New Year, New Life

So I just remembered that I had a blog. Ok, that's a lie. I've remembered for months...it's just be hard to write. I'm not exactly sure why I found it hard to write here, but I did. So I just kept..avoiding this space even though I know that the best thing for me to do is to write regularly, no matter what it is.

Beyond not having the motivation or strong desire to write here, I also had a few things happening. My pregnancy was somewhat all-consuming but not in a bad way. I just got really into the experience of being pregnant and everything that came with it. My instinct to research everything went into hyperdrive during my pregnancy - I Googled everything I could Google. I read books and I joined FB mama groups (some are better than others, let me tell you) and I talked to all the mamas I knew. And then I waited and waited and waited some more for #BabyPi to show up. She is my child, so she took her sweet time and decided she was going to come when she was ready, which meant she showed up on the first Friday of 2017. Thanks for dashing my hopes of a tax deduction!

The first six weeks have been hard and fun and fulfilling and challenging and more. Josephine (aka Phi) is such a sweet baby, and I'm just in love with her. She loves to cuddle and honestly, I love having that excuse to cuddle with her for hours. Overall she's a pretty chill, happy baby but she's still a baby, so we're dealing with middle of the night feedings and fussy evenings. Overall though, I'm overjoyed that I decided to take this plunge into parenthood.

I'm on maternity leave for another 6 weeks, so I have a good chunk of time on my hands. I'm going to use some of it writing and getting out all these random thoughts I've had in my head. I'm also plotting my next moves for 2017 - I put some things on hold in 2016 once I got pregnant, and now that Phi is here I need to kick things into high gear so we can make some moves.

Stay tuned...

 

Remembering That Time I Was Brave, So That I Can Be Brave Once Again

She Who Is Brave Is Free Last week, I had a breakfast meeting with my friend BL. I hadn't seen her in a while and I wanted to catch up, but I also wanted to pick her brain about business ideas. See, BL is my inspiration for where I want to be - not only does she have a successful corporate career, but she has an equally successful side venture. In short, she's doing what I want to do, so it makes sense to go to someone who is doing what you're looking to do, right?

Over some yummy breakfast food, I walked BL through my ideas, my frustrations, and my fear of putting myself out there and trying something new. She gave me encouragement, some ideas and some advice. She also gave me a bit of a wake-up, when she looked at me and proclaimed, "dude, you married someone from Twitter, you're already brave!" Ha. Yes, to most folks, marrying a person you met on social media seems like a crazy idea, so in that regard, I'm extremely brave. But I get what she meant - I've already conquered a fear and come out on top, so I simply need to do it again.

Later that day, as I was processing the day and everything we talked about, it dawned on me that there was another time in my life when I conquered a fear and came out on top. Ten years ago, I was a PhD student at my dream school. Up until that point, I'd achieved everything I'd set out to do. I'd made a few adjustments to my life plan, but overall I was still on the path that I'd set out for myself as a young teen, when I decided to pursue scientific research as a career. A PhD in chemistry was my last step before I embarked on an academic research and teaching career. There was just one problem - I was miserable! No one truly explained to me that life as a PhD student wasn't as easy as they make it seem. I found myself working all the time, either in the lab, or teaching, or taking my own courses. Once my coursework was completed, my workload grew due to qualifying exams and other commitments. I enjoyed my research, and I learned a lot, but I hated the other parts that came along with research. I hated spending hours running NMR samples, or analyzing GC-MS results, because using industry-standard spectral libraries wasn't allowed. Each Sunday, I got a pit in my stomach, because Monday was coming and that meant it was time for another meeting with my research group. I would sit in those meetings and pray that I had analyzed all my results correctly and prepped adequately, because if I hadn't, I'd be publicly berated by my research adviser.

I didn't realize it at the time, but I hated my PhD program so much that it manifested as physical illness. I already suffered from migraines, but they became more frequent in the second year of my program. I also developed tension headaches, which forced me to abandon my lab in the middle of work and seek a quiet, dark place to recuperate. A visit to the health center diagnosed me, and I was given drugs to help the symptoms, but they did not give much relief. As my headaches got worse, my confidence and self-esteem suffered as well. I'd always felt I was smarter than the average bear, but graduate school made me question my abilities. Almost every day I had an experience with a professor or postdoc that left me wondering if I even belonged there. Of course, it wasn't just me - we all swapped stories of how a professor treated us like garbage for not knowing the answer to a question, or received a bad test grade. My other classmates took it as par for the course, but I internalized a lot of the criticism I received.

