More feels

Thank goddess this election is over – my heart rate was elevated all day Tuesday and Wednesday. It was pretty clear to me since Wednesday that Biden had won so I wasn’t anxious anymore about the election after that. But them finally calling it Saturday was a huge relief I didn’t even realized I needed. I honestly, thought they were going to take weeks. Anyway, you can find me dancing to this:

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I’m well aware that this is not over. He-who-shall-not-be-named is going to do everything in his power to drag this out. But I am always for celebrating small victories.

I am still angry though because it doesn’t change the fact that so SO many people showed up to vote for him. More people than in 2016. Including my parents, seriously what is wrong with you all? I guess it shouldn’t be shocking that a country built on racism is racist. But I still don’t get how people don’t seem to realize they are the mudsill (I recently learned this term).

I had another win recently, Stony Brook University agreed to waive graduate student fees starting spring semester for those of us who have a tuition waiver. So excited! That’s $800 I don’t have to pull from my basically non-existent savings. However, I still acknowledge there will be plenty of grad students this doesn’t help (i.e. master’s students) but our fight is not over.

I want to go home for Christmas. I even booked a flight (I can cancel with no repercussion). But I haven’t talked to my supervisor about it yet because there are so many unknowns. Fortunately, New York State travel restrictions are easier now; instead of needing to quarantine for 14 days (which was the requirement when I booked the flight), I will instead need to get tested 3 days before I depart MN, quarantine at home in NY for 3 days, and then get tested again on the 4th day. I was relieved, like woo that will make asking my boss easier because I only need to request 1.5 weeks off not 3. But now, COVID is really spiking in MN. It’s basically in an exponential climb that has me freaked out about if I should even go. AND this weekend, my mother (note my annoyance by referring to her as mother and not mom) told me that her and my father will be flying to Nevada December 11-13. Honestly, I am ready to just cancel my flight. Like wtf?! They know I’m extremely cautious about this and I feel like they just don’t care as much about seeing me. I know that’s not the case but still, I am very frustrated.

This does not look good

Also my roommate is apparently going to a large in-person wedding this weekend… I don’t even know what to do about this. I guess I will talk to the other roommates and approach her asking her to get tested and possibly quarantine back home at NJ. I don’t want to have to unexpectedly take 14 days off to quarantine if she brings it into the house. That would really screw up a lot of my experiments. Also I don’t want to have to miss my reasonable small gathering Thanksgiving plans because she is making the choice to go to a rather risky event.

Sitting with my feelings

Almost two months ago, I said I’d be back in a week. I guess I needed a few more.

About a month ago when I started writing this post I said “I have been okay. And honestly, I am starting to feel better.” But now I’m good now. Which seems ludicrous to admit this week but honestly, I am good. Anyway, here is what I wrote then:

I have been doing my best to take care of myself. To me this means a lot of time outside, mostly just walking, preferably in the woods. I had been racking up 50 mile weeks and that was without running. And even with all those miles, it wasn’t enough. (I am not pacing that much anymore, thank goodness!)

I thought I was coping okay. I mean exercise is healthy. Outdoors is healthy. But I was avoiding journaling. I was avoiding acknowledging my feelings. I didn’t realize it. But my therapist did. She told me I needed to sit with my feelings. I said okay but then I was like wtf does that mean… So I googled it after our session.

So, what is sitting with your feelings?

It means to observe and name your emotions. To validate your emotions. And to focus on the present (mindfulness). Just feel what you feel. Don’t make it a story. Don’t analyze it. Just feel.

We have a habit of fighting our painful emotions. We judge them. Push them away. Avoid them. Ignore them. But when we do that, we actually trigger other painful emotions like shame and guilt. And while sitting with our emotions doesn’t eliminate the pain it does prevent any extra emotional pain. Be kind to yourself. It is okay that you feel sad. Or angry. Or frustrated. It is okay.

I have been debating if I wanted to write about what was going on but I think it’s time. I think not writing about it is me avoiding it, which isn’t exactly sitting with your feelings.

I had been avoiding journaling too.

It started with Labor Day, as it has before…

I debated taking Labor Day Monday off. But I decided I deserved it so I took it off to go on a hiking date. It was a good hike, good company but no real mutual romantic interest. Whatever, that isn’t really the point. I was just happy that I was using this holiday doing something I love.

Tuesday on my way to campus, I was in a fender bender. Not my fault. But it caused me to get to lab quite late. And when I got there I heard the news.

A friend was murdered over Labor day weekend. Murdered. Murdered by her own father. Was she murdered first? Or did she have to watch or hear her father murder her mother and her brother before coming for her? When her friend found her, what was the scene she saw? I have so many questions with no answers. But I don’t think I want to know the answers. I was horrified when I heard the news. The shock. I cannot.

Before the lockdown of the pandemic, I was hoping she’d join me and a few other friends for a drink but she didn’t join because she was not feeling great. I can’t pinpoint the last time I saw her.

I spent Tuesday afternoon contacting the other members of GWISE that worked with her to let them know about the news. This was the hardest part. Why was this my job?! I got 0 lab work done that day.

Four years ago when I started grad school, my friend Tim was also murdered over Labor Day weekend. Shot dead in the street. It was chalked up as a drive by likely for a gang initiation. Justice was never served. Not that catching his murderer would serve justice anyway.

I am angry at the world.

I am angry at my university who has not so much as sent out an email acknowledging her. (Her department did and hosted a small memorial with GWISE).

I am sad.

And I felt so guilty.

Guilt.

SO MUCH GUILT!

I was not procrastinating. I was struggling.

No, I could not do more.

But it’s not because I didn’t want to. I just couldn’t.

At the time I wanted to scream that I promise I will come around. To please be patient. Please don’t make me explain or justify. Please just trust me.

But instead I kept quiet. My close friends were there for me but my professional world had no idea. Has no idea. None.

I was fucking angry and frustrated that this, that life and grief keep interrupting my pursuit of knowledge, but not because it happens, that is part of life, but because others have expect me to just push through it as if nothing has happened.

Why is academia like this? Will it ever change? Some days I feel hopeless. I love, love, love academia. I love it so much. But I know that continuing in it comes with a lot of pain I could avoid by leaving it.

I am resilient. I am lucky because I don’t really have impostor syndrome. I know my worth. I know that I am a good scientist. I have learned so many technical skills. I know how to think about problems and if I don’t, I know how to ask for help. I am always working on being a better mentor and person. I am always seeking to grow and improve and that is so much more than so many people here are doing. I know I belong. That’s not the issue. The issue is do I want to belong?

I have no plans to leave academia but I also won’t pretend I can predict the future. For now, I will graduate. And I will go on to a postdoc. And from there I can check in and see what my next step forward is.

I almost didn’t take my weekend trip to the Berkshires that Friday because of the guilt. How could I afford to take more time off after my unproductive week?

But I did go. And I’m glad I went. I needed it.

And I also needed this time away from my blog and I will not apologize for that.