Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye 2010...bonjour 2011!!!

2010 has been a great year!

When I look back on the end of 2009, I am at a completely different place, now, at the end of 2010...in a good way. I think that marks a successful year.

2010 has brought me a Masters project I enjoy and am seeing small steps of progress in. It's the year I gained some financial independence by having my own apartment, and paying for the rent and utilities by myself. It's the year I started dating, and after having fantasised about having a boyfriend for so long, I think I'm realising I love the single life! It's the year I started focusing more on reading again, after taking an unfortunate hiatus during undergrad, and the year I consolidated the importance of alcohol tolerance. I also expanded my music taste, and some music that I would have hated 2 years ago, I now love love love!

2010 has also been difficult in many ways. My lack of patience and forgetfulness has made some of my relationships difficult. I have a pattern of shutting down when I am overwhelmed, and I sadly continued that this year too. I've also contemplated so much on the future that I almost drove myself crazy. I have come up with a solution that I am quite satisfied with, but that I'll save for another post, when it has fully sunk into my mind. Also, I was hit with a bout of lethargy and apathy closer to the end of the year - sometimes I forget all the wonderful things I have going for me, and fixate on the one thing I don't have.

Most importantly, 2010 has been a year of change for me. I have been hesitant with accepting change this year - change makes me nervous. I hope 2011 is a year of change, as well, but this time I want to embrace it and dive headfirst into it.

In 2011, I want to finish my Masters successfully, and move on from the city. I can't wait to see the results of my project...but I also can't wait to move on to the next step in life.

In 2011, I want to focus more on my fitness. I'm going to start going to the gym early in the morning, and be in an awake frame of mind for the lab.

In 2011, I want to be more patient, and invest more time in helping and being there for others.

In 2011, I want to acquire some new hobbies, and build upon my old ones.

In 2011, I want to have the courage to make mistakes without being fearful of regrets...I don't want to regret not making the mistake in the future.

Sooo here's to a great 2010, and ushering in an awesome 2011 in a few hours!!! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

20 questions for an end of year reflection

This should typically be done on New Year's Eve, but I'm worried that I might be too busy running around and boozing to fill these out properly. I've lifted these questions from a blog called "Simple Mom". With this exercise I hope to gain some perspective on the year, and have a better and more specific understanding of my goals for 2011.


