Saturday, May 19, 2007

Staying home

I missed the very first conference I could have attended. I wasn’t able to pull an abstract together between by start date in May and the deadline in November. So the following May found me dogsitting for Carrie while she and her husband traveled with our research group to Hawaii. That’s right – Honolulu. And I stayed home, not by choice, but because I wasn’t invited. It continues to stick in my mind that the females in group all – without exception – missed their first conference opportunity. The males – again, without exception – attended each and every confidence available to them. But that’s not really my point.

Since then, I have happily packed my bags and a poster tube – even when presenting talks, I had poster sessions – and headed off to some new city to explore. I like conferences. I see them, in fact, as one of the perks of doing research. Congregating to listen and learn and network – I find it all quite wonderful. And when else can one finish a thesis while watching the ocean on South Beach? Or take pictures in temple gardens before giving a talk in Japan? Look down on a city from the tallest tower and drink wine, all the while hoping you don’t catch SARS? Embrace the cloudiness and history in the UK? Drink coffee from Starbucks located on each block while frowning that Seattle is much hillier than I expected?

This November, I had no data. I recycled graduate material for last year’s conference, tromping to Seattle before flitting off to Hawaii to spend time with M. But I learned very little, choosing to hide in my hotel room and wonder what was wrong with my pseudo-relationship with someone I met online. Not such good times. I’m also very isolated within my group of peers, not sharing an office (or building for that matter) with people who would attend this big conference. So the urge to pull something together and battle the online submission system never arose.

I have, however, waited patiently for the regret to swamp me. To say that I missed a chance to go to Europe! To sadly watch as posters were printed and talks rehearsed, flight reservations confirmed and rides to the airport arranged.

“I decided not to go this year.” I reported to people as they asked. “I didn’t have much data, so I’d rather hang around hope to recruit patients. And there’s a smaller conference closer to home in June.”

Today is when most of my researchy friends are departing for Germany. I blinked in surprise when Boss mentioned he’d be out all next week. The calendars for our toys are booked by folks outside my niche, other than me. I will collect patient data next week and count the time spent here at home as a good decision. I don’t feel up for dealing with international travel, though I do enjoy it. I continue to be surprised that I’m not at least sort of jealous – and maybe I will be when I see photos – but am content to be planning a weekend of mowing my lawn and writing my novel rather than making my way around the world.

Perhaps part of it is that I’m looking at a very busy June. M – my bestest friend from graduate school – will arrive on June 4 and stay with me that week. She has yet to meet Chienne since I’ve traveled to see her in the past years (she lives in Hawaii – it makes more sense to go there). So I’ll show her around my current city. We’ll get massages and take a road trip (I’m thinking Biltmore.) and eat and talk and laugh. When she leaves, I’ll head north to drop off Chienne and Sprout with my folks, then continue on to Chicago.

I love Chicago – it was where we took weekend trips when I was growing up, so it continues to bring this nifty excitement and joy for me. I tend to connect through O’Hare whenever possible (I know – weird – but I’ve had good luck there) since I like being close to Chicago somehow. I’ll meet Carrie at O’Hare and we’ll share a room for the following week, making fun of presenters, sitting side by side with our laptops, finding restaurants my picky friend will enjoy and perhaps talking about a bit of work.

After she heads back home, I’ll grab my car and head just a touch north to where Elle and Tom have their apartment. They get me for the weekend and we’re planning on exploring their neighborhood since I’ll have already spent several days in the city. It’s eclectic and hip up there – I always feel a bit out of place – but I love seeing my wonderful friend from college look so at home and happy. I’m hoping to stop by Rachel’s house on my way home from seeing Elle.

The eager anticipation I experience when thinking about June is more than enough to keep me content with being home right now. I’ll work and prepare for my weeks of friends and travel and wish my colleagues well.

There are few things that keep me happier today than looking forward to tomorrow. Which probably means that to make my weeks more productive and content, I need to plan better weekends. But for now, I’m off to mow the jungle that is my lawn. I’m surprisingly pleased with that for now.


saxifraga said...

Sounds like you have some nice times ahead of you. I also consider conference travel one of the perks of a research career, but I think the novelty wears off after a while when we develop a better sense of which conferences are really important and which are not. Earlier this say I decided to not submit anything for a conference in a central asian country I've been dying to go to. A combination of a less than superb program and bad timing for me personally made it easy to decide against it. I think it was the right decision but it sometimes surprises me that I've lost that original feeling of "must go everywhere".

Lucy said...

Your travel plans sound more fun than going somewhere you don't know anyone, even if it is in a cool foreign country.
Planning fun things for weekends sounds like a good idea to me, too.

The Contessa said...

I only get to travel to really cool places like Topeka Kansas or Tampa ( which is OK only not in August which is when they tend to send me OR in January when it's colder there thann in the NE!).

I think you have some nice things to loo forward to in the coming weeks.

Missed reading your blog - sorry I've been away from blog reading and playing catchup now....

Estrella said...

Biltmore and Chicago. Makes me want to go on a road trip too. The only road-tripping I have planned for this summer is solo driving, not nearly as fun as traveling with a friend! I do hope you enjoy visiting with your friend when she arrives.

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