Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hitchhikers Guide to Grad School Salad

"So, what's next?" Dave asked, as I stood across from him in his office. I had two heavy shoulder bags strapped over each shoulder, so that they crossed my chest forming an X like a bandoleer. This is my standard going-to-work look, and it makes me feel like I am actually headed for combat. Dave was still wearing his bike tights and shoes with the little clips on the toes, as though work was just a little break in his day before returning to his real career in adventure sports.
"Well" I said, looking up at the clock "I have to get some samples run, and then I was thinking that I might have some time during lunch to go for a run". I looked back at Dave. He appeared to be having one of those moments when you can't decide whether to interrupt a person to clarify your question, or just let them lead the conversation away from your desired destination.

"No, that's not what I meant" he said "I mean, what happens after the salads?"
"Oh. Um.. well last year I did 'Soup on Sunday's' and then '28 days of dinner at home' as part of another blog "Leafy Reader"... but I think after this I should probably just focus on school." I said, allowing myself to convey my feelings of guilt for spending time and energy on something outside of grad school.

I am not sure where I was when it happened, but somewhere along the line I have picked up a guilty conscience, and I have been carrying her like a hitchhiker along the road to my degree. It doesn't matter that I work long hours both at work and at home, my guilty conscience stays with me, and chastises me for not focusing all of my energy on a single goal.

"Who do you think you are?" She says "you are never going to get anywhere if you don't focus your efforts." Then she likes to point out all of my deficits, and remind me that even the most intelligent people reduce their outside lives to near nothing while pursuing their doctorate.

"This is protein boot camp" one of the post docs had told me one day. She was standing over my shoulder, and I found myself fumbling with my pipetter while trying to work out a western blot protocol. "And you need to start getting manic about it if you are ever going to get this figured out. When it starts to invade your dreams, that's when you know you are on the right track."

I didn't have to take this to heart, but I was compelled. The following week, after working long days in the lab and reading about blotting techniques at night, I had a dream about western blots, and actually felt a moment of pride.

Guilt is a terrible feeling, and is particularly cumbersome when it chooses to accompany things not particularly guilt worthy. Feeling guilty for robbing a bank makes a certain amount of sense, and the bearer might feel that they got a fair deal. Feeling guilty for working too hard just seems unfair. A friend of mine once pointed out that senseless guilt goes by another name.


Later in the afternoon, I tiptoed away from my western blot and headed out to meet Dave for a short run. "I was thinking more about what's next" I said, "I think I want to write a book, or maybe a cookbook, or maybe both. Christina suggests that I work on it the way I have been working on blogging, a little bit each day."

Hitchhikers Guide to Grad School Salad
1/6 head romaine lettuce
1 red pepper, diced
1 bulb fennel, quartered and sliced
10 heirloom cherry tomatoes

Dress with:
3/4 cup whole plain yogurt
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
3/4 cup blue cheese or Gorgonzola cheese
1 Tbsp tarragon
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
black pepper
1 shallot, diced (or 1 Tbsp red or yellow onion)

Christina's vote: "This salad made me blue"

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