1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?
Discovering I had the courage and fortitude to change supervisors. It was one of the biggest decisions I've ever had to make, and I was scared to death to make it. I am so thankful that I was able to, and for the friends that supported me. 
2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
Since I have my own place, but come back home to my parents fairly often on weekends, I have found it very challenging to mesh those two worlds. In one world, I make the rules and the only person I have to please is myself. In the other world, not so much. It has been challenging to make my parents realise that I am an adult, and sometimes I would like to learn from my own mistakes. 
3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?
I had to give a presentation on an article for my now-supervisor's class. It was such a difficult article to read and understand. I was so scared for the presentation, because I was unsure if my interpretation was correct. He thought I did an amazing job though. It was such a joy knowing that, and knowing all my hard work paid off, even for just that small presentation. It certainly gave me a big confidence boost. 
4. What was an unexpected obstacle?
Paying bills and taking care of personal finances. It might sound extremely easy, but for someone who has never managed her own money, and always taken money for granted, it hasn't been. I was not very disciplined at all this year, and I hope to be next year. 
5. Pick three words to describe 2010.
Exploratory. Independent. Satisfying. 
6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your 2011 (don’t ask them; guess based on how you think your spouse sees you).
I don't have a spouse or a boyfriend that I could supplement...but I'll keep it in to look back on for when I'm filling this out and I do have one. 
7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their 2008 (again, without asking).
Ditto. 
8. What were the best books you read this year?
Ooh...The Glass Castle, The Pact, and A Fine Balance. 
I'm sure there are more, but I read a lot, and I can't remember them now. 
9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?
With my close friends. You are probably the people actually reading this blog. 
10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?
Hmmm...I think I have become more confident. I know I come across as a confident person, but that is mainly bravado. I now feel more confident in my ability in the lab, in learning new techniques, answering questions, and actually being able to hold my own. I also feel more confident in my looks - I have always had a complex about them, but I think this past year I have realised it is all in my head. 
11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?
I have had ups and downs in terms of emotional growth. I am a naturally very emotional person, and I have been trying to harness my emotions a bit more this year. 
12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?
I am not sure I grew spiritually. I have phases of spirituality, and I felt that I was in an off-phase for most of the year. That is something I should work on in 2011. 
13. In what way(s) did you grow physically?
I changed my eating habits this year. I started eating more frequently and less. It worked really well, until the month of December and the holidays hit. I also started playing soccer and golf, and re-visited tennis. Not bad for a generally non-sporty person! I can also do a pull-up! 
14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?
I tried to listen more to others and be there more. I wasn't successful with everyone, but I was successful with a few. I also realised that I have to put a bit more effort and manage my time better in my relationships, so that I am able to stay in touch with the people that matter to me. 
15. What was the most enjoyable area of managing your home?
I love having my own place. It is so enjoyable to clean it, to have people over, to cook in my own kitchen, and decorate. I love decorating! 
16. What was your most challenging area of home management?
Keeping my place clean during busy times. It's so easy to just dump stuff and not tidy up. Then there's just a mountain of cleaning to get through afterwards. 
17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
Facebook. 
18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?
Discovering what I want to do in life, and actually talking to other people about it seriously. It definitely gave me some insight into myself, and I think I have figured out my priorities for now. 
19. What was the biggest thing you learned this past year?
The idea of something is very different to the reality. 
20. Create a phrase or statement that describes 2010 for you.
2010 has been a year of positive growth and change for me; a year of branching out, introspective thinking, and consolidating some beautiful friendships. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Keeping your chin up

Science can be a very frustrating field of study. Experiments often don't work, for heaven knows what reason; there are multiple hoops to jump through (depending on your project) to actually getting some data; there are hours of prep work that go to waste oftentimes. That's where I'm at right now - hoop jumping and prep-wasting. All that jazz though is worth it when the experiment finally works in its entirety.  The reward and satisfaction you feel is amazing. That was me earlier this week!

But yesterday my experiment went back to making no sense whatsoever. I literally wanted to punch a wall, because I felt that the confusion and anger this elicited eclipsed my earlier successes of the week. I felt that I was back to square one. Stupid square one.

I woke up this morning though, and realised that it wasn't a set back. I was making steps forward - slow, but steady. In order to work in science, you need a tough skin - or the acquirement of one really fast! I always take experiments not working as a failure, but in the clarity of the morning, I know they are not failures. I'm merely learning about new aspects of the experiments, and what not to do in the future. Some of my best ideas for this project, or in adapting the techniques I've learnt, have come in moments of "failure".

I was planning my day while in the shower this morning, and was swaying on the side of not repeating the experiment this afternoon. If I fucked it up, then Friday, and potentially the weekend, could be soured. However, I realised that not doing the experiment would hinder my advancement - work or not, I'm getting somewhere, and I'm learning something. Maybe it's not as big a success as the entire experiment working...BUT it's still a small success! Small successes are so important to appreciate, because it takes many, many small successes to make a big success in science. From now on, I'm going to focus on appreciating the small successes instead of berating myself for not achieving the big one. It'll be all the more sweeter when I do!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

They're singing deck the halls...

I've been meaning to update for a while, and have started so many different posts, but then never found the time to finish them. I had a bit of a slump recently - you know the kind where you sit around all day, stuff your face, watch a million TV shows, even though you don't quite know the reason? Well, that was me! And I wanted this blog to mainly be positive, so I decided to hold off a bit on the posting.

