In the details and routines

Not everyone* is built for the story of adventures or super-mega-career-intensity told to us** that we should be doing (or maybe I’m spending too much time on the internet and not enough time around traditional old ladies who seem to tell people in stories and movies to settle down and this is a fake problem I’m creating for myself inside my head). Sometimes all we*** want is somewhere safe and familiar to base ourselves in. What is wrong with wanting to settle down? With wanting to put down roots and settle into comfortable routines of life? (Nothing. The answer is nothing.)
I was born too practical a person for reckless adventure. If I won a million dollars, even as a small child, my plan was to pay for my college education and then for my sisters. Now, I would add probably a house for myself and pay off my loans and my husband’s loans.**** I would never go vaguely off and adventuring. I’m not comfortable in new places (alone) or around new people. I like the familiar. I like knowing where my meals are going to come from next week and having all the ingredients and recipes for them prepared ahead of time. All these plans and routines make me HAPPY.
I’ve always been looking for reasonable solutions. There’s love in the details and negotiations of a slow and steady moving relationship. I have the letters saved from when my husband and I were dating and discussing if we wanted to take the next step (of kissing). It was slow and methodical and reasoned out. I can go back and look at them and while it first lets me know how young we both were, I can see the care and concern in each carefully typed letter I have folded into envelopes in the shoebox in my nightstand. There’s care and concern and thought put into these letters that have been outlines.
As we settle into routines of being married, it is safer and happier. The first week back was not as great, with jobs and schedules. There was a person in my place, where it had just been me and my dog before. And the dog listens to me (mostly) and doesn’t talk ever. I would come home from work to happy silence. I don’t like change, even when it’s ultimately good change.
But now as we have morning routines (more) figured out and are falling into patterns of life, it’s getting better and easier. Now that each moment of the day isn’t something new, there is time to think about the details of what is going on. Husbands will accommodate quirks that you can’t ask of roommates—I don’t like not knowing when people will be at my house. There’s love in the “at the bus stop” texts so that I have time to prepare. There’s love in the details when we count backwards to plan the timeline of a weekend day. Or in the weekly planning of meals where we trade each others dislikes to find meals we both will enjoy. Or in going through the Simpson’s episodes slowly, every few nights getting to one.

We are falling into patterns now and it’s comfortable and safe and good. Once you have a pattern and a base, then you can work towards something, because you are safe and can concentrate energy on doing things besides just surviving.

*aka me
**once again, maybe just me
***Pronouns are hard and I don’t like using first-person pronouns even when it is clearly appropriate.
****Also, now I know that a million dollars isn’t nearly as large of a sum of money as I thought, but I think I’d still be able to get a fair chunk of things out of the way. Or maybe the amount of money will increase in this hypothetical situation I am creating for myself.
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Individual development plans

Every year we write Individual Development Plans in grad school. It’s part of being on NIH grants or something. Classified into career goals and specific goals and annual goals and all different categories.

The thing I need to work on the most is fear
the thing I WANT to work on the most is fear
I am afraid
like legitimately afraid of so so many things
walking and talking to myself to write down on a sticky note a question to ask
preparation still took me probably an hour for a 5 minute task

this is why i can’t use my time efficiently
and that will improve my career the most
by allowing me to communicate
network
reach out to other scientists
talk to my PI

(Of course I did not write that on my IDP. I wrote things about professional goals and improving my writing ability and my ability to communicate my research as well as my ability to develop a project and other such reasonable goals.)

I wrote this first part months ago when I was actually filling out my IDP but it never turned into a full post.

Because I can plan experiments decently well, over short and mid-term ranges of time. I had a thesis proposal relatively well thought out, if not written yet. I had preliminary data. I can edit my scientific writing into something which is very consistent with how an early graduate student should be writing (there’s struggles with transitions, which all my writing and presentations have, but enough copies and those can be added). The hard part–where you pick a project–was already painfully done over a horrible few weeks of crying long long long ago.

But now that my thesis project–or at least what was to be my thesis project–has been apparently already done–I have to restart.

