Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 in review

I've always enjoyed sitting down at the end of a calendar year and reflecting on what the passing year brought and what the new year may bring. This has been an unforgettable year.

The trend of events in 2009 was very similar to 2008- the beginning of the year brought tragedies but then many wonderful things happened. I am thankful that there have been many uplifting events this year to thwart despair. If I had to pick a theme for 2009, it would be self-context. I didn't go into 2009 expecting to find new revelations about my work habits and hurdles in the field, nor could I have possibly imagined the tremendous losses in my family and my personal struggles accompanying their deaths. I have been seeing a great therapist this fall to help me unravel the interconnected themes of sisterhood, family, death, regret, religion, self-esteem, loss, health, and communication. I have come to see my strengths and weaknesses in a much deeper context of past experiences and family dynamics, and I think these realizations (and so many others) will help me overcome personal and professional challenges.

Here's a brief recap of 2009:
January- Jon and I went to Obama's inauguration and I prepared for prelims.
February- My grandmother passed away after a difficult surgery, followed immediately, independently, and unexpectedly by my younger sister's death the next day due to pulmonary thrombosis resulting from misdiagnosed blood clots. That pretty much says it all. February was the worst month of my life.
March- I passed my prelims!
April- I received the graduate research fellowship, and Jon and I got married!
May- I went to Ukenzagapia for my first real field season.
June- Jon came to visit me in Ukenzagapia.
August- I returned from Ukenzagapia.
October- I went to a conference, we visited family in Canada, saw tons of friends who came into town for my best friend's wedding, and went back to Small Friendly College.
November & December- Pretty uneventful but traveled a lot and saw lots of family at the holidays.

Since self-context wasn't exactly on my list of goals for 2009, I'd like to address some of the ones that were.

Academic goals:
1) Prelims!  DONE!
2) Finally publish the damn review paper. NOPE. Maybe 2010...
3) Collect and analyze data from my first field season. I got the 'collect' part done but not the analysis.

4) Get the friggin' NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. DONE! Thank God!
5) Continue to seek opportunities to communicate my research to non-scientists. Not really. I did a poor job of this in 2009. I need to think strategically about how to do this in 2010.


Even though I wasn't able to get that review sent out for publication or analyze my data, I am feeling pretty good about my progress. I didn't teach at all this year but did write letters of recommendation for a fantastic former student and it has been a joy to see her interest in research develop, even though it is an entirely different field of biology. I have a project underway in Ukenzagapia and several possibilities for doable projects in the field over the next two years. I submitted a big grant (still waiting to hear) and got a fellowship and two other small grants to fund my research. I am about one day of work away from submitting a short note based on observations from my first field season, which will be my first publication from grad school. I'm finished with all of the classes I have to take, and mostly finished with my interdisciplinary group project. Soon I'll return to Ukenzagapia for my next field season. Not bad.

Personal goals:
1) Exercise regularly and frequently. Could've been worse. I did well in the spring, burned a lot of calories in the field, but not this past fall. I can do better.

2) Contribute to my IRA. Pretty good. Not as much as I'd like, but we do contribute a fixed percent of Jon's income now now which I like.
3) Make monthly contributions to Small Friendly College and small monthly donations to public radio. DONE! This makes me happy.
4) Get some of the kids in our lives (cousins, nieces, nephews) to visit us in Big City. DONE! Hopefully we'll have more kid visitors in 2010.
5) Go dancing at least once per month. NOPE. Not even close.
6) Foster more discussion on this blog. Not really, but my readership has grown steadily (if slowly).

So much has happened in my personal life this year! Since I already mentioned the difficult things above, I'm not going to talk more about those here. 2009 was a fantastic year for seeing friends and family. According to our guest book, we had 51 different people stay at our apartment on at least 125 different nights (a month of that was while Jon was in Ukenzagapia), including two different grad students and a family of three who were subletters at different times. Not only did we get friends and family to come see us in Big City, we traveled a lot this year (especially for weddings- including our own). Married life for us has so far been very much like our unmarried life, which is to say that it's great :-)

I'm thankful that we didn't move this year. For the first time in 10 years, neither of us moved a significant portion of our belongings! That does mean that we have acquired a fair amount of stuff we don't need that we need to creatively rid ourselves of in January. When I'm actually in Big City, I have greatly enjoyed taking care of my houseplants, container gardening outside on our balcony, working in the community garden, cooking the fruits of my labor, entertaining friends and family, and deciding how to incorporate new art (like our marriage certificate) and furniture that Jon builds into our apartment. We love where we live and hope that we don't have to move again until we leave Big City when I finish my Ph.D.

I love blogging, and have found the blog to be a great way for me to process and share my life experiences. Thank you to all of my readers for sharing in it.

Happy New Year!

1 comment:

michellespidermonkey said...

hey, this post inspired me to write my own post reviewing the success of 2009. Until I did it, I didn't realize how much I actually accomplished in the past year! thanks for making me think about it so I could come to that realization!

Also, at some time in the near future I will be posting about dealing with the stresses/challenges of fieldwork--I would love your perspective/feedback on that!