I think I sometimes have this problem where I'm too busy living in the past or in the future, that I can barely appreciate and enjoy the present. I am constantly worrying about the future that I can't even focus on the present - and that is something that I am working on! Lately, I've been obsessing with trying to figure out the right career path that I can barely take the time to remember what a great opportunity getting my masters is, and how much I've learnt. Juggling all the different aspects of life can be so difficult sometimes!

With that being said, Christmas is coming!

The past few years, I have missed out on the whole excitement of Christmas anticipation. School has always been so hectic, and since I also help out my parents at their place of work, I usually don't even realise it's December until the 25th. This year though, I FEEL Christmas coming...AND I am going to revel in it. I've started baking, and next weekend is decorating! I am going to make hot buttered rum, mince pies, the turkey, and just stuff my face. I've also decided that giving presents is good enough - I'm not really interested in receiving them this year. I'm going to write out Christmas cards - old school style - and actually give them to people. Woot woot!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Creative cats


I was watching a TED talk yesterday given by Sir Ken Robinson in 2006. Usually, I am unable to listen to a speaker for longer than 10 minutes, since my mind likes to wander and I get bored very easily. But I was riveted by this talk. Sir Ken Robinson was such a confident and hilarious speaker. Nothing quite resonates with me like humour. And given that the entire audience was laughing, yet listening, I know they were spellbound too.

The talk was about how the education system of today focuses solely on educating children, and urging them to excel, but only in certain areas. Intelligence is narrowly defined by book smarts. When a child doesn’t display conventional intelligence, they are often labeled with a learning disability, or some ‘problem’. The talk highlights the neglect that other wonderful talents experience, and how the neglect of these talents and the push towards a defined intelligence, ultimately, kills creativity.

In particular, one line reverberated with me: “If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original”. He said that kids are not worried about being wrong…if they don’t know something, they will at least take a stab at it. Think back to your own childhood…I know I certainly was never scared about being wrong. Nowadays, the very thought of it sometimes cripples me.

While my parents certainly strenously emphasized getting good grades, I was also very fortunate that they allowed me to explore and cultivate other talents. Our house was always full of music, I had mountains of books to read, and they taught me about the beauty of art. My sister, in fact, is incredible at drawing. These will certainly things I’ll have to think about when I have kids (thankfully, many years down the line).

I don't think the cultivation of creativity simply ends with childhood though. I believe it's something we can continue to work on throughout our lifetime, maybe just through small actions. Take a dance class you otherwise wouldn't, pick up a non-fiction book (or any book for that matter), watch a play, take a stroll through the park. There's no set way of expanding your creativity, but I do believe there are set ways of killing it. I've certainly been trying to step out of my box this past month, and so far, I'm loving it! 

Here's the link to the talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

Monday, November 8, 2010

Just a student...remember?

Sometimes I think my supervisor forgets I'm just a student.

He's so knowledgeable, in a sort of intimidating way, and I feel that he sometimes forgets that not everyone is on the same level as he is. Especially me!

While he's extremely understanding when experiments don't work and always receptive to questions, no matter how basic (i.e. stupid), he sometimes just talks right over my head. I think it's because he genuinely forgets that my knowledge of the lab is limited, outside of my own project and my own experiments. Nonetheless, it overwhelms me and makes me feel as though I'm behind...although, I'm not really sure what I'm behind...maybe where I think I ought to be in my head?

Given that he has been so amazing by welcoming me into his lab, I never like to appear confused, lost or directionless in front of him. But, being a student and still a rather green 'scientist', I obviously feel like that a lot of the time!  Guess it's just something I'm going to have to come to terms with in my head...and realise that asking for help and admitting I don't know something, even though I hate to, is not a sign of weakness.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The bittersweet side of friendship

