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The Waiting Game

Long time, no blog.

It's been a bit of a crazy past couple of months! While I anticipated November and December going as such, it still took me by surprise when Winter Break came around, and, for the first time in a long time, I felt like I could exhale. Over Winter Break I was able to see people I care about and spend some quality time with them, something I hadn't really given myself the opportunity to do in a while. It reminded me of the importance of maintaining relationships and setting aside time for yourself to keep your mental health intact. This is something I am constantly re-learning. It is something I am trying to remind myself of now, as I return back to work and enter the New Year with more deadlines, projects, and newfound challenges popping up left and right. So I figured it was time to return to this blog and document it because writing often brings me clarity, and I hope for anyone who is reading this and going through a similar situation, it can bring you clarity, too,

After submitting my grad school applications on December 1st (and not a minute earlier), I felt so relieved. It was like the weight of the world (or, at least, the weight of my own expectations) was lifted off my shoulders and temporarily stored somewhere until it would, inevitably, return. I remember dancing around my room, calling friends I hadn't spoken to in a while, and sitting down for dinner with my family to just enjoy the evening. In the grand scheme of things, I applied to a relatively small number of programs, 6 to be exact. I did this because I only wanted to apply to programs that I was deeply passionate about. With this, I knew I had to expect that things might not go the way I wanted them to (i.e. I might not get into any of them because acceptance rates are low and there are so many qualified human beings out there that all deserve spots). This did make me nervous but I knew that, at the end of the day, if I tried my absolute hardest then I had no right to be upset over the outcome because, hey, at least I tried. With this attitude, I entered Winter Break feeling overall okay. I got to visit my boyfriend, see my grandparents, and catch up with some friends. Then Covid cases spiked again, and more and more people started getting sick so I tried to enjoy some time alone for the rest of December. While I wanted to enjoy spending time alone (and I usually do, being an ambivert leaning more towards an introvert), I was anxious about the pandemic and not being able to see family I had planned to see over Christmas was disheartening (although responsible and I am still glad we did not host any events that could have gotten people sick). So the start to the New Year was a little sadder than I had hoped, which I know was true for so many people.

This somber start to the New Year was only made worse by the news that classes and campus would be remote for the first couple of weeks of school (edit: now it's the first month). After developing a pretty steady routine of a mix of remote and in-person work, I was frustrated. But I was overall glad the school made the responsible decision to try and keep students, staff, and faculty safe. So far, January 2022 felt eerily similar to January 2021. At this point, I had already heard back from a few schools about interviews and was getting excited, only for them to be on zoom. Although still very excited, I was sad that I wouldn't be able to visit the schools and meet people in person. I was also informed that a conference I was set to present at in-person was moved to a virtual format. So things really felt like they were taking a turn for the worse. But I did have something I didn't have back in January 2021: hindsight. While things may be transitioning back to a remote format temporarily, I already have experience with this and I knew I needed to use that experience to make sure I developed healthy habits and a healthy mindset. Working remotely, as many of you probably know, can be draining on your mental and physical health. It is something I struggle with as I really do enjoy being around people and collaborating in person. But I won't lie to you, it has been hard to create a sustainable WFH routine when I was just working on campus not even a month ago. So if you're like me and finding this temporary transition hard, you are not alone. Some tricks I have learned and advice I have been given on WFH and staying motivated are to 1) Make your bed every morning, 2) Get ready for the day as if you were going into work in person (shower, put on nice clothes, eat a filling breakfast), 3) Do some form of physical activity (walking, yoga, going up and down your stairs a few times), and 4) Only work during your typical working hours. This one I can struggle with because it is so easy to continue working later in the day or wake up in the middle of the night and edit a proposal you're stressing over just because your computer is right there. I set my Slack notifications to 8 am to 6 pm because nothing is so urgent that it can't wait until the next day. However, even if something is urgent, you can set your notifications so that you will only be notified if someone @'s you, and this way you don't need to be bombarded with after-hours messages in groups that don't concern you directly. Setting boundaries has been key for me to start developing a healthy WFH routine!

While it has been a hard start to the New Year, it is important to check in with ourselves and recognize accomplishments! I am proud of receiving interview offers with amazing researchers. I am excited about the interview process because regardless of the outcome I know that I will learn a lot and get to meet super cool people. Slowly but surely I am learning that there are not always black and white, good or bad outcomes but rather there are experiences from which you can either choose to learn something or not. In 2022 I am very much choosing to learn from experiences, rather than judge them solely based on their outcomes. I am also proud of publishing my first manuscript with researchers whose mentorship means the world to me and who I really admire. Going through the peer review process was long and arduous but I learned so much from it and I am so proud of the work being published.

All of this to say, the start to the New Year has been anything but typical, but with these difficult challenges come fruitful learning opportunities. I know that can sound cheesy but sometimes we need to be a lot easier on ourselves. I hope you can all go into 2022 with a growth mindset and an eagerness to learn for the sake of learning.

- Lucy :)

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