When I was a kid, people often told me that the best possible job is the one where I get paid to do what I want to do. And not so long ago, I wrote about how exciting it was that what I do at work, what I do for school, and what I do in my free time seem to be aligned and are sometimes so similar they’re basically identical. I stand by that post – it is exciting. But there’s a slight problem with it too.
I don’t know what else I do.
I go to work and research nuclear policy. I set up to work on my independent study and research nuclear regulation. In my “off-time,” I’ve been doing a lot of research into graduate programs in nuclear engineering and nuclear chemistry with allowances for policy courses or sub-programs emphasizing governance and public communication. Before I go to bed, the book I read is an overview of the French nuclear program.
I was inspired to write this post when a friend came over, saw me at my computer, and assumed I was working. When I told him I wasn’t working, and explained what I was doing, he jokingly replied “Even when you’re not working, you’re working!” And he’s not wrong.
While I enjoy all of this – the research, the writing, the potential of what I’m currently working on may become, and the possibilities of what I’ll work on next, I can’t help but wonder if maybe, just maybe, I should spend some of my time reading about, thinking about, or doing something – anything – else.
Recently, I’ve been obsessively thinking about Switzerland, where employees commonly take an hour or more for lunch to relax and have flexible work schedules. I’ve placed that system of flexibility on a pedestal in my head, which is so fascinating to me because I could do that. I make my own schedule literally. every. day. If I wanted to take an hour for lunch, I could. I can. Sometimes, I do. I can make the choice to work only four days a week or work seven mornings and have the afternoons totally free. I don’t, but I could. And realizing that has made me wonder, and then realize, what it is about the Swiss system that is so appealing to me: if people take that time off work, that means they’re doing something else.
I’m not doing something else.
It’s high time I found something else to do. Something that I can focus on when I’m not working on my work, or my project, or my grad school research. A new passion, so to speak, that can occupy my non-nuclear hours. I’m open to suggestions.
When I don’t have a routine, I forget how much I love them. When I’m not busy, I forget how much I love being busy. I forget how much I love rushing from one thing to the next and making it just on time; I forget how much those moments of rapidity remind me to slow down when I’ve got plenty of time. I forget how nice it is to see a broad swath of people, how much I enjoy learning about their lives – even (and especially) the day-to-day realities.
Yesterday was the first day of school. Technically, I suppose, the last first day of school (for the foreseeable future…but we all know I’ll be back at school someday). I had places to be, people to see, and things to do.
I left the house at 9am and didn’t get home until after 9pm. But when I got home, friends came over for berries and cream and a mini-homework session (or, in my case, a work-work session) that lasted until after midnight.
I got home late because I went to a tap class at a local studio (about a mile from my house). It’s been so long since I tapped like that! I mean, yeah, I’ve been tapping with Tufts tap ensemble, but this was *real.* This was challenging choreography for my feet and my brain. There were complex tap steps I haven’t done since I was a young teenager. Half the class was mentally challenging because we were dancing in 7-time (normal dances are in sets of 4 or 8 counts, and as you get more advanced you get used to 3 or 6 counts; but this was in sets of 7…) And I re-met random people I’ve seen at random, unrelated events around Boston.
I’m currently re-reading parts of Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, because I wanted to remember his three types of people. One of his big points is that while we tend to value our close ties the most (e.g. our best friends, our family), the most influential people we know in terms of jobs, opportunities, and new experiences are our acquaintances. I’ve always felt like I am in the most solid place if/when I’m meeting and spending time with a wide variety of new people, so I’m very excited for this new group of tappers (a class of about 10 people of all ages – from my age up to probably 45/50).
Before tap, I had (yet another) physical therapy appointment. I haven’t really talked about them here, but I’ve been going to PT for my back/neck/head for a few weeks now. And yesterday, in addition to Marisa (my PT) telling me I’m getting stronger in the muscles I’ve neglected for years (forever?), I could feel it. There were exercises we tried a week or two ago that I absolutely could not do that were not easy, but definitely doable.
