Where I am at these days…

March has been rough and it’s not even over yet. Granted that’s good since I still need to finish (start?) my internal grant application that is due the 31st.

The recent gun violence (or should I be saying non-stop?) in Atlanta and Boulder and all the debating of if it’s a hate crime (it was), is it terrorism (no, he was an American man and your racism is showing), it’s a bad day (**screams**), it’s a mental health issue (well okay, I hear you but many of us have mental health issues and don’t go on shooting sprees) have me feeling very drained. I try to avoid it but I can only do so much of that. This all has me thinking about my friends, Tim and Emma, who were murdered by gun violence and my heart is aching. I am so frustrated and angry about people saying dumb shit and the U.S. not better regulating guns, and I am just exhausted because all of this is just so unnecessary and yet we keep coming back to it.

I gave my lecture on U.S. STEM Policy regarding underrepresented minorities two weeks ago. I feel it went okay. I didn’t spend as much time prepping it as I had initially wanted. Time just really got away from me. But the students were engaged and liked the topic. At some point, I’d like to watch the recording. Actually, I take that back, like is not the right word, I will watch the recording to torture myself, I mean determine what can be improved in the future. Regardless, it is nice to not have this lecture looming over the distance anymore but rather have it in the past. Also today is the last day of class for Intro to STEM Policy so I will be done as a TA in a few mere hours. Yay to one less thing on my plate!

Speaking of one less thing on my plate, I also had my departmental workshop/committee meeting this past Monday. I had meant to record it but it totally slipped my mind when the time came. C’est la vie. It went alright. The best part is just getting it done. Having it over Zoom definitely mitigated my anxiety but it was still there. I don’t know if I’ve talked about this much but I really hate public speaking. Actually I don’t hate it anymore, rather I now see it as a challenge that I’m working on it. I’ve been working on it for years. But I get so nervous which often involves shaking and being tongue tied. And while I definitely stammered at times, I took my time and hit the talking points I wanted to make. And the really nice thing about Zoom was I could actually use a pointer – I can’t do this in real life because my tremors make it literally impossible for me to point at anything.

This past weekend, I slipped away for what we titled Girls’ Gunks Getaway from Grad School Garbage. I debated going because of my workshop/committee meeting but I ultimately decided I shouldn’t spend my weekend increasing my anxiety and I feel I definitely made the right choice. We went upstate a bit to the Shawangunks mountains and got an AirBnB for Friday and Saturday night. It was perfect!

Friday night we had a late outdoor dinner at Magnanini Winery, Restaurant and Distillery. Fridays they have pasta night and they make homemade pasta. Delicious is an understatement! I will definitely be going back again! The owner was kind enough to make us a fire because it was quite chilly.

Delicious homemade pasta –
We demolished our pasta

Saturday, we went for a hike in Minnewaska State Park. We stuck to the carriage paths but even those were quite treacherous with the freeze/thaw. But even with the slipping and sliding and a few “graceful” thaws we had plenty of fun. We then spent most of the day eating and relaxing – we cooked a boozy brunch we cooked, had a few mimosas 😉 , charcuterie and baked brie.

Panorama of an icy Lake Minnewaska
The very icy Millbrook Mountain Carriage Road
Our beautiful charcuterie board
Me relaxing in my onsie with my Aztec clay mask and mimosa in hand

Sunday we went for a quick waterfall tour followed by lunch in New Paltz before coming back to our real lives in grad school. But it was a great and much needed escape.

Spring Glen Falls
Fantine Kills Falls

The person I am seeing came over Monday night which was really nice. It was great to relax with them and come down from the stress of my workshop/committee meeting earlier that day. We talked about using certain titles (i.e. girlfriend/boyfriend) but I am having such an existential crisis in all areas of my life that I cannot deal with the idea of this. It’s nice to know that we are on the same page of where we’d like what we have to go. I really think I would like to use those titles with this person in the future but what’s the rush? It has been really weird trying to date in a pandemic. Also, I am mainly just really hesitant about getting into a relationship even though if we’re being honest I’m kind of in one already because I don’t want to get distracted. All I know that I want is to graduate and I do not want to get distracted. And my last relationship really detracted from my grad school experience. Not that I think this one will but I also don’t want to put myself in that situation. So for now, I’m just requesting things go slow at least with the titles. Plus, I had honestly been planning to quit trying to date altogether and figured I’d go on a date or two with them and it would be lackluster and I’d be free to just focus on graduating. But as you can see that is not what happened!

My other existential crisis is really reflecting on what kind of professor I want to be as that will dictate the route I take with my post doc a bit – do I want to focus on research or teaching? I really don’t know. I keep going back and forth. I do really love research but it is such a grueling lifestyle. Whereas, if I focus more on teaching I could hide away at some liberal arts school in the woods which we all know is my happy place. Decisions, decisions.

Anyway, back to the person I’m seeing. They spent the night and I went into lab late the next morning so I could have a nice little hike with them in the morning.

Misty salt marsh at Sunken Meadow
Beautiful clear skies at Kings Park Bluffs

Both those photos are from our morning hike, amazing what an hour and the bright sun can do. Also I should mention the person I’m seeing is not a hiker but they are always game to go hiking with me. In fact, they bought a new pair of shoes for our hikes. Awww, isn’t that adorable? ❤

Lastly, I booked a flight home to Minnesota and I am so fucking excited! It has been two years, TWO YEARS, since I’ve been home last. I booked it for the weekend of May 8th – it’s my dad’s 65th birthday and then Mother’s day so it’s always a nice weekend to visit and feel like I’m there to equally celebrate both my parents. But I totally forgot that May 8th is also my Breakneck Trail Half. *facepalm It’s normally not that time of year so I didn’t even think to think about it. I briefly considered moving my trip to Minnesota but I ultimately decided just to pull out of the race. I’m hoping they will let me move my entry to next year but if not I’ll just take the loss ($). I’m a bit behind on training anyway.

Speaking of traveling, I really want to make sure I get vaccinated first. I mean who knows if I already am or not. So I called the NovaVax trial about a timeline for the crossover and they said I should get my first injection of round two the week of April 20th but they aren’t scheduling appointments quite yet because they are still waiting on some materials. This means I will only get one dose before my trip unless I decide to drop out, get unblinded, and get the vaxx offered by my employed. I really want to stay in the study though. And I think as long as I get the initial dose first I will feel safe enough. I plan to wear my N95 and surgical mask on the plane, I don’t bother with face shields as I have glasses, and both my parents and sister will have both their doses by then.

“If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours.” – Dolly Parton

P.S. If you didn’t know this already Dolly Parton is super badass feminist icon.