I begin school again on January 5th. The reality hit me when I realized that I needed to order my textbook last night to ensure I receive it in time for class. I have to admit, I wouldn’t mind a little more break. It has been relaxing, even though I have been working on many things.

I am getting like everyone else and looking at everything around me. What I’ve done, what I need to do, and what the future has in store this year/quarter. Because I’m feeling a little short-sighted, I’vew been thinking about this break and how good it was to do so little. I originally wanted to choreograph, make costumes, etc., but I needed a break more than anything. I’m glad that I did that.

In terms of the present, I really must have my applications completed by the time school begins. Although I probably can complete them during the school year- why chance it? I’ve been steadily re-editing my personal statement, and that will be completed by today, at least the bulk of it. Although I enjoy writing, personal statements are not my forte. I’m so glad I began early with mine. I knew I would keep editing until the bitter end.

Another task at hand that I must complete is reading all 48 papers for my research/thesis. The ones from earlier times (1920s or so) were very tedious to read. Stylistically- I can’t figure out what, but they were difficult to read because of that. As the decades progress, the papers are much easier to read (and also more enjoyable). I have completed 12 of them so far and I would like to have completed all 48 by the time school begins. When I have had the time and motivation to read, I have read 4 papers or so in a sitting, so I’m optimistic that this will happen.

My TA schedule- I have to admit, I’m not looking forward to it. I suspect it will be easy (intro labs only this time), but I also prefer something new. Intro labs are a challenge, since many students are not interested in physics, but I feel like I have done a pretty decent job in motivating them to be vaguely interested. I like the labs this quarter, though, since they involve optics. I’m a sucker for light and color, and I think most people are, too.

What I look forward to most is beginning my research. I love doing research, and I am pretty excited about playing with equipment. Table top experiments are exciting, since you can actually see (on some level; you might need a microscope) what’s going on. They always seem more hands-on to me. I also have not worked on a table top experiment, except for labs (and I don’t regard those as experiments), so this is going to be a very new and exciting experience.

I hope the weather behaves itself from now on, though. It’s hard to be excited or motivated by much when it’s so cold out.

Allowing myself to heal was a great decision, since I am now better. Not 100% better (sniffling and coughing a bit), but better enough to practice dance a little, including turns and better enough to finally send out forms for recommendations to everyone.

Since I’m about halfway through break, I thought I’d update where I stand with my goals. I kept them short and sweet, since I was very exhausted with everything. I’m slowly but surely completing my grad apps. The “hard” part is over (besides the waiting), which is that I’ve written a personal statement. I have to edit it, but it is indeed complete. I have been attending my dance classes and even practicing real practices.

By tonight, my dance notebook should be complete. I’m really happy with it. I find that rewriting sloppy notes has helped me remember what I learned, even workshops that were a while ago.

Because of being sick and the apps, my research reading commences tonight. I look forward to it. I luckily have indeed organized my desk so it’s workable space. I wish I could do my reading at my office (it’s not as cozy, but that’s why I like reading there sometimes), but the building as far as I know is still under construction.

As for relaxation? I have done that, despite being sick. This Friday I leave for Vegas, which I hope will be more relaxing. In any case, it’ll be warmer there than it is here!

As I have been vigorously working my applications and making life decisions fast, my fiancee informs me that he may look at doing sociology instead of physics. I typically try not to write about specific people, but I feel inclined to write about this, because I think he is not unique in this issue.

By “this issue” I mean changing career paths. I feel like for him, science was more a part of his life than mine. When I went over to his parents’, he showed a children’s book to me that is this woolly mammoth descrbing physics (and to boot, it’s accurate). I didn’t grow up in a household that did physics or really, science. I’m not sure if I totally understand what he’s going through, but I think he really has concluded that doing physics isn’t what he wants.

Oddly enough, what made him realize this was writing the personal statement for his applications. I’ve been griping about this, but in a sense, the exercise has been helpful to really make me think about why I’m still doing this. I overall don’t write a lot of things about my physics life that are negative, but believe me, there are negative aspects I encounter. Since I’m only human, I do have those days where I wonder why I do what I do. My future in physics isn’t going to be easy and fun, either. After applying for a PhD program, if I get in, I will have some more classes to take. I will have to take a qualifier exam that determines if I can stay in the program. Then I have to complete research and defend a thesis. After that, I will have a PhD but will be competing with others to get post-doc positions, and even after that, I will have to figure out where I’m going to work and hope I get tenure.