The stress, the criticism, my health issues - I couldn't take it anymore. I considered other options, such as transferring to a different school, or changing advisers. In the end, it was clear to me that simply changing schools wouldn't solve my problem, because my problem was rooted in the PhD experience. A change of scenery or a different adviser wouldn't change that. I toyed with switching to a public policy degree, but while I enjoyed the courses and learning something new, but my heart was still in the sciences and laboratory work.

And that's when I pulled the trigger - I applied to graduate with a Master's in chemistry, instead of staying to finish my PhD.

I could have pushed through three more years of research, and late nights in the lab, and writing papers. I could have written a dissertation and defended and graduated as Dr. Tucker. But it wasn't worth it to me anymore. My health was suffering, both physically and mentally, and I realized that a PhD wasn't worth my health. But it was so scary to make that decision. I feared judgement and ridicule from my peers, family and friends. I didn't want to be a quitter. I wanted to make people proud of me. And I wanted to fulfill that childhood dream of an academic research career. Quitting my PhD meant saying goodbye to that.

Looking back, I see now how brave I was to give up the path I'd been on for years, and decide to pursue something new. As much as I wanted a PhD, I learned that it wasn't meant for me. Leaving school and starting my career turned out to be a good decision and a blessing. But in the moment, it was scary and I was unsure it would pay off. Fast forward ten years, and now I feel the same way, only this time I want to walk away from a traditional corporate career. The fear I feel is bigger this time, because I have more riding on it - I'm not a broke PhD student living off ramen noodles, now I have bills and I've gotten very comfortable making good money. But my career is also a gift, and I have the luxury to pursue other passions while I work my day job, until I'm ready to make a move. And I have great friends to give me the push I need to take the first steps towards fulfilling my dreams and passions.

Big steps towards my dreams are coming soon - stay tuned!

I Changed My Definition Of Career Success

Successful career list  

I'm a typical Gen Y'er and if you're a Gen Y'er like me, you probably grew up with the same mantra - do well in school, go to a good college, so you can get a good job. Then work work work so you can get all the promotions and climb to the top of the corporate ladder. Making lots of money, having an executive title - THAT was success, and hence what we all should strive for. This mantra was repeated by our parents, our teachers, our mentors, and reinforced in the media. So I adopted it, and I set my sights on achieving it. I started college as an engineering major and interning at a Fortune 500 company. I switched my major to chemistry but headed to grad school, to further my training, and hopefully make more money after graduation.I had a brief flirtation with the idea of going into academia, but in the end I decided to go the corporate route.

When I started my "grown up" career at 24, I was full of new grad optimism and enthusiasm. I wanted to learn as much as I could, and overachieve so that I could get promoted, because that's what I was expected to do, right? So I volunteered for all these extra projects at work, and did the career development stuff that is pushed to new grads in large corporations. I believed all those stories that said if you work hard and don't be a lazy young person, you'll be rewarded. And I was, at least monetarily. My salary grew by leaps and bounds but that promotion? I had to change companies to get it. Despite my work, networking with allies and mentors and career development, for whatever reason, promotions in role weren't coming my way.

It's been almost ten years since I started my corporate career, and my view of success has changed drastically since I was a new grad. I had a feeling that my priorities and career goals had changed, and last week showed me that  my definition of success has changed as well.

Last week I had my performance review. I wasn't super excited about it and expected the worst, not because of my performance but because of the drastic changes happening within my company. I survived many layoffs in 2015, and the subsequent personnel changes resulted in numerous changes to my chain of command. I've had 5 direct managers, plus many VPs and other executives that I report to. When the review period started, I realized that there was no one left in my department who could reflect and comment on my entire 2015 performance, because everyone was gone. Crazy, right? So I didn't have high expectations for my performance review results. My score was decent, and I received a small raise but once again, I was not promoted. When I started with this company 3.5 years ago, getting a promotion was high on my list, but due to circumstances beyond my control it has yet to happen.

