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Pushing past storms and getting things done

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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This last weekend I experienced my first very close brush with an Oklahoma Tornado.  Friday afternoon, I heard folks in the hallway casually talking about parking their cars in garages to avoid the hail storm and getting ready for the tornado. Tornado! Everyone was so calm about it.  For the umpteenth time I though to myself, “I clearly had no full idea of what I was getting into when I moved here”.  Friday night, the sky was cloudy and it drizzled, but it seemed okay.  I fell asleep while watching movies.

But around 2:30 in the morning I awoke to the most terrifying sounds of thunder and wind I had ever heard.  I listened closely for the sound of sirens, then the fall of hail. Nothing.  I was afraid, but relieved that I heard no sounds of warning of impending tornadoes.  I laid back down and began to drift off when I hear a whistle.  I wasn’t sure if it was a siren, but the storm was so loud I got concerned. I turned on the radio and the meteorologists are giving blow-by-blow storm coverage as if they were sports announcers calling plays.  I listened as they called my city and county and said I had 45 minutes before the tornado arrived.

What? Did I hear that right? I got dressed and listened more, as I heard them give the location of the storm and expiration dates of the warning.  That tornado that blew through Norman, Oklahoma killed  6 people. It seemed to be heading right for Payne county but suddenly it just dissipated.  The rest of the weekend saw more bad weather across the Plains, but things stayed pretty clear in Stillwater.  In fact, it’s been sunny with clear skies and beautiful outside since yesterday.

Such a stark contrast.  And interestingly it accurately explains how I feel.  Some stormy days, some sunny days.  Most of the time I’m a ball of enthusiastic energy and I smile a lot. Like everyone, I get the blues.  However, it is a state of being that I reject. I’m a deliberate optimist; and I proud of that.  I’m sure it keeps me sane and healthy.  I also believe it’s the reason for my successes in life.

I think I forgot how blessed I am.  Even in the middle of a storm, I remind myself that a rainbow is coming.  I choose to be happy and as a result I am.  So, I’m not going to let strong arm student loan collectors get me down or my writing demon make me feel insecure or complain about my isolation and loneliness in my department.  Nope. Right now, for this moment, I am choosing optimism and claiming those things that will make me smile and feel better about myself and my future.

I feel better when I wear my hair big! I feel confident, bodacious and in control.

And I know from past and present experiences that energy matters.  I mean just these last two days I set a goal to write daily and I have.  Has it been hard? Yes.  However, I have been productive, and as a result I feel great.  So, I’m letting this feeling ride.

5 Things I Will Get Done This Year!

1. Publish my dormant research manuscripts.

2. Go to Africa and start my field work.

3. Comfortably pay my monthly student loan debt and get out of default.

4. Do independent Science Outreach and Professional Development but not upset my PI for doing this extra stuff. I need these activities for my own piece of mind and fulfillment. I love research, but simply staying put, muting myself and my enthusiasm because it not what ‘others have done’ will only make me feel sad inside. It’s making me feel sad inside.  Surely I can be a highly productive postdoc AND still continue to be the Superstar that I am. And I am. I’ve got to stop worrying about other people’s discomfort with my awesomeness.

5. Step my Science Blogging niche game up. Maybe not right this moment, because I got to make sure the science game is on point (e.g., the research articles) but I’m ready to get noticed – in a good way.  I’m ready to pour the foundation for my next level. Perhaps I could land additional writing gigs or consultation offers (to meet those financial goals). Or maybe my style of science communication will register on some new radars (e.g. The Source, Vibe Magazine or Melissa Harris-Perry Show). I think folks are just about ready for a Hip Hop Maven to drop some mad science and get more folks on board sharing STEM with broader audiences.  I don’t know exactly, but I know I’m ready.

I’m ready to be ready.  So I’m asking for what I want. As my grandmother would say: Closed mouths don’t get fed…and I’m certainly hungry.

What goals are you claiming for this year?  Do you feel inspired or optimist about your future? Tell me all about it.

DNLee About the Author: DNLee is a biologist and she studies animal behavior, mammalogy, and ecology . She uses social media, informal experiential science experiences, and draws from hip hop culture to share science with general audiences, particularly under-served groups. Follow on Twitter @DNLee5.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. scicurious 8:04 am 04/18/2012

    GO DNLee!!! I have ultimate faith in your awesome. :) And I love the idea of the writing goals. I write almost every day, but setting aside specific time for writing and editing of hardcore science is even better.

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  2. 2. jtdwyer 8:07 am 04/18/2012

    There’s nothing more motivating than the specter of one’s own fleeting mortality!

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  3. 3. colette 11:13 am 04/18/2012

    +1 on big hair. I always feel like I can think better when I have my hair out. I also find goals helpful, even though I’m not always good at making them. But goals help me map out a structure I can follow to get tasks done.

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