Monday, 7 January 2013

New year, new blog, New Year’s resolutions!

Well I was hoping to do a weekly blog but a few weeks before Christmas life just got completely crazy… work deadlines, some horrible lingering virus of nigh on a week of high temperatures & three weeks of sinus pain, and of course trying to sort Christmas presents!  The bug hit just before a NERC funding workshop, I was so feverish I just couldn’t force myself to go, which was pretty gutting.  But we also had a deadline for a report about ocean noise that week which I worked on from my sickbed (deadlines don’t move if you’re ill!).  I was actually grateful that the days I felt my worst were work days so I didn’t have my two daughters to look after, they were safely tucked away in nursery having fun.  Being ill and looking after young children is not much fun!!!

So suffice to say that the blog got abandoned as a low priority task.  But new year, new me!  ;)  New Year’s resolutions?  Well I am one of those types who like making New Year resolutions … though I can’t say I always keep them!  My fantastic sister of ultimate willpower managed to give up chocolate for a whole year but alas I wish I had her willpower!  But it’s nice to have goals… even if they hang over you like a dark cloud & say ‘look what you’re not achieving’, leaving you with that continuous guilt feeling (not selling it well am I?) ;)

So New Year’s resolutions to try this year:  well I always start with a fitness one.  This year I will run a half marathon (and do the training for it).  I attempted this one last year, and did fantastically for the first 3 months training (I was very chuffed with myself for keeping it up… though I was on maternity leave… so no work commitments), but then I sprained my ankle so badly that I was out of action for 6 months (how I did this is another story altogether – one involving remote walks with toddlers on my own on the Yorkshire Moors, an ambulance and very kind strangers).

Sad to say the rest of my New Year’s resolutions are work based.  Now that both girls are settling relatively easily each evening now, my primary New Year’s resolution is to work weekday evenings.  This is a sad but true necessity of being an academic… working 3 days a week during the office hours is simply not enough to keep up with an academic career.  There is a never-ending pile of work to do, and alas since I have returned to work from maternity leave in June I have not managed to write one new paper, simply because I’m fire fighting everything else & haven’t managed to put in the extra time for a variety of reasons.  So… evening working here I come… yippee! (?)

Onto my next New Year’s resolution: to write at least 3 new first author papers (& submit!) within 2013.  Hoping this is reasonable at 3 days a week… I have one started (more analysis to do), another one analysis in progress but no paper outline as yet, and one is an idea un-started & data looking at me and taunting me (looking forward to it but need to get the other two out of the way first!). It’s on my blog so I’m committed now ;)

The other work New Year’s resolution is to raise my work profile J  Will keep up the tweeting (I am a twitter addict now, I don’t think this will be a problem!) & blogging, adding in some ‘fascinating science’ themed blogs.  But also I will try to combat my fear of raising my profile & sign up to The Women’s Room.  The Women’s Room is trying to re-balance the media bias towards men as expert representatives in their fields, by providing a central resource of women experts in their fields.  I have shied away from the media in the past because I have always felt like I would say the wrong thing. Always afraid that I will say something that is completely wrong, and have fellow experts in the field gaffaw and write me off as a scientist.  Basically in the words of Alienor Chauvenet in her blog post I suffer from imposter syndrome. So I’m going to fluff up my feathers like a bird preparing for a battle, and get out there and be confident & shout about myself ;)  Ok maybe not quite that bold, but I will try to be better at self-promotion – through Twitter, my blog, and use many of the other tools out there to raise my profile online (linkedIn, ResearcherID, etc.)… and not shy away from media coverage.

A new category for me this year is a ‘green’ New Year’s resolution was prompted by @HuffPostGreen to have a green eco-friendly NewYear’s resolution for 2013.  I ummed and ahhhed over this one… ‘eat less meat’ was a good idea but as ex-vegetarians we still eat very little meat, ‘have shorter showers’ was one option for saving more water, but I was a bit reluctant to have shorter showers – one of my few luxuries as a parent is my quiet time in the shower ;)  And anyway a couple of years ago I decided I’d rather have fewer showers than shorter ones (call me grubby if you like!).  So I settled on ‘consume less & only buy essential items’.  This was prompted by another @HuffPostGreen post about consuming less.  We consume resources at too high a rate for it to be sustainable, and I believe it is our addiction to consumption & ‘growth’ that is the real problem behind climate change, the wobbly economy, etc. So the article echoed the thoughts I have had for years. We, as individuals, and as a society need to learn to survive on a LOT less.  And to be honest I don’t believe we need to buy so much to be happy.  Live simple, be happy J So this year I will try to consume less only buy ‘necessary’ items (or things that have a smaller impact on the environment).  I’m not sure it’ll be as easy as it sounds… we are already thinking of a new sofa because ours is lumpy & looks like something out of a student house, and replace the bed with a sofa-bed to make more space in our spare bedroom.  When really we have a perfectly functional sofa & bed!  Hmmm.  Will keep you posted on progress ;)

My final resolution is just simply plagiarised from @rachnp89’s New Year’s resolution (check out her blog post here) – to ‘maintain a sense of wonder’.  It is so easy to just get bogged down in endless work, keeping up with demanding toddlers, keeping up with chores, that it is easy to lose perspective and feel a bit lost and bewildered (& stressed) by life.  In work life it is easy to lose sight of why you chose the career in the first place: a love of the subject… for me biology.  When I started out in biology I had a sense of wonder about every new thing I learnt… who knew that mychorrizal fungi formed a network of interactions between trees in a forest providing the trees with nutrients and gaining food in return – how cool is that? I was continuously amazed and excited by the new world I was delving into.  Darwin’s finches were a revelation, I even loved learning about molecular pathways in molecular biology, it was biological mathematics… fun!  These days I can feel that wonder less because it’s easy to get bogged down in too much detail.  I am going to plagiarise Rachael’s blog again here by quoting her quote from David Foster Wallace:

Probably the most dangerous thing about an academic education, at least in my own case, is that it enables my tendency to over-intellectualize stuff, to get lost in abstract thinking instead of simply paying attention to what's going on in front of me...

... the real value of a real education ... has nothing to do with grades or degrees and everything to do with simple awareness - awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over: "This is water.""This is water."

So this year I am going to remember to take delight in the small things… in my science, but also in the everyday things – little moments of joy from being a parent (like my daughter running away from the waves on the beach yesterday… not just the delight on her face but the wonderful misty drizzle over the sea giving the landscape a mystical calm feel), smiles from strangers on the street, and just to delight in nature like I used to – hearing birds sing, jumping in puddles, watching snails explore...

Which New Year’s resolution am I most looking forward to?  Definitely this last one, it’s a great counterbalance against a hectic life, especially one where we are continuously bombarded by bad news. 

So here’s to a wondrous 2013!


  1. Hi Clare - this is a really inspiring post, although I feel a little sad that you have to make a resolution to work weekday evenings...but also amazing that you are appreciating the 'little moments of joy' as you so eloquently put it. Not so little. really! - delighting in your daughter and the people you meet. Watching David Attenborough recently (Africa - what an amazing series) reminded me about what we are working for. People, conservation, together.

  2. Fantastic blog Clare! I am not a scientist or a parent but I still find this inspiring! Best wishes for the year ahead.