I expected to walk away upset, questioning myself, questioning if this is the place for me - the types of reactions that I've had before. This time I walked away with a #kanyeshrug and went about my business. And then I paused, and I asked myself if I should be upset because I wasn't promoted. Like my initial reaction went something like this:

Me: Still got a job? Getting more money? Cool

My brain: Wait, you're still at the same level you were when you started. Aren't you upset? You should be upset.

Me: Wait, I should be upset? For why?

My brain: You're supposed to get promoted! You're supposed to want to be an executive with a fancy title and a big office! Did you forget?

Me: OH. For real? I'm supposed to want that?

My brain: DUH! Everybody wants that...right?

And that's when I had to have a quick DM chat with a couple of friends, who talked me off the ledge. I was totally fine until I started thinking, and all those rules about success that I was taught as a child started flooding into my brain. I grew up with a message that success meant a fancy title, a big office, the big money, etc. Everyday I see lists about the Top 30 under 30, or see LinkedIn updates from people I went to school with announcing their promotions and fancy jobs and whatnot. I've been conditioned to want a specific type of success but I have not been able to achieve that, at least not yet.

I'm OK with where I am in my career. During these ten years I've worked, I see what it takes to get to those high levels, and nothing about it is appealing to me. I don't want to spend my nights and weekends working. I don't want to have a company cell phone and spend every waking moment being available for work. I don't want to go on vacation but still log into work each day (that's not a vacation). I don't want to work 60+ hours a week, and not have time to do anything other than work and sleep. None of that is appealing to me. I love my work-life balance and I love that I can leave work at work and pursue other things in my free time. I don't love that my hard work doesn't directly benefit my bottom line, but I love that my direct deposit hits my account on a regular schedule.

I've arrived at a state of peace in my view of my career. I've realized that my passions lie elsewhere and that I value different things than I did when I was 24. I've learned that a successful career doesn't look the same for everyone, and that I have the ability to define success for myself. After a moment of angst, I realize that not getting a promotion is a blessing as well, as it gives me time to focus on the things I enjoy, and less pressure in the office. If I do climb a ladder, it's going to be my ladder, not a predetermined corporate ladder. I probably will never have an executive title, unless it's a title for my own endeavor. And honestly, I like the sound of CEO of My Thing better than VP of Corporate Whatever.

What say you readers - what does a successful career look like to you? Have you achieved it? 

I've Aged Out Of The Party Scene

nightclub, black nightlife March 17, 2016 was a milestone day for me. Yes, it was St Patrick's Day, but it's also the day that I discovered an important fact - I'm too damn old for nightclubs, especially on a school night.

This endeavor started out with the best of intentions. First Avenue (a nightclub here in Minneapolis, you probably heard of it thanks to Purple Rain) started hosting these Drake Nite parties. The premise is simple - charge $10 and have the DJ play a Drake mix all night. Sounds like a fun night to me, cause I love me some Drake. I missed the first few nights that they had, and my friend KS mentioned that she was interested in going to the next one, which was March 17th. Cool, we got some tickets and made plans to dance the night away at First Avenue.

Day of the party, I remembered that I'm old and that I had to work all day. Would I still be able to kick it after a busy day? Sure, I just need a disco nap! For the uninitiated, a disco nap is a nap you take in the early evening, so that you're ready to go out and party. When I was 21, I had no need for a disco nap, but at 33, I can't even think about being up past 11pm without one. So I got in the bed and had my 2 hour nap. When my husband woke me up at 10:15pm, I was ready to swing on him, that's how much I was enjoying my sleep. I briefly considered bailing, but we'd already bought tickets and I knew my friend really wanted to go.

We got to First Avenue around 11pm and I knew immediately it was going to be a bad idea. There were tons of drunk folks running around thanks to the St Patrick's Day festivities. Teenagers smoking cigarettes and other things surrounded the door, and were talking in the loud voice that all teenagers seem to use, as if they can't hear each other except when they are yelling. I got inside and was met by a sea of 18-25 year olds.

I attempted to hit the dance floor, but after I was bumped by the 3rd person, I could feel my anger building. So we retreated to the 2nd level, where we grabbed a drink and found a spot by the railing. The Drake set started around 1130pm and we had some fun dancing and singing along. My friend really wanted to go back downstairs to the dance floor, so we made our way back down to give it another shot. Yeah...I just don't have the patience for it anymore. The bumping, the stepping on feet, the lack of personal space - none of it is appealing to me. I survived maybe two songs before I escaped and went back upstairs. We finally called it a night at 1230pm and I was home and in bed by 1am.

