Sometimes we get stuck in a particular way of thinking. We obsess about one circumstance, one thing that might happen to us at work, at school, at the playgroup, or in our personal lives and relationships. It’s hard to pull ourselves out of that rut. In an attempt to talk about anything but cancer, I’m trying this meme that Canape proposed last night. It’s called 15 years in a nutshell, and the goal is to sum up your life in 10 easy bullet points that you would send to a friend you hadn’t seen in that long. So let’s see … 15 years ago, I was a child of 20. (OMG, am I 35 already? How did that happen?)
Here’s what I’ve been up to in the last 15 years:
1. Left my fancy pants small liberal arts college in search of the wider world. Didn’t tell anyone, just packed up my car with what I could and left the rest behind.
2. Transferred to a major research institution eight hours away, greedily overloaded my schedule with science classes, began doing research with one of my heroes I had only read about in a popular science book and then the journals, joined a sorority, made many many girlfriends who also loved math, science, and engineering, felt truly at home, and then met the man I would marry. We knew instantly, but waited 5 years to finish various degrees, learn how to cook (oops), and basically live on our own for a while.
3. Went to graduate school across the country in a different direction. Was challenged, dismissed, harassed, and ultimately respected. After some soul-searching, joined a different research group that was a better fit, only because it had other women graduate students and it didn’t seem to be as much of an issue. Found my niche among the graduate students and postdocs. Fell in love with spacecraft mission work. Married my college sweetheart, who by then was working in the department across campus. We spent our days in the labs and nights working on or talking about our space science research. We were young and in love with each other, science, space, and life.
4. Adopted a second dog, a beagle puppy who had been abandoned at the shelter where we volunteered. Found out soon that a) he was not a beagle, but a giant coonhound mix, and b) he was abandoned because he had separation anxiety and he was LOUD. Moved out of our beloved townhouse by the lake and into a run-down 1920’s era bungalow, where we were all much quieter and happier. Learned to garden, which brings me peace to this day.
5. Determined to finish our Ph.D.s within weeks of each other, we moved again into a tiny apartment with two tables for desks, and packed our house to be ready for the move. This worked. Free of distractions, we buckled down and spent six months writing and revising, and we successfully defended our dissertations two weeks apart.
6. Moved to Washington, D.C. to chase our dreams. I had my dream job, working as a scientist at NASA Headquarters, and WonderDaddy went to industry to gain experience there. After a few years, he joined me at NASA, and we had several golden years of working together side by side, an experience that was invigorating and rejuvinating for both of us. We did some of the best work of our lives then, reinforcing each other.
7. Had our first baby, Widget. Continued to work some and mother a lot, and Widget was incredibly cooperative. He quickly became the light of our lives, and we would do anything for him.
8. Second baby, Little Bear. Adorable, amazing, quirky, this little one completed our family and we are so blessed to have them. He’s walking now, and he is an incredible little person.
9. On June 16, 2007, I was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, a disease that I’d never even heard of but was trying to kill me anyway. A year of chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, and isolation from all but the healthiest friends and their kids ensued. It was a terrible year, but we survived.
10. Now, right now, I am reviewing proposals for NASA again, writing a book about the history of space science, also for NASA, enjoying my time with the children, helping them grow into independent kids, organizing playdates, worrying about whether to send them to preschool, and all the mundane things that come with a life in the suburbs. It’s absolutely wonderful, and I couldn’t be happier.
So … what have you been up to the past 15 years?