Pandemic Diary #71 – reflections on graduate school (20 Nov 2021)

all the ways grad school let me down (or i let myself down?)

  • no five years of stability in income and health insurance
    (which would have been way worth the pay downgrade to me — if i wanted my life to be so unstable, i could have just done contract work…)
  • no traveling and eating on other people’s dime
  • no making cool robotics friends around the world
  • no being excited about teaching undergrads and inspiring them about robotics and making sure none of them fall through the cracks

good things to come of the last 5 years

  • i’m no longer scared of equations, and i can understand why the precision is needed. bring on the set notation
  • i learned what proofs are
  • i got an A in a serious grad class & finished a cool controls project, no one can take that away from me
  • i published a first-author paper! for a long time felt like it’d never happen. so, professors can’t just dismiss me outright
  • i got a robot arm to throw a knife
  • i met and talked to so many cool people ! so many people’s doors are open to me if only i have it in me to ask
  • i got to present a paper, and people told me the presentation was really good 🙂

it’s weird that now as a “senior” grad student, in grad school i almost entirely hang out with people younger than me (and way more accomplished). i remember when i felt like i was turning a new leaf and maybe there was a chance to do well for myself

and all the while i’ve yet to review any papers etc.

if i was here two years ago – before the pandemic feels like it took over 1/3 of my grad time — i would be pretty excited actually to start this field (ai for social good). now i just feel in a rush to leave… but that leads to poor work. (i’ve never felt like i’ve had the time and stability to do good work, to really show what i’m capable of — but isn’t that true for everyone). in some sense i could still aim high, i know at least one person who published just one paper in five years, it was a really good paper and went on to postdoc at a good school. but i feel so tired

things i want to do within the next 1 year:

  • newport bermuda or newport halifax races — do long ocean passages & learn safety at sea. maybe an all-female BVI or Mediterranean charter
  • pass my quals, graduate ! (just make something up when profs ask you how this fits into overall field, like you did for your fellowships!)
  • publish two first-author papers in AI for social good
  • finish at least 4 of my side projects

next 2 years

  • get a nice cushy job that isn’t too stressful
  • make it to six figures in nominal savings (three fund portfolio) (i estimate this should be a year of industry-competitive salary) or live abroad for 3 months
  • sail across the atlantic ocean
  • idk do the life thing
a stray made friends with me at tal mixta cave in gozo

i was just sitting on the floor of the cave resting due to my ankle and it walked up to me and started kneading my dress. could’ve sat there and enjoyed the view for hours. pretty grateful to semi-stranger (met at conference) for totally unplanned touristing, this cat will probably be the highlight of my trip. i feel accepted and appreciated now