I attended part of Fletcher’s “shopping day” yesterday, where I learned about a class I might try to audit (Climate Change and Clean Energy Policy), although the definition of clean energy for this class sadly doesn’t include nuclear. But it is probably a good idea to learn what I can about the domestic and international policy tendencies in the clean energy realm, so I might take it regardless.
I got surprising amounts of work done yesterday and this morning – I’m relearning the “one hour at a time” art I had mastered in middle school. I’m prepped for today’s meeting about my independent study, I’m ready to lead the class I’m the teaching assistant for this afternoon, because the professor is out of town at a conference. I’m about to sit down to my first Czech lesson since I came home from Prague, and I sent my host family an email last night. (It is so nice to still be in contact with them!)
All in all, the semester is starting and I’m so ready. I’ve got a weekly calendar set up, regular meetings, appointments, and classes scheduled. I’ve got friends to see and work to do and my very last semester (foe as it may feel) to take full advantage of!
Until next time…
I’ve always had high expectations for myself. I’ve always set as my “someday goal” an upper level management position, or a significant government post, or a professor at a named institution. I’ve just always oscillated between these as I changed my interests and my ultimate destination. Many friends of mine never questioned what they were going to do with their lives. (High school friends who knew they were going to be doctors and just partook in their white coat ceremonies, for example.) But I’ve never really known. I took a windy path, one could say, to end up where I am now.
But I had a moment last week that reminded me that where I am now is exactly where I want to be. It was the weekend, I was reading for fun. I was reading Science (if that doesn’t tell you a bit about who I am becoming…) and came across an article about “Yellow Lights” in science – basically that the current stop & go regulatory frameworks that are commonplace make it incredibly difficult to innovate in expensive industries. The article focuses on the complex FDA requirements and high biomedical expenses and argues that more flexible regulations – a yellow light or “California Roll,” if you will – could allow new and safe products to get to market (and help patients) faster. (Interestingly, an earlier magazine (June 12) focused a lot on innovative spaces – primarily in Cambridge, MA and the SF Bay Area – that allow biomedical startups to share workspaces and expensive machinery to compensate for these difficulties.)
Remember, I was reading for fun.
And then I realized I was also reading for work. Because my current task is to analyze the FDA regulatory structures and attempt to find ways the NRC could potentially mimic successful FDA frameworks. And this yellow light idea is definitely one to steal, for it would allow reactor designs that are more efficient but differ significantly from those currently on line to be approved in stages. This would in turn allow the designers to find funding in stages, instead of looking for a couple billion dollars on day one.
And then I realized I was also reading for school. Because part of my research project this fall is to look at other industries – I had planned originally to focus on technologies that inspired a regulatory overhaul, but the FDA parallel structure briefly mentioned in the article (and which I’ve thoroughly researched since then) could also be a perfect case study for comparison. Oh wait, that’s what I’m to complete over the next two weeks at work! And then I’ll rewrite it for school. And the book I’m currently reading for fun is about the beginnings of computer science; I haven’t gotten to anything significant about regulations, but I’m only 1/3 of the way through the book. So maybe my fun reading will become school too. Less likely, but still possible, it might become work.
So work is becoming school is becoming play is becoming work is becoming …
And while I know my parents have discussions where they go back and forth – one is proud of what I’ve done and the experiences I’ve had, while the other is distinctly more aware of the incredibly accomplished people my age who knew what they wanted years ago and have a much more focused resume – I always remember what I’ve noticed about the CVs of the professors I’ve admired and the industrial professionals I’ve looked up to: they’re usually missing a few years. Their resumes and CVs list their undergraduate graduation date and, with only a couple exceptions, nearly nothing can be found within five years of that date in either direction. Maybe an internship with a particularly significant politician, or a summer job at a big name company. But usually, nothing.