Next Saturday, one of my close friends from high school is getting married. When I came to Canada, almost 8 years ago, she was one of the first people I made friends with. I remember asking her if I could sit with her at lunch during religions class, and being so worried that she would say no. Of course, being the wonderful girl that she is, she said yes, and it was history from there. We haven’t always stayed the closest of friends, and there were definitely times where we barely kept in touch, but I think we have the kind of friendship that picks up right where it left off. I believe that kind of “laissez-faire” friendship is rare, and probably blossomed from the belief that one day we would make it through IB, hopefully with our sanity still intact. The jury is still out on that one! 
We celebrated her last nights as a bachelorette girl on Friday and Saturday. While both nights were filled with the type of crazy fun you can only have with other girls, it was bittersweet at the same time. Suddenly, out of nowhere, we’ve all grown up. Responsibilities have changed from simply completing homework to paying bills, and incorporating someone else’s life into your own (at least in her case). My girlfriend is moving to another country shortly after getting married, and it makes me wonder if I’ll ever even see her again. Sure, you give keeping in touch a valiant effort for the first little while, but it’s always a gamble as to whether the friendship will stand the test of time. Friendship sometimes takes a backseat given all the other responsibilities its important to juggle. 
I’ve noticed that happening in my own life this past year. It’s easy to forget the significance of friendships, when deadlines are approaching, and how important it is to maintain them. The sheer ease of being friends in high school tends to require a little bit of work and effort as you get older, move apart, and take different paths in life. I’ve certainly pruned my friendships throughout the years, so that the ones I do have are more meaningful and my life isn’t filled with trivial people. While that has certainly depleted my friendship count somewhat, the ones that I do have are much richer and I know I can always count on them...which really is what friendship is about anyways. 
I really wish my girlfriend the best in life as she embarks on this new chapter. I’m sure she’ll make a success of it, as she’s done so many other things. Even if our friendship flounders, from the distance and time zone difference, I have so many fond memories with her and our group of girls that will always be cherished. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Niching myself in?

Possibly one of the hardest parts about growing up is deciding what you want to do in life. Everything seems so simple as a kid...you go to school, you graduate, you get that long-dreamed about perfect career (usually, a doctor or an astronaut), and life goes on. 
Unfortunately, when you’re actually living that time of life when you’re supposed to be deciding on career, everything becomes a little murky. Actually, more than a little murky. There are so many aspects to consider that were never conceived of as a kid. 
Will I be happy in my career? Will I be fulfilled? Are my values going to be represented? Will I wake up every morning with an eagerness, or in a depressive state?
Right now, I’m doing my Masters program and trying to decide what I want to do afterwards. Initially, when I changed labs, I was convinced that I was going to transfer in the same lab and do my PhD. I loved my project...it was my baby. Once I developed it, I could not imagine passing it on to someone else. It was amazing feeling that way, but now that I am 7 months at my new lab, I find myself wondering about the right path for me.  
First, I am not very convinced that I am a lab person. I cannot imagine spending hours on end at the lab, and still finding a joy in life. I’m a people person. I love social events. I love dressing up, putting on my dancing shoes, and hitting the town. Not that I’m saying lab people can’t do that...but, I think those that are dedicated to science and dying to make a great scientific discovery, don’t mind “living” in the lab. That’s not me. 
Second, I can’t imagine staying in this city for the next 4 years. While this city is great for a student, I can’t imagine making a life here. I have my own place, which is awesome, as the rent is cheap and my freedom is maximised. If I was in Toronto with my apartment, I’d be paying through my nose. But I can find the freedom of my own place anywhere else. This city stinks and half the people are nutters. It’s not a place where I want to spend, and waste, my youth. 
Third, I’m worried about niching myself in. If I continue in this same lab, what other opportunities am I missing out on? I want to expose myself to more science than just my little project. Sure I’ll be incredibly knowledgeable on this little piece of the science world, but what about the other areas of interest I have?
Fourth, there are so many other things I want to do in life. Isn’t RIGHT NOW the time to explore those options? What if I keep putting it off, wake up one day realising I’m 50, and haven’t accomplished anything I set out to do? 
Still, I have my Masters to finish. I have less than a year to go, and now is the time for me to dedicate myself to it. Sometimes I wish it would just finish itself, but then I would be missing out on so much learning. Ahh...to be a kid again! 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Motivation

