Escaping the “always busy” – happily on vacation

As I am writing this, I am sitting on the porch of a friends’ house staring out into a garden of sun-bathed flowers and listening to a concert of birds. Very far out in the background you can hear a leaf-blower, but this is pure bliss vacation feeling for me. The last 10 days I have been on vacation, first with my best friend in Colorado, now in California (see picture above of the Santa Monica pier), also visiting friends and enjoying the warm weather. My daughter is at her old daycare, happy to see her old buddies and engaging in Spring Break activities.

So vacation… yay! I have not done much in terms of work in these last two weeks, except to talk to some colleagues about it and look over some proposals, but no data reduction, no programming, no writing! I quickly went over the Planck results last week and I was sad to hear about NASA possibly suspending outreach programs due to the sequestration, but it all seems so far away right now.

My husband is sitting besides me, also on the computer, but our work on it today has been limited to finding good restaurants, managing dinner invitations and reviewing rental car agreements (and me writing this blog). It has been good to turn off the mind for a while. In a world where we are ever growing busy (or are we?), some days of rest do the body good. The opportunity to catch up with friends, to sit down for long meals and reminisce of old times or to have new meaningful conversations is priceless.

And it’s sad that so many people in astronomy don’t take proper vacations. The lecture-free time at Universities often coincides with conference season and people get their travel there, but it’s not a shutoff of work. I have been guilty of the same phenomenon. I have worked on my vacation days on purpose. One time, after attending a public event during the night at our institute, we got an extra day of vacation and I only half-jokingly complained that I didn’t have time for vacation.

And it’s hard, you know. Research is never-ending. Except for those days where you submit a paper and feel like you’ve conquered the world, there’s always “something to do”. When I was a student, I worked as a waitress for half a year on the weekends. When those days were over, you were tired, but it was good, you got home and felt like you accomplished something. You were tired and just wanted to veg out in front of the TV. But it’s not like the thoughts were lingering in your head “oh, I still need to wash that wineglass at work” like they do when I come home from astronomy work. I like the thoughts that linger in my head at night, I wouldn’t be a scientist otherwise, but it’s good to shut them off once in a while.

So this post should serve me as a reminder to shut it off sometimes, to get bored and “unbusy”, to let go. It’s good for my health, especially mental health. See you guys on April 8th! 🙂

Keep on truckin’

The picture above I took while traveling through Germany on January 2nd. 2013 is going to be an exciting year in my journey – personally and academically!

I am sorry I did not continue the blog. Part of it was that pressure to finish that blog about the meeting we had on AGN at Ringberg castle. It was an impressive meeting, I learned a lot and Ringberg is a really beautiful location, especially in the snow. But… I felt lazy blogging about it. I grew scientifically, but I don’t know if that interest people that read my blog. I don’t know much to say beyond what was said on David Rosario’s blog on the meeting here and the live tweeting/discussions that I had with people online during the event.

And that became sort of like the blogging dilemma everybody goes through. My numbers of readers did not overly increase. I kept wondering if reaching out to those that read this blog was important. If me writing about my New Year’s scientific resolutions online would be viewed as conceited. If me addressing some “crisis” (philosophical or practical) in astronomy could be viewed as megalomaniacal. I am a postdoc, enjoying what I do, still mostly an observer and wonderer about the world around me. In the last few weeks I have found myself on opposite sides of the “consensus” opinion around me and I wonder if my voicing it in a blog is not adding fuel to a fire to which everybody is entitled to their own opinion (for example, politics).

Another part was that a lot is happening around my life. Many changes are on the horizon for me, many of which I will address on this blog in due time, too. But some things, like job prospects, really shouldn’t be talked about until everything is sorted out. There are people that thrive on it, that are delighted in discussing the rumors of who’s going where and when and why, but I simply don’t like to talk about it.

Then there are other things keeping me away: proposals, observing, work. It seems like every day is filled with meetings that keep me away from the desk and at the end of the day I sit there wondering where it went – I used to be so much more productive.

I was wrong, though. I missed blogging these last two months – those few hours of introspection. I missed putting my thoughts about the week into words. For example, last week I had a 2-day career workshop. It didn’t do wonders or anything, but it solidified me in many decisions I took 2 years ago – staying in astronomy. I still feel like I need to put down those experiences into written words, but also to share it with anybody that is interested in it (that would mostly be astronomy postdocs).

I am not going to be all draconian about it, though. Maybe I’ll write a week, maybe I won’t. Maybe there’ll be two posts in a week, who knows. On Saturday I will be traveling to the US for three weeks. I am sure lots of thoughts will go through my head, plus travel is always good to write about. So with that, if you still have me in your Readers or RSS feeds – thank you. I hope to continue writing stuff about being a postdoc in observational astronomy. In the end, it’s something I really want to communicate to the world, because I really like what I do!