Thinking out loud while "changing my thinking"

in Him


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Change… the inevitable

Throughout the course of my 3 decades plus of life, I have come to a few conclusions.

Conclusion #1 – “Home” is a fleeting concept.

Yes, I have heard the statement, home is where the heart is… or at least where your family is… but what if your heart longs for something that is not present in a specific location and/or within the connectedness of a group of people?

A few years ago, I felt Gainesville was my home. I was familiar with it… I had people there I considered family…friendships…and some sense of belonging…BUT that drastically changed over the last few years that I resided there. Many connections dissolved while others got ignited. The sense of being a part of something… or maybe it was the sense of feeling relevant faded. I found myself pretty isolated and more so in a routine of social excursions, role playing, mundane lab work (thank God that is over)… all of which was becoming less stimulating over time. The pockets of adventure i marinated in, lay in self-created spontaneity and in the ways God included me in what He was up to.  I found these adventures were what kept me going in the midst of my sorting through the fact that my “home” was once again dissipating.

Conclusion #2 – Children have it made.

Lately, I have found myself looking at kids and just admiring the time of innocence they get to bask in unknowingly. Though circumstances can vary drastically… in general, most of the kids I see around are in a safety net. They are nurtured and cared for by a parent or parents or group of family members. They imagine a world that is fed to them through story books, cartoons, etc… they are content in just being able to run with the wind and collapse into a pile of snow (which would typically be dirt)… and they recover quickly from the little disappointments they experience, like not being able to get another piece of cake.

It is simple in those early years of life. Rarely are they clothed in insecurity, thoughts, or states of confusion…not being sure who they are or what’s expected of them…they don’t need little ego boosts nor some self-fulfilling satisfaction in “feeling like” they have reached some new level of confidence…

They are just free and curious…and naturally growing.

Conclusion #3 – Accepting change is hard.

Considering how much change I have lived through… this conclusion for me is a little more of a shocker. But accepting change is hard. Even yesterday as I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed, I could not help but think, wow… I was once really close to that person… we stood in a parking lot praying that she would have no more miscarriages and for her unborn children that we hoped for…and now she has them… OR in another case, we shared some really intimate moments of vulnerability. So many relationships that at one time were regular hangouts… and invitations to events… which are now distant and cold. And though I have always been okay with the evolution of relationships… there have always been the few that I thought would remain.

But that is not reality. Even now, some have slipped into their own unique state of “where is this going?”

Aside from relationally, I find myself also still adjusting to living in a new city. Ironically, I was truly relieved to return “home” after the wedding and fun honeymoon period. Having left for so many weeks, I was glad to be back in my territory. But till this day, I am yet to know where I can get my hair done or a once in a blue moon pedicure…i do not have a “trusted” mechanic…not sure where to get certain necessities…have not discovered the hidden treasures nor the hot spots…basically not feeling like I have fully acclimated to the city I live in. And with my job consuming so much of my time, I find myself more in a state of wanting to rest versus my normal, uncontainable desire to explore.

Conclusion #4 – Learning should be embraced.

As much as I complain about how much I have to study and prepare for lectures… and feel the stress of the “imposter syndrome” etc…I find that I actually enjoy learning. The biggest challenge I face is the sense of performing that I am plagued with every single day. The pressure… the anticipation… the unknown detours that come in the form of well thought out questions and challenges to what is being taught… they are all quite overwhelming…with few hits and many misses BUT… they certainly keep me on my toes and force me to engage more with the material… to think and question. The real frustration is in not always being able to find the answer and not having a safe, professional resource to turn to. Other than that, I feel stimulated in the moments that I am learning.

This same stimulation comes in recognizing growth spurts and “fatal flaws”… though the latter takes a moment to accept. As I watch myself take on various types of dynamics in my student-teacher vs mentor-mentee relationships, familial relationships, etc… there seems to be a constant state of transition that I am certainly an observer in. Yet I am learning more about myself, and others along the way.

I think at the end of it all, I am thankful that God has been with me every step of the way… He has never left my side… through heartaches, loneliness and sweeping fits of joy…. No matter the situation…my reassurance has rested in the fact that I know He is faithful, He is consistent, He is present and He brought me to this point… even though I trod along unsure of what this may evolve into.

Many things are being redefined at this point…there is part of me that is anxious about the inevitable changes but there is a part of me that anticipates the shift and hopes.

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Ground zero

I was just on the way to a rusty but decent post… then I chose to multitask …aka update java…and lost it all. Ugh!!!

It’s been at least 7 or 8 months since I last wrote a post and boy does it feel foreign at the moment. So many thoughts swirling through my mind… things that have been left untouched, some partially processed… and I think I’m slowly reaching the point where I would like to document them but I hesitate… where do I begin? What should I share and how much? Same old questions.

