Friday, October 22, 2010

A big departure

I'm finally ready to share my plans with the world. I just needed to ask my adviser and the department head for their approval first. They're both very supportive and sorry to see me leave.

I'm planning to start a leave of absence from school in January. That will give me up to a year to return to PhD studies without having to reapply. In the mean time, I can take time away to reassess what I want to do and if it requires a PhD and if I have the drive to finish the degree without wasting any more of my or my adviser's time.

I am applying for jobs in the Washington, DC, area now in hopes that I will find something I can start with the new year. I am focusing on this area because I like the city, I'm familiar with it, one of my relatives lives there, and several friends live along the East Coast.

I also want to keep the option open to pursue a master's degree in science writing with Johns Hopkins. They have a part-time evening program that I could work through while I work a normal daytime job. Ultimately, I want to communicate science to non-scientists, so this path makes sense.

It will also help me financially. Though my tuition is fully covered and I'm paid a livable salary in grad school, it still costs me to be here. I have a lot of debt from undergrad that is accruing interest. These are mainly loans with Sallie Mae, which must be run by soul-sucking profiteers the way they've handled my loans. With a job I can start paying the loans off and perhaps even take them away from Sallie Mae. I don't know how the loans work yet because my dad helped me with that. I may borrow a friend's mom to help me weed through my options. If that doesn't pan out, I may be on my own to figure it out.

So for the next two or three months I'm finishing everything I need to in order to minimize the impact this has on my adviser, who is going up for tenure this year. One of my biggest concerns is that I don't cause him a problem because he's only along for the ride this time and I'm grateful to his flexibility and understanding through the most difficult three years of my life.

I'm nervous, scared, and excited. This is the biggest departure I've ever taken from the established path through school to a career, but I truly feel this is the right decision for me right now.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Settling back in

Due to scheduling issues, my prelim will not happen this semester. My school-related goals now include finishing the interminable paper and completing enough of my PhD research to give a talk at AMS in January. And catching up with class.

My house is getting messier, but I spent most of the day cooking so it's okay for now. I made a beef roast, chicken soup, salmon, and cookies. I have more cookies planned so I can use some nifty little fall cookie cutters I bought while I was in Wisconsin.

Personally, I'm doing okay. I'm still low on patience. I've run my patience to the brink of losing it over the past five months. (I wasn't very involved in the first few months of my dad's treatment, so it wasn't as difficult then.) I think I'm just emotionally burnt out. And tired. And still stressed, in good and bad ways. I don't know how to recover from this besides wait and hope it doesn't take too long.

In other news, change is in the air. I'm not ready to release my ideas to the world until I'm more sure of them, but they are big. I'll let you know when they're ready.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I hereby declare...

...that I have the best friends ever!

Three flew to the Midwest from the East Coast on short notice for my dad's funeral and stayed with me through the weekend, six drove almost 300 miles from Grad School Town, and one drove almost two hours to stay overnight the night with me and my mom and made us breakfast the morning of the funeral. On top of that, I came home to a clean house because three of the friends from Grad School Town cleaned my house while I was gone.

I dare you to deny that they are the best!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Upcoming return to pseudo-normal

I will return to school at the end of this weekend. I will have to make up for three missed weeks of classes and research.

I still plan to complete my prelim this semester. Excuse after excuse has delayed it for a year. No matter how valid they've all been, I'm tired of putting it off. I want it done so it doesn't hang over my head anymore and so I won't have to take more classes. I also learned yesterday that I am scheduled to give an oral presentation at the AMS Annual Meeting in January. On top of those, I need to renew my fellowship at the end of the calendar year.

Lucky for me, all of these goals are related to the same work: my PhD research. If I make good progress on that, all of these should be within reach. For the prelim, I add a proposal and oral defense. For the meeting presentation, I put together a short talk. Last, and probably least demanding, I write a progress summary to renew my fellowship. Sounds like a tall order, but those are my specialty.

That leaves writing and class out of the mix. I don't know what my new class deadlines will be, but they should be flexible since my adviser teaches the class. I don't know about writing. I really want to continue with everything I planned before. I think I'll try to and hope for the best.

Four days and I return to my life. It will be much the same as before, and yet forever different. More different than I have ever experienced. I never imagined life without my dad find me this soon.

Whether or not he is here, I will continue to make him proud of me. I am thankful for the time we had together and all he taught me.