to articulate my affinity for such a place? I wrote that with Robin in mind.

Thanksgiving 2005

But let’s get back to the wedding. The crowds descended upon a small town in rural Vermont (I suppose that might be a redundant phrase) where Robin grew up. Family and friends from all stages of life – childhood, high school, college, grad school and now as post-docs. It should come as no surprise, given how awesome Robin and Dave are that they people they have surrounded themselves with people who are equally as awesome. And that, more than anything, is why the weekend was so much fun. Reunions with old friends from grad school and the making of new friends. The sharing of life and love and everything in between.

Bridal Prep

The ceremony was lovely. Robin and Dave entered together, holding hands and exuding happiness. They welcomed their guests and asked representatives from various aspects of their life to join them and speak about Family, Friendship, Exploration and Love, each symbolized with flower. Pete, Robin’s insanely talented stepfather, made a vase of sorts to collect them all. They exchanged vows, rings and sealed the deal with a kiss. And I stood there, next to them, sobbing the entire time.

There were cocktails and a serious spread of tasty cheeses, followed by a delicious dinner where the tables were named after well-known evolutionary biologists (at least to a good fraction of the crowd). And then the dancing began. And continued. And continued some more. My legs are still sore. And to cool off we ended the evening with an impromptu pool party.

If only I had more photos to share with you. But I was too busy partaking in all of the festivities. Luckily they had a fantastic photographer who already has some photos posted here.

I wish that I could put into words how special the weekend was. How touching it was to how happy and excited Robin and Dave are. How much love was shared by everybody who took part. How much fun the whole thing was.

So thank you, Robin and Dave, for letting me be a part your wedding celebration, but more for letting me be a part of your lives.

I love you guys.

*Swampkins is just a funny play on words that we designated for the event. Mostly for Twitter purposes.