Existence, Humor, Philosophy, Problems to Solve, Prose, Thinking, Writing

Is this burn out?

I awoke to the hollow clang of an empty gas tank.

Too much. Can’t focus. 

This feeling of just-let-me-sleep-more always catches me off guard. I don’t expect it when it hits me. I suppose it’s nice that I can write it down here. Not a complaint, but a mere exhalation of life onto a page.

I like how I can find metaphors from everything around me to describe my experiences. I’m climbing a hill, or crawling through a dark underground hole–and you know what I’m talking about. I’m burned-out and slogging along through the mud trying to finish the simple daily tasks beset in front of me, that only yesterday seemed trivial.

Funny thing is, I know tomorrow or even 5 minutes from now, I’ll have the fire again. I don’t know where it comes from: inspiration. An intake of air that propels you forward through the day, the minutes and seconds of experience.

So I patiently wait for it, inspiring oxygen (the non-metaphorical kind), and doing what needs to be done through habit. The emotion and drive behind it, a simple twitch of muscle.

I’m an academic….maybe it’s mental fatigue. If I dig through my ear canals, I may find soot and ash. I drove this car fast and hard. Time to park this vehicle I drive in my head on a parking lot in a fancy exotic place. My bed sounds nice.

But really, I suppose it’s not burn-out. I’m stable on solid ground. I just want to do something different. So many of the same tasks ahead of me. Done that, been there. Tedium. I’ve lost the thrill.

Yet, I know, I’ve heard some wisdom on this:

“Let the thrill go — let it die away — go on through that period of death into the quieter interest and happiness that follow — and you will find you are living in a world of new thrills all the time.” C.S. Lewis wrote.


Academia, Existence, Missions, Philosophy, Problems to Solve, Prose, Storm, Thinking, Wisdom

A Day Off

I’ve slowed down my blogging to focus on priorities in my work schedule. I’m preparing to write a grant and rearing to dive into a new project. Also had a few projects end nicely with publishable results. So in all, April has been a perfect storm of activity.

I sit right in the middle of the eye of it right now.

Calm, but swirly, if I can call it that. That’s how I feel. Whew. Someone once said to me that “…in life, you’re either coming out of a storm, in a storm, or about to enter a storm.”

Brilliant. A bit cynical, but ingenious and true. So, I think I’m somewhere in the exiting part of it.

That in itself deserves a kind of celebration, a day off, and thank goodness I really did get a cold yesterday–had an extra, extra excuse to take a day off. A day off to think, to ponder, to reflect, to gather myself up again; gain those steely eyes and the rock solid determination to slap the next project in the face and find out what’s going on in this nasty disease we call neuropathic pain and spasticity.

My day off… I think I’ll take another one tomorrow. It’s Good Friday, for realz.

Compassion, Existence, Faith, Philosophy, Prose, Thinking, Wisdom, Writing

A Reflected Creator

Another day in the life of a neuroscientist. I’m sick with a cold. A viral infection that’s on extended vacation inside my body. How often do we get an illness and not realize that these battles within us are life-or-death.

Life for us, death for the pathogen.

This physical realm we live in is full of dangers and mortal threats. Our resilience as flesh and blood is only our ability to cope with these threats. The cells in our bodies regenerate. The immune system adapts to new invaders.

It’s war.

Then, there’s the psychological warfare with have within ourselves (ugh). This unrestrained need to survive and build ourselves up with emotional walls of stone and mortar. We are rocks unto ourselves with the single goal of making sure we aren’t ground into sand.

If all this strife is true, constant and never-ending, then kindly wake me up because this world sucks in reality.

No wonder I dream. No surprise I love stories and movies and all manner of created fictions. These fantastic tales and higher purposes we look up to are amazing and required for us to feel safe and secure.

As I am hungry, I search for food. If I am thirsty, I find drink. If I am sad, I find a friend. All physical realities that can be reached.

But what if the object I’m searching for is a fiction, an imagined thing? Am I in a fruitless search?

I suppose the only way I could find it, is to create my heart’s content. I’ll sculpt it out of clay. I’ll paint it with wonderful colors; azure, crimson, and sunshine yellows. Flesh tones and brown inks. I’ll make it beautiful and love it because I made it to fill up my longing for the simple desire to create.

My heart and mind is that of a creator. Ironically, this gives me joy.

Coffee, Diet, Existence, Food, Pipe smoking, Vegan

Oops, I’m a Vegan!?

It’s been 13 days at being a vegan and I’m pleased to report that I’ve not had a single nibble of any animal flesh in this time. Though I admit I’ve been tempted on many an occasion by the sight and smell of juicy, sizzling bacon, and the odd-ball chocolate mousse cake. I had the gusto to turn them all away.

