Sunday, July 30, 2017

A decade of blogging

I started blogging 10 years ago, right before starting grad school. This blog chronicled 6.5 years of grad school (approximately 13,507 hours of work) and the 3.5 years since officially graduating. During that time, I lost 3 close family members, got married, spent over a year doing field work in Africa, got a dog, had a baby, moved to a new city, and had three different jobs as a PhD. This has been an eventful decade.

For the first few years, I blogged several times per month (or even several times per week). It was an opportunity for me to reflect on my experiences and practice writing. Looking back on many of my early posts in the writing of this, I am struck as much by the things that haven't changed as much as the things that have. I still love Small Friendly College just as much as in 2007 (and the post made me teary again). I see major parts my current self in these older writings. In some cases, I captured events that I see now had outsized importance in shaping my current career, like a workshop on science communication and an interdisciplinary project. There are threads and early hints of the ideas and concepts that are hugely important to my present work, which makes me feel like I'm in the right place now in my career.

In some ways, I don't think I've changed substantially, but I've learned so much about myself in the last 10 years. I've grown. I wrote in 2009 that I needed to be more of a badass. I most definitely am. My moments of greatest badass-ness are probably still finishing my dissertation before my daughter was born, then giving birth to her and going through (and recovering from) serious complications. To finish my dissertation, I toughed it out and kept my eye on the prize with intense focus to the exclusion of everything else non-essential. When recovering from childbirth, I refused to accept my limited mobility and searched and read until I found the right people and resources to help me heal. During grad school, and especially during field work, I became aware of my common mental traps and I'm much better at avoiding them now that I know the signs (like being indecisive). I am nothing if not resourceful, and as my personal networks and knowledge have grown, I have an ever-growing pool of ideas to draw upon. This last year in my new job has especially helped me realize and appreciate the breadth and depth of skills and networks I have, and given me many more ideas for how I can leverage them to do good and awesome things. I, too, can stand on the shoulders of giants—in life as well as in research.

My favorite genre of books is scientist memoirs (e.g. Richard Feynman), especially field biologists (e.g. Jane Goodall and Robert Sapolsky). I love reading about the adventures that happen in the pursuit of science. I love reading about how they live their science-y lives, what their families think, how they raised kids, what went wrong, and how they overcame adversity. Their stories have helped me imagine what my life could be. Blogs by scientists about their lives scratched a similar itch.

Blogging was also a community, and the other women in science bloggers were my mentors. I learned so much from them. I read blogs of more advanced students describing drama in their committees (I learned years later that managing your committee is a classic example of "managing up"). I read about postdocs applying for faculty positions. I read stories of scientists in all career stages struggling with chronic health issues, infertility, and difficult relationships. I was unquestionably better prepared to be a good graduate student and navigate the potential job market afterwards as a result of the science blog community. I'd like to throw some nonspecific thanks out into the universe to the dozens (hundreds?) of bloggers from whom I gleaned wisdom and advice. Thank you!

While blogging during grad school, I accidentally discovered the identities of a few bloggers I followed, and a few people discovered me (one person anonymously and mysteriously tried to "out" me). I made real life friends because of this blog, and it was a way to re-connect with a handful of trusted people that I invited to read it. A few of you are still reading. Thanks for following my sometimes vague and pseudonymized adventures!

I watched, always with sadness, when other bloggers decided to call it quits for one reason or another. More often, they didn't have closure and just stopped writing, or I just stopped reading. Probably kind of like this—I stopped writing so often. In part I blame the declining popularity of RSS and therefore the declining options for good feed readers. Somewhere along the migration from one feed reader to another, I lost track. It has been a long time since I regularly read other people's blogs, so my blogging is overwhelmingly an introspective exercise.

It would probably be fitting, after a decade of blogging as an "aspiring ecologist", to declare this the end. But I imagine I'll still want to blog occasionally, and I'm frankly not motivated enough to set up another blog, so I'll stick with what I've got. Those of you who are friends in real life know where to find me, and if you've been reading this for years and still don't know who I am but want to be friends in real life, drop me a note.

I'm excited about the next 10 years. I've got big ideas that have been simmering for a while now. With the right combination of preparation and luck (there's always luck), it could be awesome. Or, more likely, I'll end up doing something 10 years from now that I can't even imagine at present. Let's see where the next decade goes!

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