I set my alarm for 730am, and I still had to drag myself out of bed with all the strength I could muster. I had one drink and got 6 hours of sleep, and yet I felt like I'd stayed up all night. So far I've consumed a venti iced coffee and I'm still yawning. As soon as my work day is over, I have a date with my bed for a much needed nap.

How did this happen? It didn't used to be this way! I remember being in college, being up all night long, maybe getting an hour or two of sleep, and functioning fine the next day. Now, if I'm up past 11pm, it's a momentous feat and I'm going to sleep in the next morning. I have a strict bedtime and not adhering to it is painful.

I see now why the 30+ crowd loves a day party - you can kick it from 2pm to 6pm, and still get your required sleep. And you don't have to worry about 18 year olds spilling a drink on you or stepping on your feet. I've learned my lesson - the next Drake Nite won't have me in attendance. I'll just throw on my Drake playlist at home, and dance in the living room. At least there, I'm guaranteed some personal space and a short commute to my bed when it's over.

*yawn*

Is It Time To Let Go Of My Pseudo-Anonymity?

anonymous blogger Back in the Internet Dark Ages, aka 2004, I started my first blog. Back then, Facebook was just a thing for Harvard students, Twitter was a long way off, and even Myspace was still just for musicians. AOL and AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) were a big deal, and if you did any interacting with anyone online, it was probably on a message board. Blogging was just becoming a thing, and lots of people were doing it just for fun - the idea that you could blog as a career hadn't been conceived yet. It was in this environment that on a whim, I went to Blogger and set up a blog. It took like 2 seconds, and there I had my own little corner of the Internet, which I called Confessions of a Grad School Slave. During setup, I had to choose a name, and I decided to go with Jubilance, which is my line name (and now a nickname, since I've used it so long). In a split second, I decided to be anonymous on the Internet, or at least as anonymous as I could be. I figured it would be a good idea to keep my online presence separate from my offline life.

Years of Blogging Anonymously

Honestly, I don't even remember what really motivated me to start blogging in the first place. I've never been a "diary" or "journal" kind of girl. Growing up I was addicted to young adult serials like The Babysitter's Club, Sweet Valley Twins, and Sweet Valley High. Every book, movie and magazine geared to tweet and teen girls all mandated that you must have a diary. Where else were you going to confess your love for the football star or lament how much your parents didn't understand you? As much as I tried, I just couldn't get the diary bug to stick - it just didn't appeal to me. But blogging somehow felt different. Perhaps it was the public nature - the idea that anyone could find it and read it. It wasn't just for me, it was for everyone, a public experience. But by using a pseudonym, was able to keep my blogging separate from my everyday life. It was an "extra", a thing I did on the side, when I felt like I had something to share.

I could never keep a diary, but the blogging bug has stuck with me over almost 12 years now. For most of those years, I wrote when I felt like it, mostly when I was struggling in some way and needed an outlet. Blogging was always an outlet for me, and never something I took seriously until a few years ago. I always looked at it as a fun outlet and not a practical career move. With the encouragement of friends, I'm finally taking my writing seriously.

Time To Let Go Of the Pseudonym

I realized the other day that while I started blogging with the goal of anonymity, I've done a really bad job of it. Anyone who knows how to use Google can figure out my real name, find my LinkedIn profile, my Twitter and other identifying information about me. As the 2016 writing fellow for A Practical Wedding, I'm publishing content regularly, under my real name. My goal has been to gain experience and build my portfolio, and hiding my identity here doesn't fit with that. At the same time, I love the Jubilance nickname and it will still be in use - on Twitter, my Disqus account, etc. But I don't feel the need to keep my online life separate from my real world life anymore. In the beginning, I felt that I needed to keep them separate for my corporate career, but now I see that writing IS my career, and I should embrace it.

Moving forward, I'm making changes to Black Girl Unlost, including updating the About Me page to reflect my true identity. It feels a bit daunting to put my name here, but also encouraged. Stripping the anonymity from BGU is step 1 as I move towards a freelance writing career and building my brand.