growing up

E is for Expectations

Expectations.

That word, and the effects of that word, are soul crushers for me.

Do you want me to fail?
Do you want me to be upset?
Do you want me to judge myself harshly?

Expect me to do something. Expect me to be more.

Expectation is the root of all heartache. -William Shakespeare

One of my best traits is that I am a hard worker. When I open my life up to new avenues, whether it be a new position for work, or trying to conquer a weakness (like writing, ugh!), I do what needs to be done. I put in extra hours at work to overcome a learning curve, to get the science done, or try to catch up because I expected too much out of myself that week. I put in extra hours trying to think of words and how I could string those words into sentences so I could maybe, one day, write another article.

But when I feel like I am expected to put in the extra hours just because, I will under-preform. I will under-whelm.

There is a huge difference in results with the following pairs of statements:
1. I expect you to work 80 hours per week. (I will work 80 hours, but I will resent you.)
2. I expect you to get your work done. (I will work 80, 90, 100 hours, whatever it takes to get my work done.)

3. I expect myself to write an article a day. (Oh yeah! I’ll show you! … by never writing.)
4. I expect myself to write more than I usually do. (Easy-peasy. Writing one article is more than I usually write. But hey! I’m conquering something that is legitimately difficult for me.)

Is there such a thing as a negative and positive expectation? Because I feel that is what I just did there. In both pairs outlined above, the word “Expect” was front and center, but the outcomes were so vastly different.

Perhaps the difference, and the resentment, doesn’t stem from the word expect, but from the intention of that word. In the first scenario of both pairs, a rigid guide was established (you MUST do this in THIS timeline to be successful!) whereas in the second scenario, the guide was more fluid.

….

Maybe that is why I’m doing so much better … nay, so much more, when it comes to my fitness goals. I’m not expecting myself to exercise every single day. I’m not expecting myself to lose weight. Heck, I’m not even doing a “traditionally Nicole exercise routine” (you know, with weights and being hardcore and the like). I’m just expecting to have fun, and to move more, and maybe the weight will come off during the process.

AND IT IS!

Well, now my day has flipped completely around! Maybe I just needed to get this off my chest. Thanks for listening!

drseussyoureofftogreatplaces

Sunday Living: Meet the kids!

Sometimes, I struggle with what to write about. Like, what on earth is too much information and what on earth is interesting enough. I am, by far, so un-interesting.

But, since I already introduced you all to my beautiful wife (here), I figured I should introduce you to our babies! We have 4 beautiful fur babies: 3 girls and 1 boy.

Boys first! This is my dapper young man, Arnold. He was named after the Arnold. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Kristi and I found him the same day we took Wrolea (you will meet her soon enough) to get her very first hair cut. We saw this little kitten get hit by a car, roll away, and hide in a hole in the median. We rushed in our car, turned around so fast, and hopped out of the car so quickly. Kristi searched the side of the road, just in case the little fellow crossed it while we parked the car. I ran into the road, found the little kitty looking up at me, grabbed him and held him to my chest. He has forever since been a boob kitty.
Arnold

He’6 about 6.5-7 years old now. It must be the year of mischief. He is constantly getting in to stuff these days and always tries to convince us that he did not do it.

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Like here. Believe it or not, he did not know there were flowers in the house. … and he swears, it was not him that ate them all.

Girls next. We have Wrolea (pronounced Rolly), Adia, and Daisy.

I have to talk about Wrolea next. She is my heart and soul. I was so lonely when I moved to Florida, and I just wanted someone to bond with. I looked all over Craigslist for a dog. I was hoping to find a male miniature dachshund but I found her instead. She was one dog of two litters and they were all in pretty bad shape. I picked her up, she was shy, but then she did the best thing ever. She fell asleep in my arms, and then slowly fell backward to reveal her chubby belly. I knew right then and there, she was mine. She was covered in fleas. I’m talking about every inch of her. They were either crawling around, or imbedded into her skin feeding. I took her to the vet and they said she was momments away from needing a blood transfusion! They gave her a portion of a pill (because she was just 6 weeks old) and when all the fleas died, I had to go to work. I bathed her, and then for 8 straight hours, I pulled the fleas out of her skin one-by-one with tweezers: out of every crease in her ears, toes, and all over the open skin.  A few days later when she was starting to recover from the blood loss, she was so lively. She started doing puppy things – like chewing up all of my shoes, peeing all over the floors, and pouncing on me in the middle of the night. Still, to this day, her belly skin is blackened from the scars I had to leave behind. She is my Wrolea, and she is 7 years old.
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Wrolea is the lab-chow mix in the back.

