Thursday, February 26, 2009


"It's amazing what you miss," I replied when a colleague noted he hadn't known it rained all day. We emerged from the building after 9:30 and began walking through the empty parking spaces toward our cars. I thanked him again before climbing in my Jeep and pulling the seat belt around me.

I admired the way the lights reflected off the wet pavement as I made my way home. I had driven in during the rain, coming in late since I knew I'd be unlikely to leave before 10. So I savored being ahead of schedule as I tried to relax out of the day.

Remembering a (very) few nights spent late during my post-doc, I smiled. I had been rabidly impatient, I recalled, as I waited for Friend to finish up whatever stupid project held her attention. I would finish all the feeds in my reader, write a blog post, organize any and all email. I would try to read papers or analyze data or write something. But I would mostly sit, miserably bored and even more irritated, and endure until I could leave.

In contrast, I sat today in a larger office containing many of the same items that were arranged on my post-doctoral desk. I worked steadily, focused and happy. I answered email and planned additional travel. I worked on slides and revised documents. I checked items off a list I could never complete and jumped when my phone vibrated against my hip. It always surprises me, that tickle of awareness when someone calls.

"Hey!" I offered before listening for a moment.

"Yay!" I rhymed when being told the experiments were complete. "I'll be right there." I looked around as I moved briskly down the carpeted hallway. The overhead lights had flickered off at some point. I'd failed to notice as I sat in my office but glanced around the relative darkness before moving across the lobby and into the lab space.

I glanced through data and approved results before editing a final report.

"Go home," I ordered the group who had remained. "This is amazing - thank you for your help." I smiled and checked a couple more variables before returning to my office to pack up. I pulled into my garage, mind filled with calls to make, emails to send and items to add to the unending list. After flipping off the lights and nudging the car into park, I reached for my bag before pausing.

I like my job. I feel useful. I admire and enjoy my colleagues. But I recognize the need for balance. "I'm flexing," I told Adam when he asked where I was this morning. "Since I'm working late, I'm coming in late." Realizing that I'm happier when I place reasonable limits around my career, I walked into the house empty handed. So while I'm tired and not overly eager to show up at 8AM tomorrow morning, I feel like I'm making progress.

It feels a lot like stepping from the office and into a brisk evening after it's rained all day. Breathing in the fresh air and feeling peaceful and pleased. It was a good day - not perfect, but very good.

1 comment:

Amanda@Lady Scientist said...

You sound much happier than your last few posts. I'm so glad that you've found a way to set limits and get some balance!

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