More Than Just a Pretty Picture…

We’ve all heard the complaint: “Social Media *Insert Name* is so fake.  People only put up photos of scrumptious-looking food, cute babies, and vacations.  They never write about the hard stuff (or ugly babies), and they just try to make their life look perfect.”

Stonehenge!

See? Stonehenge. I can post vacation photos with the best of ’em.

For the record, as long as your content is legal and respectful, I support your right to post it.  And I have no problem if you carefully cultivate what you post.  After all, social media is a public realm, and you don’t “owe” me any information you don’t want to give out.

That being said, I want this particular forum to be open and honest.  I’m writing this blog for a few reasons, including:

  1. To share some of Singapore, and my life here, with friends, family…and anyone else who cares to read my ramblings;
  2. To help those that I e-coach get to know me a bit better; and
  3. To provide some information, motivations, and inspiration (mostly with respect to athletic endeavors) to anyone who happens to stop by.

I don’t further any of these goals by only sharing the good, hilarious, and delicious bits.  So sometimes, you may just get some tough, sad, and bitter bits, too.   If you don’t like them, just politely spit them into your napkin, or leave them on the side of your plate.  I won’t know the difference.

Shrimp & veggie tempura

Date night wasn’t all crispy, light, delicious tempura. (Ichiban Sushi)

What will they look like?  Well, it depends.  But mostly that I’m a real person, living a real life, and sometimes I face real (albeit “first world”) challenges.  Let’s take date night with KMN as an example.  From the snippets I posted yesterday, our evening looked all fun and happy and delicious.  Indeed, it was – but toward the end, it digressed into a Holly Therapy Session, when I had a small breakdown over my relationship with science.

You see, for those who are new(ish) here, I have a PhD in Biochemistry. I actually sort of adore science, and teaching/sharing/exploring/learning about science.  Experimental science can be a cruel master, but seeing proof of a never-before-known/considered/demonstrated phenomenon for the very first time affords its own kind of high.  So does wracking your brain to figure out why something isn’t working, then coming up with an elegant/clever/MacGyver-esque solution.  I love shooting the s–…errr, science, with other scientists, tossing around ideas, hypotheses, theories, and questions. I advocate for science and research whenever possible, and am thrilled when a “non-scientist” nods and asks a relevant questions after I explain what I study.  I am the child of two educators, and science is in my blood.

Unfortunately, my graduate school experience was less than stellar, in oh-so-many ways that we won’t belabor here. Let’s just say that science – and especially graduate school – can be a very humbling experience.  And for someone who’s placed a fair bit of her self-worth in her academic success, it can also be a degrading experience.  When all was said and done, and I finally defended my thesis, I felt three things: relieved, cynical, and just plain beaten-down.

That was when KMN and I took a bit of a sabbatical to do some traveling.  Then came a summer in LA before we moved out to Singapore in October.  For the last 2-3 months, I’ve been settling us in to Singapore (I’m seriously awesome at assembling IKEA furniture), preparing for the holidays (cookie making champ), prepping and launching a coaching business (lovin’ it), and “looking at but not touching” too many job postings for scientists.  [Don’t worry – no plans to leave the coaching realm any time soon.  I just don’t know if it’s a full-time job for me.]

I fully admit that I’m privileged to be able to take this time without a strong, steady income – all thanks to my incredibly hard-working husband.  This is time that most newly-minted PhDs don’t get, as grad school doesn’t allow one to amass much extra savings.  So, they run directly from PhD into the arms of a post-doc-dom.  For better – or worse – I’ve had some time to consider this at greater length and with some extra perspective.

But now, the time has come: I want back in to science.  Where?  Well, that’s much harder to answer.  Research still calls to me, but the academic system is broken, and I’m not sure that I have a long-term future there.  Teaching is a second option, but better in Singapore than the US, if you aren’t running a research program too.  There are other kinds of opportunities, to varying degrees, in industry and business.  What will be exciting, fulfilling, and provide long-term opportunities, in Singapore – and in the US, if/when we return?  And that’s about where I lose it – every single time.