Since, I inadvertently introduced you to the other dog, I should just carry on. Her name is Daisy. She kind of wiggled her way into our little family very slowly. When she was just a puppy, we babysat her a few times. Then, the family that had her asked us if we wanted to keep her because Daisy (who went by Daliah at the time, but that was just too hard for me to say.) Daisy was just too energetic for this family, and their other animals just didn’t appreciate being pounced on all the time. So, we took her in, and she managed to wiggle her way into the lives of the other babies too!

Seriously, who could say no to this face?
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She is a cuddler, that Daisy! Daisy is about 3 years old.

This leaves the last, and most regal, to the end. Meet Queen Adia. Her name isn’t Queen Adia, it’s a title she demands. Adia rules the household, and I firmly believe nothing happens without her consent. Kristi came in to our relationship with Adia (and the late Moe, a basset hound.) Adia loves to scratch all of the wood working in the house, and she loves to chase Daisy. Every other time of the day, you can find her looking very pretty and put together.

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Our lovely Adia. She is about 10 or 11 years old.

There you have it. My family! As I write this, they are all sleeping next to me. What a perfect Sunday!

Expectations of growing up

There are a few questions in life, which I feel, are always relevant. Some of these questions are never even re-phrased as we get older. My favourite?

“What do you want to be when you grow-up?”

When I was younger (much, much younger), I wanted to be a teacher. After all, it was the first “big” word I could spell and it was who I was surrounded by all the time. Not to mention, I loved (I mean LOVED) school. Seriously, it was a treat to do homework every night.

My cousin Matt and I were inseparable when we were younger. My family would often tell him he was going to be a doctor one day, and I would be his nurse. I thought this sounded like the best plan. I would be able to help my cousin make everyone feel better, plus, I would be able to see him all the time. It really was win-win for me. That is, until I started questioning why I couldn’t be the doctor and why he couldn’t be my nurse. Or, why we both couldn’t be doctors?!

But then, I went on to middle school and started to have science classes. Not the generic science classes, but chemistry and biology. I then wanted to be a scientist. I had no idea at that time that there were types of scientists. All I knew was I loved my science classes, despite struggling with them the most. In Michigan, we had to take these achievement tests from California (CAT) until Michigan eventually made their own (MAT). Anyway, I would always score the lowest in the science and english categories, and I would always score the highest in math. This has never changed during the course of my life. The ACT, the SAT, and the GRE all followed these trends. I actually think it’s because of my amazing math skills that I even got in to graduate school in the first place.

Back to my story.

When I was 16, I was nearing the age of getting my first job. I was super excited! I could earn some money to buy myself some new school clothes, or save it up for something more grand one day. It was very important to earn our own money growing up, especially because I lived in a single-parent household with 2 other sisters. All 3 of us hated asking our mom for any money, and we would often go without the things we wanted because we had everything we needed. When I was 16, and I could get a job, I was all for it. But what to do? I knew I didn’t want to work with food. I was awful with people, and I didn’t want to carry heavy trays to tables (let’s face it, I’m pretty clumsy, and this would have been disastrous). So, I began where most people did – I looked in the newspaper to see if there were any funeral homes in the area that could use a receptionist. I figured – I wouldn’t really have to deal with angry people yelling at me, and how perfect of a job would that be?! At this point in my life, I wanted to be a Mortician. Alas, a funeral home wasn’t my first job. I ended up as a game master for a local lazer tag joint. It was the best first job ever! But, it really had nothing to do with what I wanted to be for the rest of my life. That one was getting trickier and trickier to answer.

