Minireview: finding balance in 2010

Alyssa over at Apple Pie and The Universe has asked us science bloggers to open up the time capsule from last year’s May Scientiae carnival and reflect on the contents for this month’s carnival. Well, seeing as I was hardly participating in the blogosphere last May and still had no idea that blog carnivals existed, I’m afraid I don’t have a blog capsule to break open for you guys. However, I have plenty recollection to share of where I was about a year ago, as well as where I was imagining myself being at this point in my life.

Perhaps the most momentous event of last summer was an invitation from a new collaborator of mine to speak at Really Cool Small Conference. At the time, I didn’t know much about RCSC, other than it was reported to be, well, really cool. Shortly after this invitation, I attended Pretty Cool Small Conference (PCSC – not to be confused with RCSC), received great feedback and compliments for my work, and hobnobbed with some big names in my field. Combined, these events created an excited and proud young scientist about to enter the oh, so promising job market…maybe a little too proud even.

Over the next few months, however, I went through a pretty difficult time in my little scientific life. Between job applications, grant-writing, manuscript preparation, and mentoring a new graduate student, while also trying to keep a promising project moving forward, I started to feel pretty overwhelmed. I wasn’t sure of my mentor’s expectations, and began to second guess every move I was making. Add into the mix a new marriage that was still finding its legs, and life was starting to become quite unbalanced. And at the very bottom of the priority pile was a pathetic blog that was slowly circling the drain. I didn’t know what direction I was headed, and I started pushing all levers at once to try and keep my forward momentum going. This eventually led to a small breakdown (not the mental-hospital type, just your run-of-the-mill mid-postdoctoral breakdown). By Christmas, when I had just begun to find my footing, Hubby and I went through an event that changed our lives, and priorities, forever…we found out I was pregnant. A mere week later, we found out I had lost this wonderful new life. It was dark times in Dr. and Mr. O’s life.

Well, there couldn’t be a better day than today to reflect on these dark times. I’m currently waiting at the airport for a flight, leaving RCSC. RCSC was much cooler than I could have ever imagined…I’ll definitely be back, with or without an invitation to speak. My talk went very well and received a lot of positive feedback; I even received an invitation to give a seminar in the spring. On top of which, I’ve made several connections with wonderful scientists, many of which will undoubtedly endure a career that’s just starting to move forward.

Most importantly, however, is the backdrop for this past week’s RCSC. My life has finally started to find some much-needed balance. This is thanks in large part to the fantastic bloggers who frequent my rejuvenated blog, a solid support system in my “real-life” scientific community, and the love of a wonderful and patient husband. In the spirit of my RCSC talk, I’d like to acknowledge all of these guys for being there. With the new balance (and perspective) I’ve gained this past year, I got a paper accepted, and a much more focused K grant resubmitted. But above all else, Hubby and I have learned that we’ll be welcoming a new member of the family this Thanksgiving. Talk about a change from a year ago!

So I guess my little experiment in finding work-life balance has been successful, so far. And I’d like to offer a toast to the wisdom gained from this past year and prayers that it stays with me as I move forward.

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