The government agency for which I work holds its employees responsible for at least two performance reviews per year: one is the “real” review, which forms the basis of promotions and awards. The other is a 6-month check up to see if the employee is on-track for meeting the performance goals that were established between the employee and his/her management in the previous year. While I really detest/dread these performance reviews — they take up an inordinate amount of preparation time — I have to admit that they do serve a useful purpose: they hold us measurably accountable for the things we promised we’d deliver. In that same spirit, I’ve now had 4 months to dig into my 2013 New Year Resolutions: What’s my score so far?
As a reminder, I had made 3 relatively “simple” resolutions, namely:
- Lose an average of 1.5 pounds per month.
- Take at least 6 trips over the next 12 months to places I’ve never been before.
- Get involved as a volunteer for at least 1 local charity.
I’ve decided to report out on my progress in the order of “the good, the bad, and the ugly”, so this first post will start out on a positive note — the outstanding progress I’ve made on Resolution #2! Progress (or errr, uhmm, lack thereof …) on the remaining resolutions will be fessed-up in future posts.
But first, some perspective: For my entire adult life, I’ve waged an internal battle between the strong desire to “enjoy life” (hobbies, travel, hiking, biking) versus an overwhelming awareness/guilt to completing the seemingly-endless numbers of projects that I’ve started. Some of these projects are house projects, but the things that really compete for my attention are all the half-written research papers that I still need to complete and get submitted for publication, not to mention the many gigabytes of astronomical data still laying around on my computer that needs to be processed and analyzed.
You see, the kind of job that I have isn’t one that exits out of my life each day at 5PM. I’m not complaining — I wouldn’t have things any other way — but this 24/7 career lifestyle does come at a personal price. Talk to any scientific researcher, and I’m sure they’ll all have the same story: we are constantly thinking about “work”. Maybe we’re obsessing over that bug in our data-analysis code that we just can’t quite put our finger on, or perhaps we’re wondering how on earth we’re going to be able to make the deadline for getting that grant proposal submitted. Or perhaps we’re feeling guilty about taking so long on getting a research paper submitted for publication, the one that our co-authors are really counting on because they are up for tenure review soon and need to include that paper as part of their own “progress” report.
The fact that I seriously suck at multi-tasking only adds to the problem. Forget about being able to walk and chew gum at the same time — I can’t even think and walk at the same time! For whatever reason, I require large contiguous blocks of time that are dedicated to working on just one single thing, in order to make real progress on anything that requires serious concentration and mental energy. The unfortunate reality of my job is that, on a good day in the office, I might have a “free” hour here and there, bracketed by meetings.
Given that my primary role is one of “management” and oversight, my lack of large blocks of “thinking” time would normally not be an issue. But my particular position is a bit more nuanced — my “scientist” job title requires that I groom and maintain the “research” aspect of my career, in spite of the management responsibilities. Because there isn’t sufficient time for me to pack in all of these somewhat-conflicting roles within an 8+ hour work day, the research part ends up getting done “after hours”. And therein lies the dilemma.
I don’t know if the “probable MS” diagnosis has actually helped motivate me, or perhaps it’s just a realization that “I ain’t getting any younger”, but I now do find myself putting a higher priority on the non-career aspects of my life: travel, broadening my life experiences, and making contributions in areas that aren’t related to career-advancing. So … what have I done with Resolution #2 over these past 4 months? Well …
- StarMan and I took extra time around a science conference to do a road trip to Long Beach, exploring the Pacific coast along the way. On the return leg, we took a different route to check out the Carrizo Plain National Monument. A previous post shows some pictures from this fun-filled trip.
- Shortly after returning from Long Beach, we tried our hand at cross-country skiing in Yosemite, and then explored some of the main attractions of the Park on the following day. Trip highlights included postcard-perfect waterfalls, and a visit by a curious and furry coyote! Pictures from this memorable trip are at the end of the post.
- We discovered the delightful Harvey-Bear Ranch Park, just a few miles down the road from where we live, and went for an 8-mile hike there. Highlights included free-range cows! Pictures follow at the end of the post.
- While visiting my parents in Ohio, we spent a large portion of that time hiking in some historically-interesting parks — I talked all about it, including pictures, in my previous post.
There are a couple of other planned future trips already “in the queue”, which will be the topic of future posts. Given that we are only 1/3rd though the year, and I’ve already done 4 trips, I think it is safe to say that I am getting a solid “A” in my progress towards meeting the “6 trips” resolution!
My next post won’t be about progress on the remaining resolutions, but about my next follow-up appointment with Dr.K, my primary neurologist. I have some anxiety regarding this appointment next week, as the main topic for discussion will be the results from the cognitive evaluation that I took last month, which I haven’t yet seen. I hope I scored as high on that test as I did on Resolution #2 progress! I also have some more MS-related questions for her which of course I will pass along, with the answers I get, in my next post.
Now to end with some nice pictures documenting our recent travels: