Five is all it takes (pt. 1?)

The past two days have triggered a small spiral of negativity. I’ve had several conversations with various people within my university and beyond that seriously made me question why I chose the kind of job I have. I struggle at times to answer this question, and I have no better answer than ‘Well, I love nature…’.

Sometimes I wonder if that love for nature is enough.

Days like this require me to check in with my gratitude. There’s plenty of wonderful things – also part of this job – to be tremendously grateful for.

Here’s five things I’m grateful for this week, in no particular order:

4) The Asian food vendor on campus. I’m cautious when it comes to unmasked large gatherings. (I’m alright with unmasked people around me – but not ready to follow suit) Which leaves me with very few options to get lunch on our campus. The Asian food vendor sells reasonably priced takeaway food outside. I usually end up eating it alone, for the above reasons. I kind of enjoy being alone anyway.

2) Updated figures. I’m working on a grant proposal, which included a summary part of the output of one of our PhD projects. From several collaborators, I got constructive feedback on the figures. As I wasn’t the person that made them – the PhD candidate made them – I could hardly change much about them. She immediately jumped right into it and soon sent me perfect updated figures. I am very grateful for things like that.

5) Having my own office. It may sound pretentious, but I seriously wouldn’t know how to do without it anymore. I close my door and usually am not disturbed. I have worked in an 8-PhD office and was totally fine with that. I can be pretty tidy, but I also somewhat like having my very own office-turned-living-turned-storage space. I kind of enjoy being alone anyway.

3) ‘My’ technician. She’s not really my technician, but in our research group, some postdocs get some responsibility for technical staff, that sort of operate under their wing. Often this is because they specialized in related subjects. In my case, this is Sarah. She’s a molecular lab technician, and although I don’t always do molecular stuff, I think we’re a good match. She’s pretty awesome, and used to be my sidekick at every experiment. However, these days, it’s more the other way around. She helps me so much in these busy times, with planning, practical solutions and execution, that I turned into the sidekick. I am very grateful for always, always, always being able to count on Sarah.

1) Colleagues with kids. Kids change your life. It’s not like you don’t like people without kids anymore. Quite the contrary. I like many of my childless colleagues. However, working on something with colleagues with kids is just a type of collaboration that is perfect. For instance, I share my winter teaching with two colleagues, and both have kids in the same age. We all have sick kids all the time, and something comes in between for someone at least every other week. We are all always running on fumes, with lack of sleep. But there’s this unspoken agreement that you’ll have each other’s backs. We understand. It’s brilliant. One person falls out, the other stands in without a second thought. I love sharing my teaching load with other parents in academia. It’s a shame that next year it seems I will be alone with it.

I could probably come up with another five, or even ten. Maybe next week. Five is all it takes to ground me again. I’m not in such a bad spot.

Thanks to everyone that adds a spark of positivity to my work life!

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

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