I often remind my friends about this while they stress about finding the perfect job today that will set them up for their dreams tomorrow. I remind them that the people we dream to become did something, presumably, for those few years, but it didn’t hold enough importance, relevance, whatever. Even just ten years out, those few post-college years became professionally irrelevant.
Obviously, I don’t want to aimlessly wander for a few years on the assumption that I can take them off my resume when I become who I want to be. I’m not squandering my immediate future because the resumes of people I idolize don’t mention that part of their lives. But I am using this reality – because it is reality – to remind myself that this is the time of my life when I should be doing what I want to be doing. This is the time when I should pursue jobs where expectations at work and the things I’m passionate about align, because that’s how I’ll get to the dream jobs I’ve always seen myself in.
And with that, I’m off to read an article that’s long been on my list of things that sound interesting. My fun list, if you will. I just put it off until an hour when I could say I read it for work, because its relevant to that too. 😉
It’s a running joke: politics is a world of acronyms. Just think the Alphabet Agencies of FDR’s New Deal during the Great Depression. I know that. But dear God, is it a world of acronyms.
I had my first day of meetings at my new job earlier this week – a week early because the meetings were to present the nature of the company to a potential donor, and my boss thought it might be useful for me to sit in and get to know what all the company’s really about. Two birds with one stone, so to speak.
Well now, I’ve got the following list of acronyms to look up. All these acronyms were thrown around by the other people in the room and never defined (if they were eventually defined, I wrote that down too). Admittedly, this was a room with four experts, the youngest of which has worked in nuclear energy and nuclear policy for three years and spent the nine years before that studying it (she got her BS, MS, and PhD in Nuclear Engineering…). So I shouldn’t be surprised that, after less than a year of interest, I don’t know the world as well as these people who have been immersed in it for 10, 20, 40 years. But it was still a bit overwhelming, and I’ve got a steep learning curve ahead of me. Anyway, the list:
- NTI (Nuclear Threat Initiative)
- ASTM – (American standards something or other)
- SMR (Small Modular Reactor)
- EON (the German one)
- EON (the American one)
- EA (Environmental Analysis?)
And then, of course, there were a number of acronyms I already knew:
- And a lot more that I didn’t bother to remember because I, well, I knew them.
Needless to say, I’ve got a lot of googling to do, a lot of learning to take on, and I’m SO excited. Unfortunately, a lot of what I’ll be doing is technical and much of it will be embargoed for significant periods of time, so I won’t be able to write about it here. But don’t worry, I have other things on my plate moving forward (including eggplant!) so I’m sure there will be plenty to write about. Until next time…
In exactly one month, I turn 21. (By today, it is closer to three weeks, but that’s beside the point.) This sentence, in and of itself, could merit an entire post. A post about the realities of becoming an adult, and the fears associated with the responsibilities associated with the legal drinking age, which is actuality one of the most irrelevant things in my life, since the drinking age here is 18.
But that is not the point.
At the beginning of the year, I wrote about January goals, and I wrote about my personal opinion that New Year’s Resolutions are stupid. But I don’t think resolutions in general are stupid. In fact, I think they’re a really good thing. If you want to make a change, make a change. Go with it.
I also think that turning 21 is a big deal. Even if my 21st won’t be associated with the late-night crazy parties in Vegas popularized by so many American movies, that doesn’t mean that 21 doesn’t mean anything. So I’m resolving to make a few positive changes as I enter “official” adulthood. (Which is also stupid. I can vote, travel the world, pay my own bills. What’s left in this adulthood club of which we speak?)
I’m not trying to do anything huge. No “go for a two mile run everyday.” No “turn vegetarian.” There are a few things that I’ve thought of over the past weeks, months, years, that I’ve thought I should really do that. Usually these are things I should do “when I’m grown up” or “in my real life.”
Well, here’s the thing. This is real life; though getting to spend 9 months in Prague seems unreal, it is real life. And I am grown up. So I should really stop procrastinating.
