Today is the birthday of our nephew who died suddenly four years ago at age three.  Each year we take a trip to the beach with Hubs’s family and it seems to always overlap his birthday.  It’s really quite fitting because this beach is the place I spent the most time with him and the place I last saw him.  And he LOVED the beach!

He really loved everything natural, though, especially animals.  On a trip with my family to Minnesota, we saw two bald eagles and a black bear, and I felt him in the spirit of those animals.  Last year on his birthday, we blew bubbles and sang on the beach and a pod of dolphins came and swam in the waves right offshore.  My sister-in-law (his momma) snorkled in Hawaii last year and right before they got out of the water, four sea turtles swam right up to them, surely a hello from our sweet buddy.

Our Mexican neighbors celebrate Día de los Muertos each year in early November, where families and friends gather to pray for and remember deceased loved ones.  A few days of eating, drinking, crying, laughing, and celebrating seems wonderfully cathartic and profoundly helpful.  I think there is a stigma in the United States against remembering family members and friends who have passed away, which feels unhealthy to me.  Some people demonstrate obvious discomfort when someone mentions our nephew.  While I know their reactions have nothing to do with me, I want to help them understand.  By talking and remembering, we’re not wallowing in our grief.  After plenty of counseling and time passing, grief is only a tee-tiny part of what I think of when I think of him.  No, by talking and remembering, we’re celebrating all the awesome things about his life.

So happy birthday, sweet darling boy!  “Awake. Love. Think. Speak. Be walking trees. Be talking beasts. Be divine waters.” (C.S. Lewis)

Paradigm Shift

It’s been a while.  I’ve been feeling stifled, sad, overwhelmed at work and by my feelings (I just have so many).  Every time I thought of a blog post to write, I felt guilty for not doing work or getting chores done, and nothing I could have written about seemed important enough.

I’ve been struggling for a while with the desire to have a baby, which I am feeling very intensely, the need to finish my PhD, and the unknown of how I’m going to balance work and life in the future.  I really had myself convinced that what I wanted was to leave academia and science and be a mom.  I highly esteem parents, and I want to do my very best at being one.  I’ve said it before, but I think my greatest contribution to the world will be to raise socially and environmentally conscious kids.  Couple these beliefs with the feeling that most scientists aren’t valued for anything besides science, and I was pretty sure that I would/could not stay in the field.

But I was really struggling with the thought of leaving science and academia and I didn’t know why.  Was it because I was worried about disappointing everyone who has invested in me along the way?  For me, this was not a good enough reason:  what matters is how I feel, and as hard as it is to perceive or internalize others’ negative opinions about your choices, no way should I make a decision for someone else.  I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t feeling unsure about the choice not to pursue a career based on other people, but that may still be too tough to untangle.  It’s really difficult, as a highly social, sensitive person, for me to function completely autonomously, and I don’t think I ever will.

I thought really hard about why I was feeling the way that I was and worked on it in counseling, but it became clear to me while I was at the Society for Developmental Biology meeting this past weekend that I don’t want to leave science.  The Society for Developmental Biology is unlike any scientific group that I’d interacted with before in that they really seem to respect teaching as scholarship and not just as something that we do because we have to.  Over the course of the four day meeting, there was an education poster session, discussion session, and practical session, during which there were no other events scheduled.  Attending those sessions felt exciting and inspiring because there were so many people there who cared about teaching developmental biology.  I loved it and I want to be a part of that group of people.  The way to make that happen remains to be seen, and how I’ll balance my work and life is another story, but now I feel like I know what I’d like (at least today).