Winding Down into Winter

The cold has set in for good now, I hear. When it snows again this weekend, all estimates are that we most likely won’t see the grass again until somewhere in early May. The light dust of snow on the ground even now is heralding the end of the semester; after the break for Thanksgiving, we have only have two weeks worth of classes before the long Christmas break. It hardly seems possible that this first semester has gone so quickly. I feel I’ve hardly been here half an academic year already. Time, though, is of course relative so simultaneously it feels like Pensacola is long in the past.

In any case, with the Fall semester’s dying breaths come all sorts of final projects to put finishing touches on, forms to fill out for Spring registration, papers to write, and plans to solidify. I myself, in writing this, am taking a mental break from writing a paper for my Neuroscience class due this Sunday. There’s a presentation that goes along with it the first week of December, but I’m not quite as worried about it as I would have been in the past. I’m getting over my presentation anxiety. On Tuesday night I delivered a final presentation based on the big grant proposal I spent the greater part of the semester attempting to perfect. There’s a paper portion too that I’m working on; I wish I could have turned this version in to the National Science Foundation, but alas… their page limit was a whopping two, and the semi-final version has now reached eighteen. You’ll be happy to know that the presentation went well, and that I only went five minutes over the allotted fifteen. In my opinion, I also sounded like I knew what I was talking about, which is sort of a major step towards actually knowing what I’m talking about. You have to sound the part first. “Fake it til you make it” is a very real and very critical component of achieving the end goal of being Dr. Speed one day.

Though sometimes I feel like I’ve done very little at all this semester, and I still occasionally get a bit of Imposter Syndrome, but I know that I’ve made awesome progress towards my greater goal. I’ve made progress as a person as well. I submitted that grant, and have improved upon the research design and my understanding of the project as a whole. I’ve made valuable connections here at the university both within my program and out of it. I’ve delivered my first lecture (to a statistics class, no less). I made my new apartment into a livable home for my daughter and myself, though it still could use a few more bookcases… I’ve crammed more neuroscience jargon into my skull in a single sitting than I previously thought possible. Just yesterday I provided a necessary data point in a labmate’s fNIRS project, sat in on the following participant, and served as a model for another department member’s upcoming study on the neuroscience of balance. I’ve graded so many absolutely awful undergraduate papers, and some truly stunning papers too. I accidentally made a name for myself among my classmates as someone not afraid to call out bullshit. I have participated in a peace march and nonviolent protest. I’ve even got my halfling sorcerer up to level four in my first Dungeons & Dragons campaign- I mean, “weekly creative problem-solving and team-building exercise”. I’ve made friends.

I’m thrilled for the next semester to start though, to be honest. New projects to work on, new classes to conquer, and new people to meet in each one. My schedule has taken quite a bit of work to get perfected… I’m registered for Fundamentals of Neuroscience II, Foundations of Dual Language Immersion Education, Cognition and Instruction, the Neuroscience Seminar, and last but not least Snowboarding. I’m also going to be the teaching assistant for the undergrad course Cognitive Psychology and the instructor on record for all three lab sections. I’m completely thrilled about all of these classes (no, really!) and excited to get cranking on them.

I feel at home here. Both in Utah, at Utah State University, and in graduate school in general. I honestly feel that my decision to come here was the best decision I’ve made in a long time. It’s so satisfying to have made that huge leap of faith only for it to actually work in my favor so far. I’m so grateful and thankful for all of the help I’ve had to get this far. Without the generosity and support of my family (Mamaw, Dad, and Mom in particular), Dr. Rainey, the Callahan family, my ever-present ex-husband Terry, and you if you’re reading this… I wouldn’t be here today, getting ready to take another step on this awesome journey that I’ve found myself on. So thank you. Seriously. Thanks.

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