Four and a half years ago I wrote this post about my priorities and doing what was important to me at the time as a graduate student in the middle of her PhD. Fast forward to today, and I defended my PhD (over a year ago!) and have started a tenure track assistant professor position at Swarthmore College (hurray!). The last year has been a total whirlwind; I moved in early January 2018, turned in my thesis a few weeks later, and then started teaching about 4 days after that. I’ve been getting used to a new job, a new city, and just closed on a condo in December. It’s like jamming a whole ton of adulting all into one year.
Now that the dust is starting to settle a bit, I’m realizing that I don’t entirely know what I actually want to prioritize for the coming years (especially outside of work). All my energy had been focused on getting to the faculty position, and the last year I’ve been adjusting, but now I’m here and need to decide what I want the next stage of my life to look like holistically. On the one hand, I feel like I have so many options and possibilities; on the other, I feel like need to stay focused for the long haul to make a dent in the meaningful ways I aspire to. All the things that were on my “someday after grad school” list are now begging for attention and it’s overwhelming.
A major change about moving from grad school to a faculty position is the myriad of different tasks and roles one needs to juggle. For me, this includes research, teaching, service, and professional development. Then within each of those categories are different projects, courses, students to advise, recommendation letters to write, committees to sit on, etc. I finally caved and purchased an OmniFocus 3 license in a moment of overwhelm just to keep all the things in one place in a coherent manner.
One disappointing thing about the move and job transition was that it didn’t solve all my problems (shocking, I know). Many things that I thought would be improved by a change of pace and environment really did improve, but not everything. I still have a lot to work on and need to take the time to figure out who I want to be and what I want to do.
After mulling things over, I decided the best thing to do is come back to my previous posts and evaluate a new set of goals and priorities. My main categories from last time were self-improvement , meaningful work , and quality time with friends and family. I think I still value meaningful work and quality time with friends and family, but I want to re-frame “self-improvement” to “self-care.” Perfectionism is a big challenge for me, and I think that thinking about taking care of myself rather than trying to make myself “better” will contribute more positively to my well-being.
Within those categories, here’s some of my priorities and how they are going:
When it comes to self-care, I’ll divide this into mental health, physical health, and finances.
- Mental health: I’ve been working on trying to be nice to myself, instead of always pushing myself to be “better.” I do still want to do my best, but I’m trying to recognize the ways in pushing myself can be counterproductive. I’m also trying to think about things to do that help me recharge, and letting myself do things just for fun.
- Physical health: I walk a lot for work, but I haven’t otherwise picked up a regular exercise habit in several years, so I want to get back to that. I’ve been reasonably good at cooking for myself and want to keep that up and start bringing my lunches more often.
- Finances: I bought a condo! I also budget regularly and try to save money, which I’m mostly happy with. Once the dust settles, I want to re-evaluate how much I’m saving each month and make sure I’m saving a percentage of my income in line with my long term goals.
Almost all of my work right now is focused on my faculty job, which divides itself into a few categories:
- Research: I’m currently wrapping up all the papers, presentations, etc. that are primarily based on my PhD work and transitioning into all new work. I’m happy with my current project and direction (a continuation of my heart failure monitoring project from grad school).
- Teaching: I really enjoy teaching and it was a major reason to go into academia. I’ve been developing courses including embedded systems, and computer architecture, and next spring I’ll be teaching my first inclusive design course.
- Service: Swarthmore gives new faculty one year of service relief, but starting this upcoming semester I’ll be on our Maker Space committee. I also have a bunch of freshmen advisees I’ve been working with. I’m looking forward to learning more about the experiences of students using the Maker Space and our new students and supporting them.
- Development and Learning New Things: I’m learning so much in the areas already mentioned above, but I do want to prioritize learning new skills for fun or related to work in the new year if I have enough down time.
Quality time with friends and family
Moving to a new city has been a big change socially. I’ve been trying to find the balance between making and deepening new connections with staying in touch with family and friends in other cities.
- Making new connections: I’ve met tons of great colleagues already, and look forward to working and hanging out with them in the coming years. I’ve made fewer connections outside of Swarthmore, but I like the people I have gotten to know and I’m working on getting to know more people here and there. I’m hoping in the new year I’ll have more time to have a hobby or at least have people over at my new place.
- Staying in touch: I’ve never been particularly good at staying in touch with people I don’t see on a regular basis. I’m trying to stay in more regular contact with at least a few people, and because I travel back to Boston often maintaining some of those friendships has been a little easier. I’ve been working to identify the relationships that I value most and the frequency at which I’d like to be in contact with those people.
This past year has been a lot of personal development and growing all at once, but I think I’m coming out of it stronger. My goal for before the semester begins is to come up with more concrete goals and thoughts on how to balance all the different areas of focus I have (while maintaining my sanity and having a little fun too).