Which also wasn’t planned
not part of my plan
But that’s science
And at least I found out now only a year into it instead of in two or three years when it’s published and I’m halfway through a thesis that’s already been done
but…
still…

Restart the awful awful part of finding and choosing a project from the infinite possibilities of things that can be done in zebrafish development. I’m still in the same lab, but I have to switch my focus to something almost completely new, so that not even my months of reading will be all that helpful in writing up my thesis proposal.

All new
completely new

and absolutely terrifying

try not to panic
or to spend all day writing scripts to talk to my PI so that by the time I get to one where I am able to ask for help, he isn’t in his office anymore

Literally
can’t
ask for help

because I don’t know how to ask for help

instead I spent all day trying to write a script down to ask for it and by the time it finished I missed him and writing the word panic down in different shapes (as you can see at the top of the page)

And my apartment has unopened envelopes piling by table and dishes piling on the stove and counter and my dog gets walks and that is about it in things get managed. My fridge has milk and cheese in it and that’s it.

This is a norman rockwell puzzle. It took our lab about 2 weeks of lunches to finish.There are small pieces everywhere of my life. They all turned into bits and pieces.

We’ve been doing puzzles in lab in the break room. Little pieces slightly different shades of blue to sort through and put back together. That’s the sort of thing I know how to do. That’s the sort of thing I know how to sort through and rearrange and fix. You have all the time you need to sort and organize the pieces by color and shape and slowly put them back.

But real life has time limits. And you can’t lie out all the pieces on the ground in order until they match up. The pieces of real life don’t sit and wait there until I can sort out where they go. The longer real-life pieces wait, the farther they fall out of place and the harder they are to put back together.

I know this is jumbled and messy and doesn’t really make sense. But lots of everything is messy and jumbled and doesn’t make sense and full of fluff and stuff and mess so that’s the state of being anyway.

telling autistic

Some more choosing-a-lab/grad-school-struggles randomly and when that happens I am not very good at writing at paragraphs or capitalizing or even really going back and editing it but also because I am still sort of mush on this topic and ideas right now. So sorry about that because I know lack of capitalization and even also inconsistent capitalization and punctuation can be distressing to read to me at least so here’s a heads up that it is all sorta meltymushy.

one problem i’ve found that I have with autism
and why i don’t want to tell people
or can’t

because for the longest time i would read stories of kids with autism–because its almost always kids in the stories
and i thought it couldn’t be real
because they sounded just like me–a bit younger often, and with a tendency to be boys—and I was not a boy no way who knows what boys were up to or how I could related to them
so i thought most of it was a new made-up craze
that things were overconcerned and overpathologized when it was just people being people

of course
eventually i realized that actually in these stories these kids who couldn’t really have something Named, couldn’t really all be that different
because it was things I did
things my family did
things I didn’t think at all were unusual because they were woven into my everyday life

that these things were not actual Things That Everyone Does
but rather, unusually unique to me and occasionally family members
and this group of autistic

I would keep reading the stories before I realized
because I recognized something similar
but also reading them trying to figure out what exactly it was that made these kids different

sometimes jealous of the more-overtly-things that meant they didn’t have to talk to people
or somehow were allowed to do things in public I knew that were not allowed but they were ok for them
not knowing how amazingly lucky and accepting my life had been–which is probably one big WHY that no one noticed things about me

and now i’m struggling with some things in school
contemplating telling people to see if that would help
—by people i mean official school people—
(although i don’t know who i would tell since i am not even in a lab)
but I’m afraid they won’t believe me

because just like my family was slow to believe when i told (some of) them
because it was just things that everyone did
i live in a world of science and scientists
and a lot a lot a lot of the things I do are not all that uncommon–at least compared to the general population
there is at least one professor who I am almost positive (upwards of 90%) is autistic too
and there are others with hints
and so i feel like it would be less believed
because the straits stand out less–which is sometimes good
but makes asking for help harder

—well, that and the fact that I don’t have any actual official paperwork of any sort saying i was autistic. probably a flaw at that time that i should have predicted coming up in the future

maybe when i get in a lab officially
i will eventually tell that PI
and help figure out solutions

In general, i’m not very good at telling people
i’ve told one person who asked directly
i have told 2 close friends
i told boyfriend

i wish people would ask directly
that is why i didn’t even tell the therapist/pysch person
because it didn’t come up in any of the questions she asked me

but i think it is very rare that people will do that
it has only happened once

so i probably shouldn’t hope for that

hows and whys

I have to choose a lab and that is no fun because they don’t really tell
you the hows or the whats or the whys and whenever I go to try and talk to
people, they just ask be questions. When what I am asking for isn’t the
questions but the process. What is the process for choosing a rotation. For
choosing a lab to work in. I would like a protocol. I would like some
directions other than “find a lab”. How do we find one? Once we have
identified one that we think we would like to join, how do we go about it.