2014 was an eventful year. In fact, many will label it as a blessed year for me. Between securing a job, finishing grad school, engagement, survival summer job, moving up north to teach, and marriage! PHEW… but why am I not jumping up and down in excitement over all the changes?

Don’t get me wrong, I am basking in the “honeymoon phase” of being a newly wed…between the natural pleasures of being with someone I love and the effortless companionship…I am also still procrastinating, therefore have not plunged into the intense work mode that I am about to face for the semester (still vacationing)… yet…I’m very sober and very calm.

It’s like I’ve taken a leap away from all the factors of my life that swiftly knock me off my feet and cause me to run the hamster wheel, and somehow I am just enjoying the simplicity of present moments. The little tensions of miscommunications that quickly dissolve into expression and understanding. The laughter as smells filter through rooms (don’t ask). The silent moments where He gently nudges me to awareness. Pockets of hope in facing a new set of challenges for the semester that is about to begin. My focus has definitely shifted. But even though in my head I am thankful for everything… its like I am recovering from all the stress, anxiety, tensions, demands, voluminous highs and dreadful lows of last year… and now its time to reset and begin to let everything sink in. It’s time to slowly and steadily, take it all in…

This weird delay and shift in focus is new for me…and I’m curious to see where it leads.


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Things to be grateful for

The procedure has been completed.

If you have ever heard the expression “shot-gun wedding”… today was my shot-gun dental surgery.

Contrary to my earlier post, my endodontist decided to drive back from his other home (1.5 hours away) after receiving my tear filled page at 4 am this morning. I fought to manage my pain..  but nothing..  literally nothing was pacifying it. 2 percocets, 3500 mg of ibuprofen and on my way to refill ice for the 6th time…I broke out in heaving sobs by my dining table.

Oddly enough, as if Angel (my cat) knew I was in pain..she no longer ran ahead for my attention…she stopped, turned and watched me. The pain was overwhelming.

I prayed for relief. I could no longer sit and read online blogs while holding an ice pack to my face because I was starting to see spots…Half sitting up, I curled over the ice pack/towel/pillow set up I devised. Laying in the dark only aware that I was in pain…and that no one was there. (Interesting how in the midst of suffering we become very aware of being alone)

By 7 am…my prayers were answered. Despite aching pain… everything seemingly surreal…a soothing occurred that enabled me to sleep for a couple of hours.

By the time I woke up…I had missed two calls from him…letting me know he was on his way etc…

As I had suspected…though my cheeks are chubby… one side was swollen due to infection and he could tell just by touching it.

Not all the tissue had been cleaned out during the root canal procedure I underwent 2 weeks ago, so it caused the infection from the abscess to fester. As he drilled in…he exclaimed that fluids were gushing out and how I should feel relief from the pressure… and bear with the taste.

Taste?

Forget taste… for me the idea of infection fluid rolling around my mouth and possibly getting swallowed was way worse than the thought of a nasty taste.
To finish it off…he began using a scraper to dig into my gums warning me that I would feel it..but that it was necessary in order for fluids to be drained etc.

He also shaved my tooth down since the infection had caused it to loosen, leading to collisions with my upper teeth.

I now have a hole in my gums, a hole in my tooth and more pills to ingest.

All this being said, I have decided there are things to be thankful for:

Thank You for him deciding to inconvenience himself for my sake.

Thank You for the problem being identified.

Thank You that my tooth could be saved.

Thank You that the infection was caught before spreading to my blood stream.

Thank You that the pain became so unbearable, I did not continue to “tough it out”.

Thank You for relief and for the possibility that I will be able to sleep through the night again.

And there are more… but for now, I will rest.

 

 


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Another tortuous night

Once again, I am giving up on trying to sleep.

Having dozed off multiple times, only to be re-awakened by the nagging pain… and/or from the dripping of ice melting down the side of my face… I just can’t take it anymore.

It’s another dental work gone doubly wrong.

The result of the over ambitious young’un who decided to drill so close to my pulp when filling with amalgam…= development of an abscessed tooth.  Once again, a situation of neglect and failure to listen when I reported having abnormal sensations and pains on my lower right gum/jaw… being told “oh, these things take a while to heal”… rather than investigating the source.

Found out 13 days ago, that the tooth now needed a root canal. But to make all this worse… after being in tears on the plane ride to Denver… after nights…just like this one… of waking up at 2 or 3 am… or not being able to sleep till such odd hours despite popping several hundred milligrams of ibuprofen… It appears the root canal was not done properly. SMH.

What is it going to take to get the right care? How many times must I be crippled with this suffering?

