Monday, September 15, 2008


One of the things I least like about myself is my habit of getting very anxious and upset over odd things. Strangely enough, this doesn't happen for big events - I've defended an undergrad thesis, presented a poster at a conference (and not in the undergrad section, either), started teaching intro geo labs, walked on hot lava, and (totally unrelated to geology), performed a Tchaikovsky symphony in a concert with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center.

Oh, I get nervous, sure. But somehow the nerves don't really screw me up for the big things. It's other things - buying a piece of furniture that I turn out to hate (actually, a lot of impulse buys do this to me), or hearing people talk about what great deals they have on their rent and feeling like I'm an idiot because I didn't find the same, or not wanting to turn on the heat because I'm afraid I won't be able to afford the bill, or spending that extra money on sushi because I can't stand to eat ham and cheese again. I get upset about stupid things. I have the feeling that I would be perfectly fine if I had to deal with, say, an earthquake, or a volcano suddenly sprouting up in my backyard (unlikely), or some other natural disaster; but something that I could possibly feel guilty about really screws up my day.

I guess this means I have the opposite of performance anxiety. I don't think it's bad enough that I need to get medication for it, but it's certainly not helping me get through the day.

I do remember feeling like this when I was starting undergrad - not this bad, actually, because they kept us really busy and I ended up going home early in the fall because of a hurricane. But this time I think it's worse - I've moved several states away from home, I live alone, I have no family nearby, I'm just starting to make friends and I'm starting grad school, which is a major undertaking in itself. Not to mention I'm constantly worrying about money and classes and teaching and research.

I think I need more people around. My decision not to try and find people to live with was, I think, because four years of dorm living has turned me off sharing small spaces with people all the time, and because I didn't want to rush into a living situation that I might not be able to stand later. Unfortunately, that means once I leave school, my human contact for the day is over with, unless I call home. The entire situation stinks, and I'm going to have to start doing something about it before I convince myself that this whole thing was a bad idea.

On the upside, so you all don't think I'm really starting to get depressed, I'm getting a lot of reading done for my research. At the moment I'm delving into autofragmentation and mechanisms for pyroclastic flow formation, as well as lava dome structure and collapse triggers. Cool stuff - I'm glad I really get to dive into it, because I'm learning a lot.


Kim said...

Does your department have any kind of regular social gathering? (Back in the day, we called it "Friday Beer," though the name violated university policy about advertising alcohol as the focus of an event.) Or a department frisbee team? Grad school can be very isolating, and it can seem as though you're supposed to work and study and teach and that's it. But it's important to have a social network too.

Callan Bentley said...

Kim's right. "Beer Hour" helped me get through grad school and develop new relationships. (We called it "Beer Hour" because someone pointed out early on that it wasn't entirely "Happy"...)

I'd also add that I think it's important to diversify your social network, so that it's not all geology all the time. Maybe find a hiking group on Good luck -- you'll figure it out.

Kim said...

I agree about diversifying your social network. (In my case, I ate - and before the earthquake, lived - at a co-op house on campus. And I joined a campus group that taught women's self-defense classes. I know my advisor used to take painting classes in grad school; I bet she used them as a social group, too.)

Grad schools sometimes have social activities specifically for grad students. (The undergrads get most of the attention, but we had some things for grad students, too.) I didn't go, because my interests seemed out of the mainstream of the engineering/business/law types who dominated the gatherings. But they might be valuable.

Tuff Cookie said...

Thanks for the suggestions. I don't know if the department has a gathering yet - we do have a softball team, but I suck so royally at softball that I don't think even a "carefree" league would be all that fun. I will look into what's going on around campus, though - there's bound to be something to do. And I've been thinking about joining a Tai Chi or yoga class just to do something to keep from getting too anxious about things.

You all are a great social group too - it's just too bad that I don't get to see you in person!

Geology Happens said...

You mean a new job, a new school, and a new home isn't stressful? I was fortunate that I brought my social interaction group with me as my wife was also in grad school and we had three small children. Now I know why I went to the library at 11 pm :). But, we did get away every chance we had. I was lucky in that we were close to Rocky Mt. N.P and my work was all in glaciers. "Let's take a hike and study at the same time."

You will hit your stride and find you love teaching the undergrads and your research and even some of your classes and will tell us all stories about your adventures.

Silver Fox said...

I agree that your recent moves and changes are significant - there is some rating scale for life changes, and yours are way up there on the list. So that, although you perhaps don't feel anxiety associated with what you perceive as big things, like talks, it would be normal that you might feel anxiety right now with smaller things.

When I went to grad school, I was lucky enough to move west from the east coast with a co-worker who became my roomate - and also lucky in some ways that she was then never at the apartment. Everything else was new. One thing the geo grads did, which was already in place when I showed up from years back, was to meet every Friday after classes for beer and pizza and talk at a place close to campus. If something like that isn't already happening, maybe you can get it started, maybe at first with just one or two people.

Also, if you aren't required to take any seminars (we had a required one-credit seminar where all grads had to give one talk each semsester or year) - then if any are available, they are great to sign up for, if only for the more informal classroom setting where people meet each other.

Anyway, the other advice given earlier sounds really good to me - and I have an award for you at my site for your artistic humor, the design of this website and its great name, and also all the great geo posts you have made.

Hope things are starting to go a little better. Have you considered a dog or cat? (They can be troublesome if doing much fieldwork, although they can force you to find neighbors or others to help out when you are gone).

Dr. Lemming said...

If you still play whatever instrument you performed on in front of the nation, get stuck into the local music scene.