I’m overwhelmed by possibilities, and afraid of making the wrong decision –  or maybe even the right one.  I’m afraid I won’t get hired, and I’m afraid that I will.   I’m afraid it will be the wrong job, that it won’t be a good fit, that it will be awesome but only on a 2 year grant, that it will cause me to resent science more, that I’ll love it but then we’ll move, that in 3 years I’ll be right back where I am now.  Sometimes, the possibilities, fears, and uncertainty of it all gets so overwhelming that I close the 16 zillion search windows on my computer and put my head down on my desk.  I suspect that this just means I’m normal.  But it doesn’t mean that I won’t sometimes lose it at the end of an otherwise lovely dinner date and end up with morning-after puffy eyes:

Holly with puffy eyes

Ugh.

Thankfully, my husband is a man of great patience.  In an attempt to inspire and refocus me, he turned to running analogies.  I don’t remember the examples that he used, but I hopped on his train of thought.  I thought back to the times when I was in Serious Training Mode, facing a really hard workout. Starting a few days before, I used to worry and stress and grow increasingly anxious about how – and if – I’d be able to finish the workout.  Finally, I’d had enough, so I made a deal with myself: I refused to give the workout any more power over me.  I refused to worry about it for days (or even hours) in advance.  I’d do my part – rest, eat, hydrate, pull on my sneakers – then, I’d give that workout all I had.  I wouldn’t let the worry rule my life – I’d bide my time, then look it in the eye, and kick its butt.

So that’s the plan, folks.  I’m making the decision to hold the doubts, fears, and uncertainties at bay as best I can.  I’m going to put my best foot forward (ha, ha), believe in myself, and explore where this path leads.  It might be hard or painful sometimes, but I know that handling those parts will make me stronger.  I will keep moving forward, one step at a time, with as much faith, confidence, and grace as I can muster.  Because really, the journey is what will prepare me for the destination.  

Running is the teacher.  I am the student.  Lessons abound.

Any tips for avoiding those puffy, morning-after eyes?

How about lessons learned in unexpected places?

12 thoughts on “More Than Just a Pretty Picture…

  1. Holly

    An *Oh too familiar* story, thanks for sharing, it perhaps makes me feel a little more normal :-). Science has led to many puffy eyed mornings for me as well. And I’ve had to stop looking at my workouts until the day of, otherwise I have far too much anxiety! Everything will work out, I’m sure of it!

    Reply
  2. K

    You’re definitely not alone in your fears and worries. This past year was an incredibly difficult one for me and I had a lot of setbacks and personal issues come all at once. I felt completely lost and that I had no control over anything. I am by no means “over it,” but I’ve sort-of learned to trust that there has to be something better to look forward to. I hope you can find peace in your decisions, whatever they may be, and know that (while it sounds cheesy and ridiculous) “everything happens for a reason.”

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      Thanks for sharing, K. It’s always encouraging to know that the isolation you feel in the middle of a breakdown is really artificial – there are lots of people who’ve been there, are there, and will be there.

      Many times, I have a sense of the right decision for me (intuition? subconscious? conscious?). But this one is totally baffling me. I really don’t know what’s best, and in true Type A fashion, I hate screwing up. But you’re absolutely right – nothing here is life/death, and no matter what, I’ll be sure to learn SOMETHING. 🙂

      Reply
  3. alf

    Cucumber slices are supposed to be great for the puffy eyes. Don’t know if it really works, but they can cool and refresh the eyes!

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      You know, when we were kids, after a summer day at the pool, we’d often come home with hurting, bloodshot eyes (from keeping them open in the chlorinated water for hours on end). Mom’s quick fix was to have us lie on the couch, with cucumbers on our eyelids. I’m also not sure it worked, but it shut us up for awhile! Will have to give this a try. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Candice

    I loathe puffy eyes.. try a warm washcloth on your eyes, it also helps me relax after the fact too.
    lessons learned in unexpected places all the time, that’s why we have them right?

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      Ah…also a good idea. I’ll have to try a cooling cucumber/warm washcloth double-team next time. Might help the clogged up sinus cavities, too. 🙂

      Reply
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