Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Academic Year Reflections

This past academic year was highly satisfying. I learned more about the nervous system than I could have imagined, and felt like I grew in so many ways. While I have a few woulda/coulda/shoulda sentiments about this past year, I'm resting in the aftermath of this academic year with an overall feeling of quiet contentment.

That is not to say that this past academic year passed without incident. There were certainly periods that were trying, and some stretches that were downright stressful. The arc of growth seems inevitably to include a bit of messiness, and the Fall of 2016 was no exception. Sleep-time and study-time were often in direct conflict (sleep usually lost), and there were periods where my academic performances were a bit, ahem, suboptimal. In the interest if full-disclosure and truth in advertising, this blog posting describes one of my favorite lowlights of this past academic year.

Part of the challenge of this past academic year, the Fall semester in particular, was the loss of routine. I can ordinarily be a pretty functional human being, though I lean against routines and structures in order to project this facade of functionality to myself and others. In many respects, I'm actually very distractible and am really just a few degrees removed from needing adult supervision to pull off adulting.

The academic year tested my adulting skills.
In the absence of my familiar routines, some pretty basic activities fell by the wayside. For example, one morning I neglected to rinse the shampoo out of my hair.

Now, you may be thinking that shampooing is not rocket science... and I'm in full agreement that shampooing is not rocket science. The last that I checked, the instructions for hair-washing included all of three words:
  1. lather
  2. rinse
  3. repeat
Unfortunately, there was that one sleep-deprived morning when I made it thru step one, and then lost my focus. Thankfully, the outcome to missing steps two and beyond is not as bad as you may imagine - I did not go through the day with a mountain of suds atop my head. 

This is not the outcome of
not rinsing after lathering.
I did, however, end up with a mop of flat and greasy-looking hair. Virtually everyone that I met on that fateful day briefly made eye contact, then quickly directed their gaze to my hair. Many people would try to avert their gaze from my hair and resume eye contact, though more than a few people appeared to have their gaze magnetically transfixed by the greasy/stringy assemblage that covered my head. By about mid-morning I realized that step-two had gone missing. The rest of the day, I enjoyed watching how various people reacted.

Ironically, nobody said a word. Maybe people thought that I was under the weather? Or trying a different brand of product? Or thought that my liver was detoxing? Whatever went through people's minds, nobody said a thing. There were a few smiles, and I even thought that I detected a smirk or two, but no questions nor comments arose.

Thankfully the day passed without rain showers, and I made it home to enjoy one of the most satisfying showers that I can remember. As I stood in the shower, I felt like a weight had been removed from my scalp! The next day I rinsed after lathering, and the school year continued right along.

It's been a privilege to have the opportunity to embark on graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, and I'm grateful that so many people have supported me in this endeavor. At risk of sounding like another Facebook post (here's my family vacationing in Hawaii... and a picture of our new Tesla... and all the other cool/perfect things that we do every day), I wanted to share one example of the ways that grad school has pushed me out of my comfort zone. Not to complain... but to share the human side of learning so much cool stuff in such a compressed time period.

Despite my distractibility, the past academic year ended up feeling like a success. I can hardly wait to share more of what I learned about the neural control of movement, and look forward to the lab work that I'll be beginning this Summer.  Thanks for reading this far, and I am committed to being a more regular blogger in the coming months!













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