They say go and talk to the faculty, but they don’t say what to talk about.
So I go in and talk and end up just as confused at the end with no specific
progress.

When I ask how to choose a lab, how to join a lab, they do not tell me.
They ask me questions that lead down a different path. I want to know how
to contact people. I want to know the how about it.

Even if I get the strength and spend days and days making the words and
walking around outside the building to prep before going in with explictly
said words “I would like to join your lab” it does not work. It doesn’t
come out… the words don’t want to listen at all. So I just sort of go
there and nod and murmur along and agree to all the things and say
everything is doing great and run quickly quickly quickly through the
little bit of the script I can still remember. And we end up more confused.
Both of us.

Once I tried to write it down on a post-it note I brought in.

Sometimes they ask me questions I haven’t prepared for and I have no answer
for and I scramble for them in bits and pieces and try to make words out of
things that aren’t words.

I know it is because there are multiple of us trying for the same lab and
there is so much that depends on it on funding and who to choose and what
to do but I do not know how to do it. I do not know the how.

And I’m terrified I’m too slow. I sort of already had one person tell me no
because I didn’t express interest and I don’t know how to show I can
express interest in a clear and obvious way. I know how to do it in the
ways my interest and happiness works. Although the lab I want to join was
the first, when I was less skilled at digging into the problems and hiding
in the data and building a home out of it. I’m afraid the other person or
people trying for this lab will win. Because they know the words and the
procedures and don’t seem to have to prep with words on a post-it note or
walk around and lie down in the grass afterwards to process and figure out.
And they know the words and the ways of people and all I have is the
long-ago memories of the brownies and blondies and other treats I brought
into lab in October November December.

Processing is not my strong point.
People is not my strong point.
Choosing is not my strong point.
Fighting is not my strong point.

Processing processing processing.

Why do I want to join your lab?

I know in the patterns. I know from the part of my brain that doesn’t think
in words. With the following of patterns. Where all the things come from
patterns. I can tell somehow. I know I was happy. I know I liked the work.
I don’t know the how the why the reasons, at least not in words. The part
of me that knows things like this doesn’t know in words, not always, and
there aren’t words or translations leftover.

But that’s not an adequate answer. That’s not a coherent explanation.
That’s not a convincing reason to choose me over someone else. If I can’t
articulate *why* I know, just that I know, it isn’t particularly helpful.

The hows and the whys and the words and the work and the reasons.

bad no good

I want to drop out of grad school
I want to just go home and never have to do anything again

I don’t want to think about getting married
I don’t want to think about picking a lab
I don’t want to talk to professors

I can’t go home I have so much to do
I can’t miss a flight I already checked in for
I can’t stay here
I can’t function properly
I can’t eat or make food
I can’t talk to people correctly

I want everything to stop
I want everything to stop
I want everything to stop



Normally I do well in grad school. Now is not one of those times.

Grad school is self-directed which means I don’t have enough direction. I don’t know how to choose and how to convey my interest appropriately in joining a lab. And when I did, there were not-clear-things that resulted from the conversations (and from me crying in the middle of conversations) and it is all a no-good mess, still. And I talked to advisors and people I rotated with and they just kept asking more questions and not answering anything explicitly because it is up to me to decide so I have to make the decisions. And because it took so long for me to talk clearly enough that people understood what I was actually saying (on the order of weeks), now I am leaving for 2 weeks without knowing what I am doing when I come back. And without having joining a lab until who-knows-what or if people want me to join or WHAT because it is all an awful NO GOOD HORRIBLE BAD MESS.

