Sunday, December 31, 2017

Reflections on 2017

In January, I wrote my goals and expectations for the year. When I started grad school in 2007, I also wrote my career and life goals for 2017. Over the summer I wrote a post reflecting on a decade of blogging, but I'd like to take this opportunity to reflect on both sets of goals/expectations for this year. 

I'll start with what I wrote in 2007. In short, I described my career objective to become a professor a place like Small Friendly College, which would include teaching, research with undergrads, occasionally leading foreign study programs, and doing some kind of science outreach. I knew I needed good teaching experience, international experience, and to write my own grants to support my research. I got the grants and the international experience, but not so much teaching experience (in part because I was successful with fellowship applications). My decision to steer away from the liberal arts college professor path was motivated in part by wanting to be geographically narrow (to be near Jon's family eventually) and in part by realizing (mostly from conversations with SFC faculty) that I wasn't going to be terribly competitive for those jobs without a much stronger teaching and research record.

I've been able to play to the same interests articulated above and strengths I developed in grad school in unexpected ways and chart a very different path than the small-liberal-arts-college-professor way. There is a strong international component to my current work. My interest in outreach and an unconventional science communication opportunity helped my land my first real job as a PhD. It's really all of my side interests and ancillary skills from grad school that have gotten me to here, rather than my research itself. I suppose I expected the same to be true as a professor, so I've just applied it differently.

I'm most proud of my self-awareness in 2007:
At this point in time my ideal job is quite specific, and I’m not even sure it exists. However, the breadth of what I want to do to is great enough that I would be happy to pursue other careers that fulfill some, if not all, of my interests in other ways. I will remain open to other options that I can’t even imagine yet.

Not bad, huh?

I also wrote about wanting to start a family:
I do plan to start a family by 2017. I am not sure exactly how children will fit into the picture, nor can I realistically expect things to go as planned. But if I could choose, I’d like to have two children relatively close together to minimize the pre-school time period. When in my career I try to have children will depend on my research plans and post doc opportunities. Perhaps I will try to have kids between finishing field work and defending.
I did strategically aim to give birth between my dissertation defense and the end of my NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, which worked out pretty well, except for the part where I almost died and then had a pretty rough start to motherhood while trying to find a job. We've decided to only have one child instead of the two we'd originally intended, but I'm feeling ok with that. Given the state of the world, it doesn't seem like the right decision for us to choose to have another child.

For my goals defined at the beginning of this year I wrote:
This year is not about being wildly aspirational—it's about modest changes to try and protect us (in the immediate and broader sense) in uncertain times.
I did well on the goals and elaborated on several in a post earlier in the year.

Help Jon get a new, full-time job with benefits
DONE. He's not wild about the workplace culture, but it's ok. He's keeping an eye out for other opportunities.

Get Adele a passport and renew mine

Clear my inbox every month
Nope. I completely failed at this and my work email has now gotten a bit unwieldy too. I've practically given up on my personal email. I need to find a strategy that works for me, but in the short term I'm just procrastinating on it.

Celebrate my blogiversary (10 years!)
Kind of. I wrote a reflection on a decade of blogging, but I didn't get it printed like I considered. I didn't find a way to print it that was easy and satisfying enough. I'd still like to do that someday. Suggestions welcome!

Read four books
DONE! I read a book about my field of work which included many people I know personally, which was pretty cool. I also read How to Raise A Wild Child because I want to make sure that Adele is well-connected to nature.

Pay off our car

Pay off all of Jon's course/credit card debt

Shorten the repayment term on my student loans
Nope. We have instead put more emphasis on saving for retirement. I'll re-evaluate the situation in 2018.

Carbon offsets
DONE. We've been paying a monthly fee based on our calculated carbon emissions from 2016. I am guessing 2017 would be comparable for us so I think we'll continue at the same rates for 2018.

Switch to electricity from renewable sources

Organizations we'll newly support with monthly contributions:
-Southern Poverty Law Center

In terms of broad expectations for the year, I wrote:
I am less optimistic about 2017 than I have been...maybe ever. I am deeply concerned about Trump becoming president tomorrow and I honestly expect the world and its people to be in worse shape at the end of 2017 than now. I expect my family (immediate and extended) to weather this year due to our position of privilege (employed, mostly urban, socially connected, highly educated, white), but even still I expect our lives to be diminished.

I am afraid I hit the nail on the head. My immediate family is doing fine, but the world feels much less safe with the insanity of nuclear brinksmanship from two insecure leaders, no new gun control measures despite escalating casualties in mass shootings, and the mainstreaming of white supremacists. We continue to ignore the paths for action on climate change, despite suffering extensive damages from hurricanes, flooding, droughts, and fires exacerbated by our inaction. Measures making the dysfunctional health care system we have even worse and tax changes that will disproportionately benefit the incredibly wealthy and wreck the federal budget make me less optimistic for a thriving future of broadly shared prosperity in our country. I am sad for our country and the world.

I expect some big changes again in 2018, particularly with my career. As usual, I'll share more in a separate post after the new year.

Farewell, 2017!