It was kind of amazing actually how easy it was to stay faithful to this diet. I used to be the person who made fun of people on these strict dietary regimes. I’m now eating my words as I do feel “better”. I’m lighter on my feet if that makes sense, probably because I’ve got less processing in my gut. Maybe other chemical things are going on that I don’t know about or understand.

(I did lose 6 pounds since I started)

Another weird and unexpected effect is that I don’t crave the meats or cheeses as much as I did before. It’s totally weird because I love that stuff! I still do; I’m sure I’d enjoy the taste of a pizza or a ribeye steak that I’ve slapped on my grill.

Oh my poor grill…. What am I going to do in the Summer? Grilled veggies?! Mushrooms? The abominable veggie burger?

For another 2 weeks I’ll stick with this vegan thing. I’ll get a blood test from the doctor and see if a month of no meats or diary products actually does anything significant for me. I did have somewhat of a high cholesterol issue.

But, thinking about all this goodness in my healthful choices, I did make some boo-boo(s).

1. I put sugar in my coffee.

2. I had a puff out of my tobacco pipe.

But, “I didn’t inhale…”.

Existence, Problems to Solve, Thinking, Time, Writing

Mad March Dash

Wow, I missed a few posts these past few days. The reason? Well, let me give you the bullets:

  • Small scientific breakthrough in my project — surmounted a technical hurdle that has been bugging me for months
  • I had a visit with my doctor and got some potentially bad news (more to come)
  • My car had some issues and requires a visit with a mechanic
  • I discovered an old airbrush in the basement storage that I haven’t used in 10 years or so — I was playing with that on the weekend
  • I’m writing a research paper — a priority over blogging (my apologies, dear reader)

Whew! So, if there was ever a perfect storm, this March is madness.

Stay tuned….

Academia, Career

Academic Struggle (A Look Back)

Written 5 years ago:

STRUGGLES of late. A big move off the Big Apple Island, Manhattan. The move was quick and furious. It has become apparent to me that moving takes a lot more out of you than you might begin to imagine when you first consier the endeavor. Perhaps it has something to do with the both-ness about moving: both in that you’re leaving behind something old, and moving toward something new.

It all happens together.

I’m unsure now where I stand. My career has shifted twice in less than 2 years. Unknown to me, where I am going, or how well I am doing. How odd I feel. This is the adventure that I am living. And I am grateful I’m not alone in it. No journey should be traveled alone. We weren’t built to live that way.

When I look back, I ponder the possibility that I may have made an error, or more than one. But, deeper still in the back parts of the mind, I’m quite sure that I cannot make that decision with any confidence. So, whether or not it is a mistake that I moved from academia into industry and back again; I cannot tell. It is an inconclusive and pointless challenge to myself to do such thinking.

I wrote the above two years ago…. I had left academic life for a short while, then I returned to the ivory tower. It is something I don’t think I’d do ever again, but as a young-ish person in his 30’s I’m glad I got the wondering part out of the way. During this time away from academia, I had also become a magazine editor/copywriter (the glossy print type you see in the supermarket). That was a great job that I miss now. But, if you read my post “Academia is Hard“, you’ll know why I do what I do.

Career, Philosophy

Academia is hard

I always need to be reminded given the fact that I have so many choices of what I can do with my career. I am an academic scientist. I’m a neuroscientist, a researcher in the biology of the brain and spinal cord. I study chronic pain.

What I do is a mystery for many of my family and friends. I’m not paid much compared to my friends in other careers. I don’t know what the next step is for my life. There’s uncertainty in academia.

I’m chasing shadows, and the shadows are chasing me. It’s like the feeling that you’re about to take a final exam and the exam never arrives. The feeling of that “test” never leaves you. Your days are filled with “hurry-up and wait”.

About me: I have my PhD in neuroscience, 3 years of postdoctoral training, and 1 year as a non-tenture track junior faculty member at a well-known University. But, like I said, it’s hard. I’m wrestling with my future and there’s always some failure waiting for me: a poor result in an experiment or a grant rejection, ugh.

So why do I stay?

As an academic, I go where no one has gone before. I search for treasure with no name. I’m free to govern my time. My ideas are valued until they are proven wrong by an experiment. If I have questions about a subject in the world, I have the tools or opportunities to seek an answer.

I’m surrounded by a diversity of people. Some are mean, cut-throat jerks; but the majority of my colleagues are great people to work alongside.

However, there are days when I really question why I endure such struggles with no promise of tangible reward.

Then I remember again and again….

I’m free to be me.