2012: Looking forward to major transitions, fun adventures

A New Year for new adventures! Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, Ondrejk.

For the past four years, I’ve kicked off the New Year knowing more or less what the next year was going to hold: I’ll be in the lab, working on my project, hoping for good data that will lead to papers that will lead me one step closer to graduation. But this year is different. My defense date is almost scheduled in March (waiting for one last professor to confirm), and in May, I will walk across a stage and receive my Ph.D. diploma. While this makes me extremely excited, it’s also bittersweet. It’s exciting, well, because the end of grad school means the start of something new—finally! But it’s also a tiny bit sad because, as much as I’ve complained about it, I’ve enjoyed being a grad student and have made some really great friends who I’m going to miss. I know those who are in the thick of grad school will beg to differ, but it’s a pretty sweet deal, being paid to get a degree and all. I’ve learned a ton, and although day to day I haven’t noticed it, I’ve grown a lot in five years. It can also be a bit frightening, if I let it be. When several years of your life are spent doing one thing, and one thing only (or mostly), it’s a little unsettling to not know what you’ll be doing in five months time. Despite all that, I’m more excited than scared. I’m looking forward to an adventure-filled 2012. I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions, but I am all about making a list of goals and dreams I hope to see fulfilled in the next year. Those two things may sound the same, but they don’t to me. It feels much less restrictive and more freeing to say, “Here are my dreams for the New Year” instead of, “Here are my New Year’s resolutions,” so that’s what I go with. Here's what I dream of accomplishing in the New Year: Be intentional and patient with myself as I grow as a reporter and a writer. As a child, I remember getting frustrated with myself when I saw older kids doing stuff I just wasn’t old enough to know how to do—like write in cursive, do algebra or ride without training wheels.

There's no need to get frustrated with training wheels when you're just starting out on a bike. Just keep practicing and you'll get better. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, Dawn Endico.

Sometimes I feel that way as a writer. I look around and see what other writers, who have 20 years of experience, are doing, and wonder why I’m not out there doing that. But that’s silly. And I know it is, but for some reason that’s how I’ve always approached life. In my frustration, I can start to doubt myself and my own abilities, and this can be crippling. So that’s why I dream of 2012 as a year of intentionality and patience in my pursuit to grow as a science journalist. Being intentional means I won’t shy away from opportunities. Being patient means I won’t beat myself up if I don’t land an internship or job that seemed perfect for me. It also means I won’t put myself down when I find myself struggling to be a master at a craft I’ve only just begun learning. I will keep at it, because that’s how I will grow. Get acquainted with the science writing community—and be myself. You hear it all the time and you probably get sick of hearing it, but networking is really important. But if you think of networking as strictly a means to an end (i.e. I need to network so that I can know people so that I can get a job someday), that makes it a burdensome and undesirable task. Instead, I like to think of networking as getting plugged in with a community of people who are passionate about the same things I’m passionate about. Now that sounds a lot more fun! As a first step in this direction, I’ll be attending the Science Online 2012 conference next weekend, which I’m super excited about! I’m looking forward to learning, meeting people, asking lots of questions and soaking in as much information as I can. It will be the start of new professional relationships, and maybe even new friendships—who knows? When I think about meeting successful science writers, or editors who have the ability to hire/not hire me, I’ll be honest: It makes me a little nervous.

If only it were this simple...

Reflecting on experiences from my younger years once again, I was one of those girls who got so nervous around guys I liked that I couldn’t just be myself. It caused me at best, to feel awkward, and at worst, to make a fool of myself. Well, I’ll admit it, that’s my fear about networking. Of course I want to leave a good impression on the people I meet, and start building relationships that will matter, but not at the cost of pretending to be someone I’m not. Any advice on how to overcome this? Reflecting on the New Year Writing this out has helped me solidify a bunch of ideas that have been floating around in my head for the past few weeks as I was reflecting on the upcoming year. Feels good to do that every now and then. Any other dreamers out there? Feel free to share what you’re looking forward to in 2012, or any advice you have for my transition from grad school into whatever lies ahead!

Author: Christine Herman

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