Clawing.

I have a limited amount of energy. 

A lot of my effort this year has been in trying to find things that energize me more. Finding what motivates me to keep going. Finding what makes me tick. I’ve found some successes this year:

  • I have hung this on my wall to remind me to appreciate life and to keep creativity, passion and ideas in mind as I tend to go on autopilot a lot.
  • I’ve become an avid reader of Lifehacker, though I may have overdosed on it a bit. A lot of the posts there really have helped me form some new productivity (learning keyboard shortcuts for many things! So cool!) habits as well as new ways of thinking.
     
  • I’ve read a lot more books recreationally than I have in a long time as well. Most influential has been Quiet by Susan Cain. I have been reading more about and exploring introversion a lot more this year and finding ways in which I can embrace my nature- I’m as introverted as they come. I feel defective in social situations a lot of times. It’s better to know that I just socialize differently and that there isn’t something fundamentally wrong with the fact that I only switch on when topics I care about deeply come up (Han shot first!!!). I have taken advantage of every speaking opportunity I’ve had this year, which I think has helped me be more comfortable around people. None of them went that well. It’s sort of like the standup comedian who bombs, lives, and goes on the next night anyway, more fearless than before- at least I hope it’s like that.
     
  • I took a few tentative steps to learning new things. Brewing beer, coding (a very few steps there), and even pushing myself again in my work, which unfortunately I haven’t done enough of the last few years; I think that’s the most devastating part of being clinically depressed. Luckily, I seem to continue to become more aware of when my depressive thinking comes up and can manage it a lot more effectively than I once did. It’s still there, but does occupy less of my mind. And I can fight it. I had a pretty bad setback in my research a month ago and had a lot of other things going on too, but despite that huge negative, I seem to have bounced back OK. I didn’t just give up.
  • I have learned to say no more. And yes. I’ve said yes more often the last few months than I have all year. I hope all this new input into my brain will lead to me feeling less stuck.
  • I’m learning to use Twitter to network and interact more with the online science community, which seems to be thriving. Almost to the point I often feel that writing my own account of my experiences as a scientist just don’t belong on the internet (just because it’s written down doesn’t mean it’s worth reading or is even a legitimate voice). I’m writing anyway, mostly for myself because I actually find it fun to use my words (however ineffectively). As I’ve said in this blog before a few times I think, I serve as an example of what not to do as a postdoc/grad student; for changing my own habits as well as for anyone that reads what I write and is helped by it (I can dream). I consider myself an educator and I take my undergrad university’s motto to heart: ‘Not unto ourselves alone are we born’.
  • I recently joined a running club, which is changing up my routine a fair bit as well. I went for an 8 mile run on election day morning in below freezing temperatures. I never would have done that on my own, but might now that I’ve done it once. It is also a social activity/group which is good for me. 
So inch by inch I am clawing my way up from the bottom of the canyon I was in. If I keep it up, I can declare I’ve made it to the top and stand on the canyon ledge and declare the arrival of Ian 3.0. This will involve doing more: reading, writing, applying, experimenting, learning, trying, failing, trying again, and persevering into a new and better place (mentally, if not physically). 

I hope all of that will lead to an increased energy budget and to more effectively using my time for the things I care about. 
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Author: Ian Street

Ian is a plant scientist and science writer relating stories of plant science and scientists on his blog, The Quiet Branches as well as other outlets. You can find him on Twitter @IHStreet.

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