I have taken Percocet and at least 2000 mg of ibuprofen…I have gone through 3 wrappings of ice to help sooth… and when I finally felt the sweetness of sleep hit me… the stabbing became unbearable…sigh.

The response of the endodontist when I had him paged today…

Endo: “Does it hurt when you bite down?”

Me: “Yes

Endo: “Don’t you normally take a while to heal?”

Me: “No, this is different.. the pain is getting worse daily”

Endo: “So you feel pain when you bite down?”

Me: “Yes… it’s really painful.. it typically starts off feeling sore and uncomfortable, achy… then becomes a throbbing pain… progressively spreads through my lower jaw… then my inner ear.. then the temple of my head etc..”

Endo: “Hm. Maybe some tissue got left in there… so do you have more pills or you want me to call in some more for you?”

Me: “I’m sure I have some but I just…”

Endo: “Is your face swollen?”

Me: “Umm.. I don’t know.. doesn’t seem…”

Endo: “Well, do you want me to call in more or you got enough to wait till monday?”

Me: “I have enough..”

Endo: “Okay well I’ll get you in at 7:30 am monday and we will fix the problem… be there on time.. I’m coming in early for you..(etc)

Me: “I’ll be on time..”

(etc)

As I get off the phone… all I can think is…seriously? Because my face hasn’t blown up.. and I have enough prescribed pain pills.. I must continue to suffer till it’s convenient? And coming in early for me?… My original appointment was 8 am anyway… so how much earlier is 30 minutes? SMH.

There was a time, when people in medical fields actual cared about their patients well-being. Am I missing something?


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What they don’t tell you about graduate school

So this has been a long time coming. As I sit here, slowly getting drowsy and maybe a little high from my good ol’ perky (yes, an unexpected root canal has led me to more scripts … smh). I am reflecting on what is an almost 9 year journey and counting. 9 years!!!

If the people who knew me now, knew me back then… they would have never guessed that I, of all people, would still be lingering in graduate school. I could never have guessed it myself. I had a plan… and I knew where I was going.

My freshman year in undergrad, I discovered I was not as dumb as I thought. Unlike high school where I made the full spectrum of grades, I found myself “excelling” in my classes… well, in all but the ones I hated… For example: Dr Prigg’s english class – where you got locked out if you arrived when class started, also known as the hardest english course, though introductory. Linear algebra – which back then, seemed to have no purpose, but now I regret not paying attention. And essentially all the other elective courses that did not stimulate my critical thinking skills in any way.

With time, teachers were giving me extra assignments to keep me engaged, were allowing me to skip final exams because they knew I would ace them, especially my math courses. By the time I graduated, I was off to Finland, for my second international research internship and had a 3.8_ GPA. Not perfect, but pretty decent considering my background.

The whole time, I was convinced by multiple professors that grad school was the route for me, because I was able to think… and would succeed at it.

I was excited. It seemed like a match made in heaven… spending years, receiving a modest stipend to be a student, getting to work on/solve real life problems. To be able to learn and apply that knowledge to something tangible… yes, It sounded like a dream. I would never be bored, after all I loved chemistry for that very reason… it challenged me.

However, the challenges I have experienced through my graduate career… were not what I anticipated…nor was I warned about them.

1) I’ll start by saying, graduate school is NOT academically hard… it is mentally hard.

When people are selling it to you, they do not tell you that you can no longer rely on having rewarding milestones to make you feel like your accomplishing something. There are a limited number of courses you will take…so you quickly realize, no one is really that concerned with grades. That mentality might as well go out the window. There is no pat on the back…

2) Your research advisor, principal investigator (PI), boss, aka head honcho mentor… can make or break your career in a single sweep or the slow and steady decline….or even the prolonged “long and winding” road journey to the finish line.

My 9 years… has been a combination of ALL of … LOL. I have no clue what category to fit it in.

2.5 yrs was spent with one boss who trapped me into a project he loved and i did not…another 2.5 was spent with a boss who got fed up with my lack of motivation, due to working on a project that was a dead-end… and now the past 3 years (well technically 2 of actual productive work), has been spent with the best mentors I have encountered so far…and I am finally closer to the finish line.. but also pretty burnt out.

3) Though your co-workers can not truly determine your career… they can make that journey dreadfully painful.. or the most enriching tale of friendships and support you will encounter!

I have experienced both…between a group that was united in friendship, laughter, potlucks, tears, tragedies…etc… and a group where within the first 1.5 years of my joining, the tension was so thick that when you walked into a meeting, you gasped as you entered the room.

But in each case, you come to realize the significance of collaborating… learning to be flexible and adjusting… coming to appreciate the good that exists in even the most conniving of characters. You also learn to respect people regardless of how you feel or how they act… basically to make the most of the experience because you will be with these people for at least 3 to 6 (or so) years of your life.