Eventually I calmed down a bit and talked to people and wrote out the steps for the current life-grad school-rotations-communication dilemma. At least I’m not in the meltdown-crying-every-hour-awful-mess-state that I was earlier. I have a plan. Well, sort of a plan. A plan to figure out a plan. To fix all the big horrible mistakes that I have made and have gotten behind on. To make up to all the people I have disappointed. To stop disappointing people and stop making mistakes.

Normally I do well in grad school.

But I am going to go home (which was already planned) and my parents are going to take care of me for two weeks and I can e-mail professors about things and do everything except meet-in-person which is something that I need a lot of preparation for anyway. And I can focus only on the tasks I need to do and break them into steps and hopefully figure out how to do things.

Maybe going somewhere safe will fix it. Seeing if hiding from my problems will fix it. (Or “taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture” if I put it in more friendly terms).

Messy mind, messy writing, sorry about the blurry thoughts.

Hiding

There’s been finals and papers. I’m going home Monday.
I have to figure out which lab I am joining at some point.
I HAVE TO FIGURE OUT WHICH LAB I AM JOINING.

AKA WHERE I AM GOING TO SPEND THE NEXT 5-7+ years of my life doing science.

Scientists are bad at communication
but so am I
(because I am a scientist)
so that has all been a stress-mess of no one knowing what is going on
Every time I have talked to someone it has become a bigger mess. So I will be leaving Monday for two weeks probably with no real idea of what I am going to do when I get back.

For the last week or so,  I have had to step evenly on every crack on the sidewalk on my way to work or else my feet get uneven and that is bad. Even when I wear my big thick running shoes, even when I don’t look down, I can tell. (And the sidewalks are horribly sized sections so there is no good way to walk… it’s about one and a half strides per block no way to make it even ever). So it’s been a tough week.

So in the midst of procrastinating on this work, I have been posting some posts. But then I’ve also been reading other ones. And I got worried so incredibly worried about hurting other people. I would rather a million times be forced to the point of hiding and stress and bad things than hurt someone else. I contemplated deleting everything I have ever written. I contemplated just deleting some posts. I contemplated adding disclaimers to everything ever. So in this panic, I decided that the easiest temporary solution was to just hide it all. Not to delete anything or edit anything that I might regret later. But to just block it all from everyone but me.

So I changed my privacy settings, and tried to forget about it, because I had other things that I needed to worry about this week.

So I hid from the internet for a while.

Because hiding is one of my favorite defense mechanisms. It isn’t really the best one, in terms of effectiveness or long-term-effects or really defensibility, but it is easy when things are hard. And it is a way to postpone things until brains can work again.

This morning, I realized that maybe I should have said something about why I went away, but I didn’t know how to have just one page publicly available. I tried initially when I hid things, but it was too much and I just needed things to be hidden and safe. Because if no one can read what I write, no one can get hurt. So this morning I posted on facebook a rather delayed message about my hiding.

But, I think overall this blog is a good thing. It’s good for me. I’ve made friends through it. (As boyfriend said in his infinite wisdom and good words ability) I’ve ” learned a lot about yourself and gotten good affirmation and confirmation over the blog.”So I will change the privacy settings back so that anyone can read it again. I will keep up my posts. I will be ok with the fact that some posts are messy, that some things I have are rough ideas, that the writing is not always perfect. I will try to come back from hiding, because avoiding good things does not seem like a way I want to come back from life.

“And if people get upset they don’t have to read it”

A brief rant about brain activity

Everything is all in my brain. Because my brain is the filter through which I interpret the world. Everything is all in your brain. Because your brain is the filter through which you interpret the world. Everything is always in your brain.

In our grad school ethics class, one of the topics was science and religion, and the presenter brought up some brain scan studies done on religious people praying, and how they had specific brain activity when they were praying. One of the people in my class decided to take this to mean that therefore it couldn’t possibly be real and it was just a brain malfunction. That it was proof that all religious experiences were not real.

I did not like this conclusion. Or this logic.

Because it was missing the clear bit of information, which is that everything we experience we process through our brain. I’m not going to argue about religion or God or gods or personal beliefs, because in general those are up to you to decide. But saying that something isn’t real because there is specific brain activity associated with it is a horrible argument. Of course there is brain activity when people are praying or having religious experiences. The presence of brain activity does not make something NOT REAL. Because you experience everything through your brain.

That is sort of the point of having a centralized nervous system.