Saturday, January 2, 2010

Decade in review

Was inspired by Andrew's blog to take a look back at the past decade. It was actually quite an important one for me, both personally and professionally.

2000: The year 2000 marked the start of my PhD studies. I initially started doing research on pipefishes (which are related to seahorses). My field sites were out in Botany Bay, just across from the airport. Not very glamorous at all. Every few minutes, a plane would be buzzing overhead. There was a supicious oily scum floating on the water's surface and signs warning people not to swim in the water. 2000 also was the lowest point in my life personally in terms of coming to grips with my sexuality. I shed a lot of tears that year when I was alone in my office or when I was going to bed at night.

2001: This was the year that pipefishes turned into a pipedream. The little shits were very hard to study. I soon decided to work on a freshwater fish instead. I went on a collecting trip up along the east coast of Australia with a buddy I had known since primary school. It was an amazing road trip. I got to visit some pretty special places. The highlight was lying on my back, gazing into the night sky and watching bats fluttering about in a place called the Blackdown tablelands which is situated in Central Queensland. The scariest was trudging into a river near Ingham, fully aware that there were crocs lurking nearby... the things scientists do!

2002: Went to my first international conference in Canada. I vowed never to fly with Air Canada after that trip. What a shit airline. My section of the plane was serviced by the flight attendant from hell who took a disliking to me the moment I got into my seat and went out of her way to be rude and obnoxious. This was also the year that I had my first scientific study published and it received a lot of international press, which was an unexpected surprise. Definitely a much needed confidence booster after the pipefish debacle.

2003: The highlight of the year was a round the world trip through Argentina, Brazil, the US, Finland and Singapore. The trip started off in South America. I caught up with a friend in Buenos Aires a day before the conference and we had the best steak...ever. It was in some random steak restaurant that we happened to stumble across by accident. The menu was in spanish, the waiter spoke minimal english but, somehow, through sign language and blind faith, we managed to order a fantastic meal. It pains me to say that Argentinian beef blows Australian beef out of the water. The conference itself was in Florianopolis in southern Brazil. Florianopolis is an island paradise. Even the dolphins went to there to die (as we found out when we went for a walk along the beach on our first day there). I bought a gigantic fibreglass fish ornament from a flea market in Florianopolis which I then had to cart with me throughout the remaining stop overs on my trip. Boston was terrific. I went to visit the lab where I ended up doing my first stint as a postdoctoral researcher. From the US, I headed up to Finland, where I saw my first woodpecker in the middle of Helsinki (which, I am told by bird fanatical friends, is quite a treat). I also developed a fondness for mushrooms on that trip (the edible ones; not the mind-warping varieties) after an outing into some nordic pine forest to go mushroom-picking. From Finland, I headed off to Singapore (still with fibreglass fish in tow) and some of the best food I had ever eaten (managed to gain 2kg in 3 days!). A month after I got back from my trip, I submitted my PhD dissertation.

2004: Headed to the USA for my first postdoctoral stint. It was my first time away from home and a really important year. There was something extremely liberating about heading to the otherside of the world. For the first time in my life, I finally felt comfortable in my own skin. I came out to myself on that trip. The first tell-tale sign that I was in a really happy place was when I realised I was walking to work each day with a big, fat smile on my face. The work itself took me on an amazing fieldtrip to study fishes in Mexico. Wow! What a trip. I got to trek through montane rainforest, sample real tacos from a taco stand, and meet some of the happiest people on Earth. The year ended with a long trip home, a PhD graduation ceremony, a devastating tsunami, and some liberating conversations with family and friends about the real me.

2005: Another stint overseas, this time in Finland. Another amazing year making friends and getting paid to do research in beautiful places. Here is where I can also attest to the health benefits of a nordic diet. After subsisting on forest berries and atlantic salmon (at 5.90 euro/kg, who could resist?) for seven months, I returned to Australia in top health. My cholestrol levels were at an all-time low. Later in the year, I moved to Melbourne where, not long after, I was offered my current job.

2006: My first year as an academic! It felt weird to be taking on my own students and starting my own research group so soon after finishing my own studies.

2007: Decided that Mr. Right was not going to fall from the sky and that I needed to be more proactive. Geeze...I thought coming out was hard. The dating scene can be really, really scary. I went on my first date (coffee in St Kilda), experienced my first crush (with a guy called Mick), and then...I met Nathan. It was easter. We organised a meeting at the Melbourne University tramstop. We had pizza on Lygon Street. He paid (how nice).

2008: Not a terribly eventful year though I did get to go overseas twice for work. The first was to the US for a conference, the second was to attend a thesis defence in Sweden where I was the opponent. The ferry ride from Helsinki to Stockholm is one I will never forget.

2009: This was quite a stressful year on the job front. They say that the first year of an academic job is usually the hardest but my first year was a walk in the park compared to my application for promotion this year. The whole process turned out to be much more intense than I could possibly have imagined. My worst enemy I think was definitely a lack of self-confidence. When the promotion came through, I was actually more relieved than I was happy.


Anonymous said...

What a great idea. I'm going to borrow it too.

Jealous of how easy it seems you had it in 2007.

Adaptive Radiation said...

Yes...but I didn't mention going to the house of the first guy I was 'dating' and finding dried cat faeces in the shower.

Victor said...

It is a great idea. Sadly my failing memory plus a general absence of interesting milestones precludes me attempting the same type of posting for my blog.

I enjoyed reading yours.

Andrew said...

Great that you can recall. I can only remember bits of times past.

Cazzie!!! said...

I loved reading the happenings of your decade. You accomplished so much and I am sure that this decade will be the time where you can grow in self confidence and achieve whatever your heart desires..just take one day at a time :)