What did I want to be when I grew up?

I went through high school knowing I was going to go to school to be a scientist. I ended up at Michigan Technological University in the upper peninsula of Michigan studying Molecular Biology. Just 1 measly year in to this degree and I knew it wasn’t exactly for me. It was heavy on the biology, as the degree was offered through the Biology Department, and biology seemed very much like the english and art classes to me. What I mean is, biology was more qualitative and I was more quantitative in nature. I decided to switch to Chemistry. I am so glad I did. My grades were improving, and I liked the classes I was in. Then, I graduated with my degree and …. now what? I guess I should find a scientist job somewhere.

Oh boy, did you know there are many types of scientists? I sure didn’t. So, again, I had to figure out what I wanted to be. I went on to my first job at a prominent institution working as a biochemist in population genetics studying Parkinson’s disease. It was pretty cool, but that lab wasn’t a great fit for me. I also had to move from Michigan to Florida, far away from any familial support system. I got a second job to help pay some bills at a local movie theatre, where I met (and still talk to) some amazing people. After this job, I went to another prominent institution and I worked as a Chemist in R&D helping to develop new contact lenses (you probably have tried them out, if you wear contacts). I loved learning and using all of the instrumentation (which was available in huge quantities, so I barely had any waiting time – it’s like a dream for any scientist!) but it really felt like an assembly line. I would go in to work every day, log in my hours, work as fast as I could, then go home. When I was at home, I never thought about this job. Although I made great money in this Industrial job, I craved the research I did at my first real job outside of university. So, I went back, hesitantly. I knew the work environment could be catty and I hated the drama. So, I made a sacrifice. I took a lesser pay for doing something that seemed important to me. I went back, this time working as a Biochemist and Biophysicist on Alzheimer’s disease. Time when on, and I began hearing that pesky voice in my mind asking that same pesky question. This job is great and all, but what do you want to be when you grow up?

I decided to go on and get a Ph.D. in Biochemistry, with a heavily biophysics influenced project. Would it surprise you that I kept with the neurodegenerative disorders too? I am 4.5 years in to this degree, and I hope I only have 1.5 years (at most) left. It would be wonderful if my pain and suffering could be ended much sooner though (I’m not going to lie)! With this degree, my world is going to open up. The jobs won’t be flowing in like I always imagined due to this economy, but I could be anything my little heart could desire. … but what does that even mean anymore? 

Alas, I arrive at the same crossroads I have been at my entire life.

Have you read Hamlet by William Shakespeare? Basically, Prince Hamlet wants revenge on his uncle for killing his father. Prince Hamlet ends up exacting this revenge, taking the throne he was born to have, and marrying his father’s widow (i.e. his mother). It’s a crazy story that just gets more and more crazy, especially as Hamlet becomes more enraged and more grief-stricken … and, if you weren’t picking up what I was putting down, Hamlet goes mad. This tragedy explores a lot of different themes along the way; of course there is incest, the corruption of morality, revenge, and even treachery. Hamlet is by far, one of Shakespeare’s greatest works, and it has a lot of wonderful quotes. The one you may be most familiar with is

“To be, or not to be, that is the question—
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die, to sleep—
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to?”
-opening phrase to the soliloquy in the Act III Scene I of Hamlet (modern version)

Bare with me as I take this entire passage (which I have significantly shortened) out of context and apply it to my non-incest, non-treacherous, non-morally corrupted, and non-revengeful life that is slightly mad.

What do I want to be as I grow up? Should I suffer doing research that I don’t necessarily like and doesn’t feel important to me, while making a lot of money? Or should I go into the scientific abyss, doing something I really enjoy, that constantly engages me, while making a meager wage? Either way, we all die in the end, and with that death is the death of all our worldly troubles.  …. This brings me to current day. I have done these two things, I have chosen the meager wage and my happiness. I hope this trend keeps happening, because I would love to be able to sleep at night.

So, my friends, I ask you – what do you want to be when you grow up?