Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Farewell to 2008: a review

Apologies for a silent December; I was off in far-away states visiting family and some landscapes that I am deprived of here in Small Town. It was a good holiday, and since Partner came with me for the first time I had a lot more fun than I usually do - we got away for a weekend and saw some sights.

Now I sit here facing down 2009, and since I plan to be, you know, busy tomorrow night and into Thursday, I thought this might be a good time to look back.

2008 was potentially the most eventful year I've had so far. I spent the first month + (continuing from late 2007) in the field, finishing up one field project and getting almost nowhere on another. But I got enough data for the writing that ensued from mid February onward, as I wrote probably 3/5 of my dissertation between returning to the States and turning in my diss at the end of April. Needless to say, even with the majority of the data collection finished, it was a stressful spring. But there's nothing like a deadline to get the juices flowing, right?

In the meantime..

In February I went on a few campus interviews, lined up a few more. Had a fabulous time visiting SLAC and then sat around at home praying that I would get a phone call.

Then Partner asked me to marry him. This happened to occur on the same day that I received a phone call from SLAC offering me my current position (I gotta wonder if he was waiting for that job security...but then he did already have the ring at that point ;) - in his defense we had decided to do xmas presents once I got back from the field, and mine was the ring, but we hadn't gotten around to the gift exchange until the middle of the month). I made a lot of phone calls and sent a lot of emails over the next week or so - both telling people we were getting married and telling potential employers that I was no longer interested!

That was the high point, and the rest of the spring was a low - I had the "usual" last-minute failures of equipment and technicians while trying to get a few more pieces of data, my defense date kept moving around, etc. I let a lot of things slide, like exercise and eating well; I wasn't sleeping, and for a lot of reasons I hated where we were living. I had some rage at sources of ambient noise that was probably not good for my overall mental health.

In May I defended my dissertation and walked/was hooded. After saying goodbye to the family members who came to my graduation we packed up our apartment and got the hell outta there. Driving that Uhaul out of City took a huge load off of my shoulders. We dumped all of our belongings at Partner's parents' place for the summer and started looking for a place to live in Small Town. We originally planned to rent and see what we thought about buying later on, but rental options were almost zero, house prices were low, and I could actually swing a down payment. So we started looking, and found a place we liked in late June.

August 1st we closed and spent the first night in my/our first house. A few days later I bought my first washer and dryer, which I will admit have changed my life more than owning the house, and still make me happy on a weekly basis.

The fall was a learning experience - Partner learned that it might be a lot harder for him to find work here than we expected, and I learned that I really like what I'm doing and I don't completely suck as a professor (so far!). I got decent student reviews, got some research done, started writing a grant, got one of my dissertation papers published and submitted another two manuscripts. I'm learning the ropes and feeling more confident. I'm starting to spend my start-up and am planning some field work for the summer and winter of '09.

I hope 2009 will complete my transition from student to proffie in my own mind - I need to be more assertive and self-confident than I am, sometimes; I need to make sure I get what I need and stop trusting that SLAC is looking out for me (because it may be a friendly and supportive place but no one is looking out for me but me), and I also have to keep myself from putting things off just because it's still my first year.

This coming year will also hopefully give us a better idea of what we can expect for Partner - is this place going to be a wash for him? And if so, what do we do? Should I be keeping an eye on the job ads, just in case some sort of SLAC job opens up in a more likely location? Would I be an idiot to look for other alternatives before tenure, when I'm liking my job so far? Questions that can't be answered at this point, but I might be asking them with more sincerity around this time next year.

More importantly, I hope 2009 is more positive. Some of my experiences in City in 2008 really shot my faith and trust in people, and made me even more of a pessimist than I had been before. My students have already done a lot to revive my optimism, and I think being at SLAC will counteract my negative mindset if I let it happen.

Happy New Year and a positive 2009 to you! More blogging will ensue during post-hangover January.

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