If you find yourself in a “the world is coming to an end mentality” aka severely struggling to cope, you will probably realize some maturing has to occur on your part…

4) Research takes PATIENCE and truly changing your thinking.

It really does not matter how smart you are…how driven and self-motivated you are… RARELY will you stumble on miracle results that earn you that instant gratification of publication worthy stories. Which means, you have to set you mind up for the training ground of ENDURANCE. There will be failures, hits and misses, subtle or abrasive condescension, competition, bitter battles with that sense of defeat, spurts of basking in your productivity…secretly hoping it won’t go unrecognized aka pat on the back moment lol. All of these lead to pretty intense emotional responses…which brings me to

5) Let’s be real… no matter how independent you consider yourself…you NEED support.

There is no going solo on this journey… there are days you may find yourself crippled… in need of just a little human interaction… love… something that brings life to the dry, dead bones caused by constant staying afloat in quick sand.

For me….God, the numerous people he has placed in my life whether for short periods or long-term, family (with all the imperfections), activities I take part in which I love (ex singing, hanging, travelling, etc), and those times of spontaneity where I chose to go against fulfilling the daily demands of this worker bee society, and just rest/live…have been key in coming this far.

IF someone were to ask me to do this journey all over again… I would say “Hecks naw!”
But I would not oppose re-doing it with a more realistic view of what grad school really entails…and making wiser choices a lot faster.

So to those who are considering it… talk to people who will be honest with you about the journey. People who will be deliberate in sharing the success and failure stories over trying to seem so intellectually superior and/or act like they have everything together…to preserve the facade of how perfect their lives are.

Be ready for an experience like none other… a true challenge and test of character. And make the decision, right from the start… and every single day… that you will not let the system or anyone else define you and what you can accomplish… that you will be honest with yourself as you learn or re-discover what your passionate about or not so passionate about… that you are the person, people can trust. Make someone elses journey just a little brighter along the way…recognizing that though research may have a global impact in the direction of science and/or products created for the masses or maybe more small-scale… the impact of what you do to another living soul, counts on an eternal level.

As I write this blog, I realize these are things I would have liked to know and/or tell myself before I began. Either way, today I can say I am grateful to be a little more aware and closer to the end.

(If only I could be inspired to write my dissertation so fluidly)


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Respect for the Arts

Despite a long, busy and draining week…and despite sincere attempts to keep my friday night free of commitments (aka obligations).. I found myself leaving a recording studio at almost midnight. WOW I am worn out!

Considering this is my first time EVER being in a real recording studio, the experience was exhilarating, stimulating and HARD! I have a new level of respect for what artists do, both on the front end and behind the scenes (sound workers, etc).

A few days ago I was told that our worship team pianist was ready to finish recording his song “I will declare”… and was a little surprised because I really did not think it would happen when he mentioned it months ago. So when I was asked if I could be available sunday, I said “sure.”

Then tonight, I get a call from a random number, shortly after eating my dinner, and discovered the only possible time for us record was tonight or saturday morning… so with hesitation, I called back and agreed to come in tonight… especially after I discovered where the studio was located.

I absolutely LOVED the vibe. Chill, well decorated, and you could tell, there was history… if only the walls could share their stories.

But my excitement rapidly faded as I heard and saw myself (literal outer body experience).. struggle to sing small excerpts of the song. I felt my throat tighten up… and found it difficult to even project… considering I am one of the loudest singers on our team, this is pretty insane…

I felt the pressure… the pressure to get it right, to not torture the sound technician and composer of this piece.. I felt the pressure as they whispered and told me to listen and re-record multiple times… the pressure of just not being good enough. Where was all this coming from?

Notes were off, voice cracking, mouth getting dry… you name it. We spent about 2 hours with me just singing sections over and over.. and practicing by the piano, going back to square one… and each time I sang… i thought to myself, man, you sound terrible….at least through the strange echoing I heard through the headset and microphone.

At the end of the day, I knew the other 2 guys and the other girl (who will be recording tomorrow), were much more experienced and better than me vocally.. and I was just worried the composer (aka lead vocalist) was going to regret asking me to do this.

Ironically, I was not nervous, but the pressure was actually shaking my confidence and causing me to hold back on belting vs oscillating vs filling out my tones, where needed.

After multiple takes, the lead finally gave me the “it’s a wrap” and asked me to come into the sound room to hear it…. and crazy enough, it sounded WAY better, even before polishing, than what I heard through the headset. By the time he included the other male vocals and instruments.. I was like WOW.. it was like magic. Though I still know there are ways I could have improved had I been more relaxed, I think it was actually decent.

That being said, I give props to the artists who go through all this just to put out singles and/or albums of songs… the job is certainly not easy. On a side thought, I want to do this again… hmm.