New year resolutions is not really my thing. But in the last year, I did so many things that are not my things, that I can actually try this one as well.
But first, what about a quick recap of the last year?
It all started, like any other year does, at 00:00:01 of the 1st of January. For me, the first second of 2015 had place on an overcrowded Princes Street in Edinburgh for what is known to be one of the best New Year Eve party in Europe, which -just to confuse tourists- is called Hogmanay instead of New Year Eve party. The end of the party, involving hugs from strangers, double fireworks show, R. Burns sonnet singing, signed the end of the holiday season and the start of one of the toughest year I have experienced since puberty.
For the first time in my life, I had to really ask myself “What am I doing with my life?”
Is this what I want? Am I happy?
Now, if I was a philosopher, those would have been just some simple mind exercises, but I am researcher, which makes those questions much more insidious. The past year, I had to deal with overload stress, with failures, with missed achievements, with delayed deadlines. All things that – I am sure – any researcher is used to.. but for me, this was the first time to seriously deal with these issues. And the worst was the feeling that I was not having fun any more doing my job.
The smartest of you may have noticed that I used the past. Yes, things have changed. Many things have helped, and surprisingly none of them is related to getting results.
The most helpful things have been knowing that I am not alone. Other researchers in the same program I am were sharing the same feelings, and that helped me to realise that it may have been a phase I needed to pass. Some useful readings are about depression and stress in academia and about the imposter syndrome.
But the most important thing that has changed my mood is the understanding that I am not who I am because of the job I am doing. I have always pictured myself as an academic, but what if I will be not? This option was terrifying for me, feeling like I could disappoint the expectations of everyone I know. The moment I figure out that my life is plenty of many other things, everything started to get in the right perspective. I have awesome old date friends, and I have made new gorgeous friends thanks to this PhD project. Trying to rediscover who I am, I dusted some of my hobbies, like drawing and painting. I went sailing. I took off as many weekends I could to meet friends and travel around a bit. My partner and I started to live together, bought a house and we’ll get married.
And guess what? I started to have fun again! Being released by the pressure of disappointing others and the nightmare of failure, I was free again to spend afternoons in the lab with a free mind. And it was fun! It is fun! After this epiphany, it was easy to go back and start to appreciate the achievements I have done and the things this phd offered me so far, like a period abroad for a collaboration (meeting awesome people!), a very long list of acquired skills from chemistry to cell culture, from computing to engineering, out reach opportunities to share science enthusiasm.
At December 31st of 2015, I still don’t have a publication ready to go, I still have to collect data and I am sure there are so many more experiments that will fail. But now all of this is part of the fun.
My 2015 felt like staring at 8-bit picture from too close. You can see the single pixels, but you cannot pick the whole figure.
But by the end of the year, I was able to step back and to understand those strange square confusing scaring unclear shapes for what they are. Pixels in a bigger frame, where the picture is loading. Sometime the download speed goes back to the old-day 56k, but sooner or later you can grab the whole thing.
Now that I have everything, 8-bit starts to look a bit out of focus for my taste. This is why, for this year, instead of an extensive list of my good intentions I have just one big goal:
a new better resolution!