Monday, August 25, 2008

Again, with the time flying

Sophie is 10 months old today. That means that, as of 1:27 AM, she has been outside the womb longer than she was in it. This is just crazy to me. First, pregnancy lasted forever. I am sure this is due to the anticipation factor--you are counting down the days until you meet this little being you have had schlepping around inside you. You're excited. You're either: miserable (1st trimester), happy to not be miserable (2nd trimester), and not believing that you are getting more miserable by the minute (3rd trimester).

And then, all of a sudden--or sixteen hours of labor, whatever--this little person is in the world. And time starts FLYING. It's like someone hit fast forward on the tivo. First she's little and helpless, then she starts doing all the cute stuff like smiling, laughing, reaching for toys, rolling over, sitting up, crawling, standing. And then she'd driving and looking at colleges. Seriously, I feel like that's how fast this is going!

She's adorable, though. A ton of work, but adorable. It's things like this morning. One of the neighboring lab girls was talking about how she just got up 15 minutes before she came into lab. Really? Because I've been up for THREE HOURS! Tim gets up, gets a shower, and leaves for work. I get up, feed Sophie, change Sophie, get Sophie playing and happy enough that I can shower for ten minutes, stop my shower 3 or 4 times to check on her, get her re-happified so I can get dressed, feed her again, give her antibiotics, change her again and get her dressed, pack her up for daycare, pack me up, take the dog out, load the car, and go. And then it's 15 minutes dropping her off at daycare, driving into work, and getting into lab. Doesn't sound like much, but it's at least two if not three hours every morning.

There are times when I wish I had my mornings (and my evenings) free to do whatever I wanted. Today was one of those days. But Sophie's totally worth it, really. She's such a little ham--she gives me a big smile, or starts to laugh, or crawls over to me to snuggle. Little things like that make it worth it.

So yeah, ten months old today. I can't believe it. And we're still breastfeeding too (not much, but some). My goal was always to make it to 9 months, and we surpassed that. I'm shooting for a year, but I'll be done by then for sure. I'm ready to have my body back, and I also am planning to need my body for other things.

Yes, in my quest to make money, I've signed up for a clinical trial that starts in October. If I'm in the test group, I can't be nursing. But I was planning to stop anyway. And I only need to rinse my mouth 9 times with mouthwash (to collect cells) and take the test medicine (either advil, a statin, or a diabetes drug) for a week, and I make $270. Not a bad deal. That almost pays for my fall parking.

Yep, I'm prostituting my body for science. Nothing dangerous, nothing more invasive than a blood draw, but otherwise anything I can find. I'm doing a vision study now, this mouthwash study, I signed up to be on the blood draw list for a lab that needs samples, and for now, that's it. These clinical trials are actually harder to find than I thought. I'd do even more if I could. I passed on the bronchoscopy though--a little too invasive for me. And no medicines that haven't been FDA approved yet.

Let's see, what else? I still have my thesis committee meeting set for Wednesday. That should be drama-filled. It's basically either getting a committment from physiology that they will support me until next July, or I am walking away and going to start back in med school this November. Med school tuition is $43,500 a year, so just tuition runs me $87,000 in loans (plus living expense costs, if we can get them). That would suck, but I'd deal with it. If my PhD isn't going to be supported, and they are going to drop me eventually anyway, I'd rather do it sooner rather than later. Going back this November, I graduate in 2010. Going back next July, I graduate in 2011.

I'm actually very mellow about the whole thing. I used to get worked up. Not so much. Would the money issue suck? Heck yes. Would it suck to walk away from four years of work with nothing to show for it? Sure. Twenty years from now, if I am doing what I want to be doing, will it matter? No.

The money is the worst of it. Really, I make so little now that it covers the house payment and that's it. Loans would suck, this is true. But, once I am an attending, if we can live for one year like we live now, and put the extra money towards my loans, we'd be almost done with them. So it's not the end of the world. And if I can graduate a year earlier than I would finishing my PhD, that year is basically a wash.

So, it's not ideal to leave the PhD. But it's not the end of the world either. I had a long talk with God in church on Sunday (well, it was just me talking, but you get the idea). I basically said that whatever He wants is fine. If this whole four years of misery in the PhD was to teach me something, or if that's how long it took me to lose my pride and let this go, well then, so be it. I'm stubborn, and a slow learner I guess. I really debated quitting when Frank moved in the fall of 2004. If I would have, I'd be in my last year of residency now. But I was stubborn, and I didn't want to walk away from my program. To me, that would have been admitting defeat.

What I've learned is that I can't think my PhD is the only reflection of me. It's been the one thing in my life that I have really worked hard at and not succeeded. I don't want to come across as boastful (because if you know me, you know that is the opposite of me). But everything I've ever put work into, I've been good at. Some of that is just not sticking with things that I am obviously no good at (cough, cough...SPORTS...cough, cough). But I've never had trouble academically before. Quitting the PhD always made me think that I would be admitting I'm dumb.

I've learned that the PhD isn't about intelligence, or even my ability to succeed in the future. In a perfect world, all graduate students would have projects of similar difficulty, all would encounter the same obstacles, all would have the same mentorship, and all would be graded on the same scale. Nothing could be farther from reality. I have seen some very bright people work very hard and be rewarded for their efforts. Far more often, I have seen the two other extremes. Many people end up in bad situations, struggle, get crapped on by circumstances outside of their control, and are lucky to finish. Or, they are people who are handed easy projects, don't struggle at all, don't learn anything, work in departments with easy requirements, and finish on time (or even early). Now, those in the latter group may be smarter than me just because they worked the system better. But it doesn't make them more likely to succeed in the future.

Most people, at least in my program, fall into the first category. I can't tell you how many of my classmates have had PIs move, labs lose funding, projects get canned, etc. Almost half of my class won't go back to med school this year, and for those that have, none have had an easy ride. The ones that are going back, with one exception, only have one paper each. I picked a program that requires 2. My fault.

Anyway, we'll see what my committee says. Personally, I think that if they don't agree to support me, that is their problem. I will have been in the PhD for five years if I graduate next July. For having to switch labs, work a crappy project in a lab with no funding, and have no help, I don't think asking for five years is crazy. There are people who haven't had those issues that take five years. Some even take 6. The issue is that physiology will have to pay me--most are supported by their PI, but since Dr. B has no money, physiology has to pick up the slack.

So we'll see. Ideally, they'll give me support through July, I'll move into another lab sooner rather than later, I'll finish this crappy project and have time to work on a more interesting project, I'll defend in the spring, and I'll go back to med school in July.

I can't do anything else beyond what I've already done, so I'm leaving it up to my committee. I'll let you know what they say. But really, I'm good with whatever.

1 comment:

  1. Nikki1:54 PM

    I have the mother of all sucky PhD stories to make you feel better...

    So I know this girl who was in the micro dept working with an adjunct facult for like 6 yrs. Then one day the head of micro turns around, says her project isn't good enough - that he won't allow her to graduate with it - takes her out of the lab she's worked in for SIX yrs - makes her join his lab - gives her a shitty project and promises to have her out in a year. 7 yrs worth of work, she's got 1 paper I think and more drama than a daytime soap opera...

    Happy ending though. She's now doing a post-doc at Wash U in St. Loius and remembering why she loves research! Whenever my day gets sucky, I think that it could ALWAYS be worse!

    I still can't believe you have a kid - who is going to be a YEAR old soon! How did WE get so old!?