So, of late, I’ve been having problems with motivation. It is hard to stay motivated.
There are so many things I want to do and explore in life that sometimes I find it very difficult to get myself to the lab, do work, and stay there. I often wonder if this is a waste of my time right now, and whether this is the path that is meant for me. I like the lab, but I don’t love it…so I guess that in itself is the answer!
Last week I decided that I am done with being unmotivated. Screw unmotivation. How though?
I tried reading articles about being a great grad school student…but it mainly just highlighted what I was not doing, or it motivated me for a little bit. That’s not the train I need to get on. I talked to my dad a bit about it, and he said it’s always good to pray about things. Which I agree with, but I believe praying is not very helpful unless you’re doing something about it yourself.
I couldn’t think of anything except to give unmotivation the finger, and try push past my apathy towards work. It’s going pretty well so far, although there are definite lulls and hard patches to work through.
Sometimes I wish there was a button you could push that would turn on the motivation…
…and why stop at motivation? Let’s just get a button for every damn thing out there!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Supervisor mishaps

Since I’m studying for my Masters degree, graduate school obviously takes up a huge portion of my life. Attending grad school was a decision I made after getting my Bachelors degree, which was a pretty bold, risky move that could have gone incredibly badly.
In fact, it did go incredibly badly for some time. Having never volunteered in a lab, or taken any interest in grad school – until literally a few days before the deadline for late applications were due – I really had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know what to look for in a supervisor, how to pick a lab, or even what research I wanted to do, except that I had a strong interest in the cardiovascular system. Between the time of getting accepted into the program, and leaving for a Paris trip, I had three days to find a supervisor. And naturally, I stumbled upon the worst supervisor I could have.
Now, how do I know he was the worst supervisor? Well, he was actually quite clever at masking this initially. I thought he was pretty great…we had one on one meetings every day…and things were just dandy. But slowly things began to fall apart…and soon I was under a mountain of crap. Let me tell you, it’s not easy to shovel out from under a mountain of crap.  I’m generally a positive person, and even I couldn’t find a positive spin to this situation. Queue: anxiety, and a complete loss of appetite for fun.
Then came the time to make one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make: stick it out in this lab, where I could hopefully scrape by, or, try find a new lab and come to terms that I wasted the past 8 months of my life. I’m really happy to say I chose the latter. But, it was a decision that I could not have made successfully without the completely wonderful support system I had. I didn’t confide in many people, but the ones that I did tell were amazing – they made the bleakness seem hopeful. It reminded me of the importance and value of true friends versus the many friends-in-passing and meaningless acquaintances that so often pepper our lives.
It wasn’t easy for me to start in a new lab. It was a completely new line of research, with new people, and new expectations. I felt self-conscious and worried about falling short. But I was happy once more, and that’s what really mattered. Ultimately, you should always do what makes you happy.
Grad school lesson #1: don’t enter a program or take upon a supervisor without doing thorough background research into the whole business. It’s best not to learn this lesson the hard way. Trust me on this.

Enter Blogosphere part deux

So I thought I’d give the blogging craze a go again…something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. But with all things that are categorised as “meant to do for a while”, it’s taken much longer than I originally thought.
I used to keep a blog from grade 12 to 2nd year university…and now that I think about it, I’m quite surprised I lasted so long. It was mainly filled with fluff, my opinions on several girly subjects, and full of teenage angst. Hopefully, at the ripe ol’ age of 22, I am past all that!  
Incidentally, now seems like a perfect time for this re-entry, as it is a time of growth in my life, deciding what I want in many aspects, and then actually making those hard decisions that accompany just about everything these days. I hope to stick to this…hopefully it’s not just one of my obsessive streaks that fizzle out after a week or so.