I can’t blame anyone for not wanting to stay in physics if they know it isn’t for them, knowing all of the above. I don’t believe they’re stupid or lazy or whatever have you; I believe that they were smart enough to know themselves and what makes them happy. I believe 100% my fiancee could complete a PhD in physics if he wanted it, but I don’t think he does. As much as he struggles with the idea of not doing physics, I think this is for the best.

As for me, my personal statement made me really think about what makes me stay in physics. I think it’s more than habit, since I hate applications. I genuinely enjoy what I do, thinking about physics and learning about the world. I like the people who are sincerely in it. I may have written this here before, but I really am sincere that I picked physics not only because I enjoy it but also because I like the people. Not all of them are great, mind you, but the bulk of them I get along with well in the work environment. I think that’s way more important than people give stock to.

Being the end of the year, I think a lot of people do soul searching to figure out where they are in life and where they want to be. I know that changing your mind is scary, but I laud anyone who does what makes them happy.

I’ve been working on my personal statement more vigorously since class left out. Because I’m going to Vegas and will be without steady internet (not to mention relaxing), I had to up the deadline for myself from 15 Dec. to 12 Dec. I know 3 days doesn’t sound like a lot, but you never know.

I’m not normally a work in public kind of gal, but for this, I learned that I work better at a cafe than at home. I think it has something to do with the weather. It’s cold here (right now we are about 10 degrees above 0 F), and when this

img_0780

is your view, you tend to go for the cozy and cheerful. There’s something about working the cafe that makes me more productive, even though there are plenty of people to watch.

The game plan for today is to get everything written so that I can sit on it, forget it, and edit it on Monday. Hope for the best for me, please?

I began writing mine last night. It didn’t go well, but I expected that.

It is incredibly difficult, in my opinion, to express why you love what you love in a coherent manner. For inspiration, I looked at example personal statements. None of them, even though they were allegedly good ones, rang true to what I want to say. I don’t want to talk about my lifelong interest in physics, because that firstly would be a lie. I thought I was going to be a school psychologist from the time I was in third grade until 11th grade during physics. I also am ambivalent about the lifelong passion idea; I know it’s true for some people, but at the same time, I’ve met so many people (like Middle Eastern dancers) who are just as passionate and enthusiastic about their thing and they haven’t spent nearly as many years loving that. It just seems like an irrelevant detail.

And then there’s the question of what makes me unique out of the other applicants (why would they want me over someone else). Only two things come to mind: earning an MS and having varied research experience. I’m not sure that this is enough. I haven’t published papers (the nature of my research has not, unfortunately, led to that), worked any place incredibly impressive, etc. I’m hardworking, capable, easy to get along with, and so on, but that can be said about many people.

I’m glad that I started now vs. later. On my calendar, I decided to work on my personal statement every Saturday.That isn’t to say I’m not going to think about it on non-Saturdays, but I’ve decided to specifically devote time on Saturday to it.  I’m hoping to knock this thing out by the beginning of Nov.

I began thinking about what I want mine to say. Generally speaking, I like to write things ahead of time and not look at them for a while. Then I open the file when I’ve completely forgotten what’s in it, so I essentially look at it through fresh eyes.I figure if it doesn’t make sense to me, it won’t make sense to anyone else. This method has yet to fail me.

I consider myself to be a decent writer, but I do struggle with personal statements. Sometimes, language fails to really describe what drives you to do things or pushes you into a career path. I think the way I can best describe it is why do you like certain foods? Or colors? Or people? A lot of the same criteria you define for liking sweet potato ravioli (it’s lunch and I’m hungry :)) holds up for other things, yet they just don’t cut it. Or sometimes a person can meet all your criteria, but you just don’t love him/her for whatever reasons. I feel like my interest in physics can’t easily be described.

And then there’s the word limit. Writing when you’re constrained is difficult. Part of the motivation for this blog is to improve my writing. I decided that I want to be succinct yet clear. I am improving on this, but I still have a long way to go.

I have old personal statements to use, so I’m not completely stuck with a fresh start. The old ones aren’t cutting it, though. I’ve changed enough, believe it or not, that the old ones aren’t jiving with me. I find it odd, since my research interests haven’t changed.

My plan of attack isn’t to write one yet (too many other things on my plate, like planning an engagement party, studying for the GREs, dance, and fighting my allergies), just to think it over and probably begin writing it in mid-September. I feel like the personal statement can really win someone over or make someone go “Eh.”