Yesterday I washed my car. Do not judge me. I wish public transportation was more available around where I live. And I wish I could arrange my husband’s, my child’s, the bus’ and my own schedule as they are right now. I am sure one day I will, but for now, all I have to go around town is my little blue car. But why washing a car, a routine task for some, is such a big deal for me? It is because I had not washed it since a friend came visit, somewhere around July. Yesterday I welcomed my car back to life.
Yesterday my husband welcomed me back to life as well. Since Halloween I had been sitting on a chair. Night and day. Taking short breaks to accomplish trivial tasks (like eating and sleeping) and long breaks for teaching (and grading). I had to finish a book chapter.
In August 2013 I attended the 93rd Annual Meeting of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There, I presented an updated work on the group of fishes I study. I committed to write a book chapter on it in one year, and to have it ready by the end of the summer of 2014. Now, the things I’ve learned since then:
1. Do not eat pop-corn when your teeth with root canals don’t have crowns. Before I went to the meeting I was eating pop corn, while writing my abstract, and one tooth cracked. There is a long story behind this, but the bottom line is: invest on your teeth or let others do it for you (parents, insurance). There is no money in the world that can buy the peace of mind of not having to deal with this type of issues.
2. Do not take a teaching overload. Nobody will get angry at you for saying no, but you will not be able to bear your own life if you say yes (remember? spouse, child, book chapter). The reality is: preparing to teach a new course takes time, preparing to teach two new courses takes a lot of time. Everybody knows this, but not many people acknowledge it. I did teach 18 contact hours in one semester, as an adjunct, to pay my dentist bill.
3. Do not try to fit a monograph into an article. Make sure you know what are the guidelines for your book chapter and plan accordingly. Notice this is my first time writing a book chapter. I still keep going past the maximum number of pages.
4. Publish, publish, publish. While you can. I am sure you have heard this one before. My Ph.D. advisor would tell us to have our manuscripts (dissertation chapters) ready for submission before graduation. Because after graduation time is a luxury, life happens, and it is not free.
5. Enjoy the ride. I know, it is easier said than done. But it is true. Children grow fast and you don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Live today.
6. Keep your colleagues updated on your progress. Most probably, they have been there too.
You might be wondering about my book chapter. After a week of sitting on the same wooden chair I got my first draft ready. I am waiting for comments on it from my best friend, colleague, and reviewer. And although I don’t know if it will be accepted by the editors of the book, I have no regrets. I learned so much from the experience that I can only be thankful for it.