And they say that a habit takes 4-6 weeks to form, so its now or never if I want these things to be habits in real life.
Travel Better (or, Travel Truer) – I don’t want to change anything, really, about the way I travel. I don’t want to research more; I don’t want to research less. I love the way I travel! But I want to travel my way more. Not travel more. Travel my way more. Which means, when I’m traveling, I want to let myself do what I want to be doing, even if that isn’t what I think I “should” be doing. If I want to go on vacation and sit on the beach with a book, then I should let myself do that. If I want to go on vacation and party until 6am, then I should let myself do that. If I want to party until 6am, and then go read a book on the beach, then I should let myself do that. When I plan my vacations, I love planning flexibility. I pick a place to be, research things I can do or see there, but don’t make a schedule or itinerary. That way, I know all the interesting things I can do, and I get to choose what I feel like at the time. It is perfect for me, but sometimes I catch myself thinking, “I have to go here, because everyone says I should.” In a lot of ways, I think my entire trip to Berlin falls into this category. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Berlin. But I didn’t know what to do there, because I mostly went because people told me to. As an adult, I want to let myself travel where I want and travel how I want. And that starts this weekend, with my trip to Slovakia. I’m going with a huge group of people – we’re going ski-partying (ski by day, party by night). And if I want to party and ski the next day hung over, so be it. If I decide to ditch a party completely and get on the mountain before anyone has slept off their drunk-ness, that’s cool too. I’m letting myself travel true to myself.
Exercise Better – This is really just Exercise. Because I’m not a huge fan of exercising just to exercise, even though I know I ought to do it. My problem is that, since I stopped playing soccer and dancing regularly after senior year of high school, I haven’t found a form of exercise I like enough to commit to regularly. So my first task in exercising is to find something I’ll enjoy enough to do often. Something MUST be out there for me. To accomplish this before I turn 21 (or at least make a concerted effort), I’m going to exercise 21 different ways on 21 different days. For one thing, maybe I’ll actually make it to one of those dance classes I’ve been eyeing, or maybe I’ll try a half dozen different types of yoga and finally find one I enjoy. Perhaps I’ll make it to the giant pool only a few tram stops from school I’ve heard about, or find someone with a bike who wants to go on a bike ride with me. Or perhaps I can take a Thursday and go on a hike somewhere. Ooh! The possibilities are actually getting me excited, so this bodes well.
Work Better – One thing I hate is when people show up to class and then they don’t pay attention. But then I catch myself doing it all the time. So I’m challenging myself to work better by focusing on one thing at a time. People say women are really good at multitasking – I say I’m really good at multitasking – but scientists know that multitasking is just switching your focus really fast. And every time you switch your focus, you lose concentration, which means you can’t get whatever you’re working on done as fast. So I’m committing to focusing on one thing at a time – and only one thing at a time for the next month. Maybe I find it to be amazing, a miracle, a wonder cure! Maybe I discover I actually accomplish more in a day when I’m doing two things at once at all times. Either way, it’s a good thing to know for adulthood.
Eat Better – This one is easy to say, really hard to do. More greens, less meat. It isn’t hard because I hate vegetables and love meat, but because Czech cuisine hates vegetables and loves meat. My goal is to up my servings of fruits and vegetables by one of each every day, and hopefully I’ll keep it up for my entire time in Prague. (I’m not worried about post-Prague because I actually love vegetables and I’m not so great at cooking meat unless I have a barbeque…) Also, stop eating Snickers for mid-afternoon snack. Bring an apple, goddamn it.
