Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Goals for 2010 and uncertainty

This month I am on vacation.

Not on vacation traveling with the kids. Or on vacation at home with the kids. No, really on vacation sans children. Part-time anyway. (A slightly under-the-weather Legume is with me right now, snoring peacefully away in her bed).

I can’t remember the last time I had such luxury. Oh, right—that’s because I’ve never had it before! I’ve either been working, in school, or raising kids (or some combination)—but to have a little free time without employment and without kids?

Being a stay-at-home mom, I remarked to a friend at the gym the other day, is actually a lot of fun when you’re not really staying at home with the kids.

As I alluded to before, I am unemployed for at least the next few months. My husband and I are keeping the kids in daycare/schoolcare part-time for a number of reasons. We don’t want to take a chance on losing our daycare spots, of course. We don’t want to disrupt the children’s routines. Legume and Bean-girl truly love school now (they were both sooooo happy to be back after the long Christmas break; Legume just kept smiling and smiling when I dropped her off on the first day) and I think preschool is particularly good for little Legume now. But my reasons are also purely selfish. I like having a little free time to myself during the week; there are things I want to get done for myself; and being in charge of the children 24-7 frankly drives this momma bonkers.

So what do I want to get done for myself over the next few months?

This is time to play New Year’s Resolutions, of course. Folded into a 2-3 month time span. I have the usual pledge to exercise and get in shape. As well as other goals. I found last year that breaking up vague goals into concrete proposals helped enormously (especially helps when your aims are particularly modest!) I even mostly fulfilled last year’s very modest goals! (I did get that short story published, and I pitched an article–and was turned down—by Favorite Trade Journal. But at least I made the attempt).

So after the success of the “Goals for 2009” experiment (it did get me off my butt to at least work toward those goals), I now publically declare my overly ambitious Goals for 2010. To make it all the more grandiose, I divide the goals into several fields with pretentious titles.

Health (physical)

--Exercise at least 2-3 times a week.
--Take a pilates/yoga class (went to the first class last week—public humiliation).
--Eat more fruits, veggies and whole grains.

Creative writing (and emotional health)

--Finish second short story, send out to some trusted readers, eventually submit and hopefully publish somewhere.

--Start a new story.

--Revise and submit a very old story.

--Try daily journaling/writing.


--Master the literature of an entire new subfield of cell biology (ambitious much?)
*Sub-aim: Try to see if there is a way to link intriguing results from old postdoc to the direction of my (hopeful) new lab to create a coherent and intelligent research plan that brings it all together.

Home (domesticity)

--Sort and donate old clothing (done!)

--Sort, get rid of, organize the toys taking over our house.

--Organize the home office

--Print and organize backlog of family photos.

--Hang up some of those pictures we unpacked three years ago (which are still stacked up on the floor of our den)

Now how many of these goals can I actually accomplish over the next few months? We’ll see….


Although I enjoy this freedom now, I wonder if the lack of external structure will soon start wearing on me. And then I wonder if I’ll get too used to doing my own thing, living a freelance life (I have potential freelance editing contracts starting February). Then I wonder if the notice of funding and call to lab work might come early—as my potential PI thinks it will—and whether I’ll be ready for it, whether I’ll fall apart and my family fall apart and perhaps I’ll humiliate myself after all these years off the bench and disappoint the PI who took me on. . . And perhaps that call to work might not come at all, our grant application gets turned down, the PI’s other grant gets turned down, and despite his assurances he’ll have no money or way to take me in. . . .

It has all happened, as Jennifer Rohn so eloquently writes in her post. I envision all outcomes. I envision a future in which I leave science entirely—leave even the writing and editing of science. And I see another future where I’m back at the bench, happy as a clam. And I look backward and see all those junctures where things might have gone a different way—where the road forked and I took one path and not the other. The road keeps forking ahead; I look both backward and forward, and where does it all lead?

I love Jennifer Rohn’s blog. Go read it if you haven’t—I am in that same bubble of uncertainty.

(And the discussion comments following her post are, as usual, quite wonderful.)


Alyssa said...

Fantastic set of goals - good luck with them and everything else!

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

Awesome that both girls were so happy to go back to school / day care!

I really like the idea of very concrete goals. I'll try that come the equinox, when I'll be reassessing my own resolutions!

All that time... a double-edged sword for sure. Enjoy!

Aurora said...

Hi Bean Mom, I'm all for making goals.

I think you are right in letting the girls stay in preschool. It's a good idea to pick them up a little earlier or keep them home if you aren't sure they are well like you are already doing. My kid's buddy in preschool stays 9 - 6, M - F for the three years I've known him. He's always the last to get picked up and looks sad. All in all I'm glad I put some effort in picking up my kids early from preschool, although some days it has been 6:00pm.

Would like to know how you handle the backlog of photos. I went over to and started one of those medium size photo books -- it is taking a long time -- but a way to do something creative. I want to get one of those little photo printers this month and print pictures regularly as the backlog is growing.

The bean-mom said...

Alyssa--Good luck with your goals, too!

Cath--I like the equinox timing of your resolutions!

Aurora--one of the best things of unemployment (the best?) is that I don't have to scramble for daycare when the kids are under the weather, have a school day off, or just need some extra attention. I pick them up early from daycare and we have a (sometimes) relaxed few hours before dinner. And I have Legume all to myself on some days when her big sister is at kindergarten.

When I was a post-doc, I remember dosing Bean-girl up with Tylenol to hide the fever and dropping her off at daycare anyway. I felt terrible about it.

By the way, if you have any hints on the photo organization stuff, I sure could use it. I'm planning to make online Picasa albums of all our photos, but it will take some time...I've thought of ordering one of those Kodak type books online, too (but as you said, it does take time putting it together!)

chall said...

oh hear hear about vacation!

I went on vacation between Christmas and New years for the first time since... 7 years? I dunno. it was awesome! I mean, no obligations, no conferences to start or end the vacation. (this sounds horrible) but no family meetings, no 'musts'. Just me and my SO and a week of goodness :)

I guess the only main problem for me is that I want to take more vacation _now_ :)

Mad Hatter said...

"I wonder if the lack of external structure will soon start wearing on me."

A lot of my friends and colleagues say they go stir-crazy if they're away from work for too long, but I have to say I've never reached the point where I miss having an externally derived schedule. Maybe I just need to take longer vacations! :-)

Aurora said...

"When I was a post-doc, I remember dosing Bean-girl up with Tylenol to hide the fever and dropping her off at daycare anyway. I felt terrible about it."

-- Advil hides it for longer ;)

My youngest is older now but when he was little he fell sick often practically forcing one of us (usually me) to rearrange my schedule for weeks on end causing all sorts of job problems. To this day when my cell phone rings when he's in preschool, my heart skips a beat and if caller id shows daycare it starts racing and stress levels hit the roof.

I ordered the Epson Picture Mate Charm to quickly print 4 by 6s.

Aurora said...

Oh, I should add it wasn't the messed up schedule that makes my heart race, but my kids being ill. They've been ill too often it seems and I worry about them. Either way I won't be winning any mommy awards.