From the date of my last post to this morning 273 days have gone by.
What happened? A lot! Maybe too much. For sure too fast.
March 19, 2015. I had a Skype conversation with a friend, who is interested in freshwater fishes of South America. She suggested that we meet to look at the identifications of some specimens she had collected in Ecuador a few years earlier. When it comes to fish specimens and Natural History Museums I just can’t say no, but I had to let her know that I couldn’t afford, basically, anything. I was an adjunct faculty at the time. We agreed on meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. I would help her with the fishes and she would cover my travel expenses. I was very happy, and the Georgia trip got penciled on my calendar for the summer. During that phone conversation we also talked about dams, how much I hate them, and we toyed around with ideas on how to improve the conservation of Andean Rivers. Next thing I knew, I was also invited to attend a workshop in Bogota, Colombia. I was going to join a group of researchers working on conservation of Andean Rivers in June 2015. From the beginning of the year, something else was already on my calendar for May 2015: I was going to Ithaca, New York, to participate on an iDigBio workshop on Digitizing Collections. Natural History Collections. The love of my life.
March 17, 2015. A black Mercedes SUV hit the rear end of my little Honda Civic, in a parking lot. Nothing serious. The back fender of my car got cracked and the plastic that covers the posterior rear light, passenger side, exploded. The only serious thing was going to be the repair costs. As much as I love my research, and as much as I love fishes, they were, already, not paying the bills. The insurance company was not going to fix my car, and I could only feel lucky it was nothing other than car parts that had to be taken care of. Teaching adjunct was not going to get better (my teaching load had dropped to half, and my salary to less than 50% of what I was making the year before). That accident woke me up. It literally brought me back to reality. Reality being I have a family and bills to pay, I began looking for another job. I considered leaving academia. I applied to many jobs, talked to many people, and before the end of April 2015 I got to: do one translation (from English to Spanish, of course); walk and board dogs (challenging ones); and, do substitute teaching at a local private school (mostly science). I learned a lot from each of my jobs, met many great people, and made some (much needed) money. Sadly, I had to withdraw my book chapter. I was too busy rewriting my own life.
April 21, 2015. By December 2014 I had sent several applications for jobs in academia. By early April 2015 I was not expecting to hear back from any of the universities I had applied for, as interviews are generally conducted by February or March, at the latest. But, in the middle of my trip planning, dog walking, and substitute teaching, I got a phone call from one university. The chair of the Biology Department at Francis Marion University was asking me if I was still interested in the position I had applied for, back in December 2014. “Hell yeah!” Of course, I didn’t say that. And of course, you would never hear me saying that (not that there is anything wrong with it, just one of those things I could not say, even if I try). But I was really shocked. On April 24, I had a phone interview. On May 4, I went to Ithaca. On May 13, I had an on site interview in Florence, South Carolina. The same week, on May 15, I had a job offer. On June 9, I was going to Bogota, Colombia. Next thing I knew I was looking for an apartment in Florence, during the summer. I didn’t leave academia after all, and it still surprises me to think about all the things that happened in such a short period of time.
To say that there is too little of something might sound like an oxymoron at this point. But there have been challenges. Since March 2015 I have been very busy. The academic year that is about to end has been full of new people, new places, new cultures, teaching, and lots of driving. All of them wonderful, although I could definitely live with less driving. For 273 days all my writing has been lectures, emails, text messages, and grant applications. Lectures can always be improved, so that is work in progress. My book chapter is still sitting on my computer, waiting for a make over to become a research article. Two species descriptions, and one re-description are waiting their turn as well. A morphology account and a molecular study are set for their kick-start. It will happen. One thing at a time. And, last night I was reminded of my writing, and this blog. One of those things that could simmer forever in the back burner, but it was weighting heavy on me, even if I seem to have completely forgotten about it. Well, this is one of those things I got too little of, and it is a big item on the to do list. For now, I consider it checked.