Play Better – I’ve been plagued by a somewhat strange problem all of my college career – I go out, but then I come home. Obviously, everyone comes home, but I tend to leave early. Like, really early. I have all sorts of excuse depending on the location and situation (I like sleep, I live far away, I’m technically underage, I don’t want to dance, I don’t know anyone, I have school tomorrow….). But really, I’m just uptight. I don’t like partying because I never partied in high school, and, honestly, I still feel out of place at a party. Like I did freshman year of college, when it seemed that everyone had stories to tell about getting blackout drunk in high school, but my only stories about drinking involved the gold-rimmed plates, my grandparents, and a holiday. I need to let myself go. Forget about this strange insecurity about inexperience, because now is the time to make the memories. Even though I won’t be in the states for my 21st, I still want to welcome it in style, but I don’t even know enough clubs in Prague to know where I’d want to celebrate the moment. That seriously needs to be remedied before the date comes around, and hopefully I’ll meet some new people in the partying process. But “play” in this sense isn’t just about bars and clubs. I want to spend more time exploring the city, having lunch/dinner with friends, just hanging out. I tend to go to school, and then go back to my host family, and not really spend a lot of time with the other students. Part of that is that I feel like I should spend time with my host family, but the reality is that I spend a lot of time with them, and this should feeling is related to the should feeling from Travel Better. And by related, I mean they’re identical twins. So Playing Better is twofold – letting myself open up to meeting new people, and to having new experiences.
Love Better – This could also be Risk Better, because to me, they are pretty much the same. And by that, I mean loving is a risk. I am finishing my junior year in college and I’ve never had a boyfriend. Not a serious boyfriend, not a one-night stand, not even a real date. Which is stupid. I’ve thought about the whys and wherefores a lot, and I think it’s a combination of insecurity (mostly caused by feeling like I should’ve had a boyfriend by now, which just makes the cycle worse) and excessive expectations. I need to stop waiting for a perfect man that encompasses everything I could ever want, and just try. If I like a guy, I need to recognize my feelings, embrace them, and even act on them. I need to stop hiding, scared, waiting for Prince Charming, even though I know Prince Charming doesn’t exist. I need to put myself out there (see Play Better). This is also the only entry on this list that doesn’t have a one-month time limit. Yeah, I’d love to have a Czech boyfriend to party with on my 21st, but I’m not going to say it needs to be a thing. Because relationships can’t be forced. Or so they say. I don’t actually know.
So there you have it. Things I want to do as an adult; things I’m going to start doing now. Things on my mental list as ways I can help myself feel better (eat, exercise), stuff I do but know I can do better (work, travel), or aspects of who I am I’d like to free myself up to change (play, love). And now that I’m an (almost) adult, I guess it is time to get cracking.
I’ve spent the last two weeks studying biology. Literally. I’m not kidding. I spend eight hours a day reading about biology, watching videos about biology, answering questions about biology.
If you don’t know me, you don’t understand why this is a big deal.
I. Hate. Biology.
Or at least, I did. Now, after two weeks of studying homeostasis and the nervous system and the pituitary gland, I don’t really mind it. Its actually pretty interesting. The human body is truly incredible, and I don’t really mind learning some new facts. That said, there is no way I’m switching to a bio major here. I’ll take the intuitive beauty of chemistry or incredible physics equations over biology definitions every day. And, even though I’ll admit to some strange beauty pulsing around us, I’d like everyone to know I did not choose to learn about biology. The nuclear physics course, yes; but not biology.
I got a job! I’m working for this awesome company called CK-12, and I got hired as a Science Content Intern. Now one might expect that they would have hired a Chemical Physics major to work on chemistry, or physics, but one might be wrong. I spent the past two weeks editing Advanced Biology Anatomy and Physiology, and starting today have been working on collating the glossary. (I heard that, and was like “great. Aimless definitions eight hours a day…” But I actually like it more than working on the text, because I get the information without having to a) make sure its accurate, because someone else has already done that or b) make sure it makes sense, because glossaries are just lists of definitions. I get the interesting information without having to make sure it appeals to someone else too!).
They’re still promising to switch me to Physics eventually, but for now I’m content learning about carrier proteins and sodium/potassium pumps.