Home Science Communication Back to whatever – struggling with freelance life

Back to whatever – struggling with freelance life

by Eva Amsen

Tuesday morning I woke up grumpier than usual – and I usually wake up grumpy in the first place!
It was the day that everyone in Canada went Back to School. I have been going back to school every September since 1982, so this was the first September since 1981 in which I didn’t. And it feels weird. I left my full-time job when my contract ended in June, and have been “on vacation” in July and August. But in September you really can’t be on vacation anymore and I realise I’m struggling with freelance life.

I’m keeping busy, but for someone who multitasked her way through crazy lab experiments and juggled three to eight extracurricular activities at any given time, I’m not busy enough. Everything that I used to do on the side has now become my main life. Orchestra started again last night, and rather than having to fit rehearsals into my schedule, the weekly gatherings are my schedule. I’m going to New York City later this month to talk about blogging, and booked my return flight to accommodate orchestra. It’s the only place I need to be these days.

I do have a lot of time to do things I’ve been putting off for a while. I’m still not doing them, but I have time to do them now, and that’s what matters.

Today I interviewed some people for the LabLit podcast, about science and art, and it’s potentially more exciting than Richard and Jenny reading comics from the newspaper out loud. (There’s more in that episode, of course. The calculator story made me laugh.)

I’m also writing some things for people here and there, but again, this was stuff I used to do on the side. I’m really stretching everything out to fill my days. I even started cooking properly, and I don’t even like cooking. Actually, it now got to the point where I even enjoy it a tiny bit.

Remember, my New Year’s resolution was to be a better cook, and it looks like it’s actually going somewhere! Like Anna, I’ve also noticed the similarities with lab work. I felt like I was coordinating experiments when I planned to serve the gazpacho (premade, in the fridge) in the 15 minute cooking period of the chili rather than in the 5-minute step before it.

Things in the lab work the same way: You can check your e-mail during a blot wash step (10 minutes), and you can go downstairs for coffee during the antibody incubation (1 hour). You can also – if you find yourself juggling three to eight extracurricular activities – use these intervals to e-mail people about an event you’re organizing, and to type out meeting notes, respectively. It’s maddening, and sometimes there is no time to eat (let alone cook), but I miss it.

I know I said I would never miss lab work, and I don’t think that’s it. It’s those bleeping timers I miss. (Or, if you will, those *BLEEP*-ing timers) I got a lot more done when I saw the minutes tick away until the next step in the experiment than when I have all day to work on something.

Tomorrow I’m going to set some random timers and see how I do.

Or maybe the day after tomorrow. There’s no rush…

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14 comments

Kristi Vogel September 10, 2009 - 2:07 AM

_Tuesday morning I woke up grumpier than usual_
Here, have some crabby crabs:
!http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3526/3836078587_4cfd4b9b74.jpg!
And a platypus 😉
!http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3458/3901407821_dd6a90b12b.jpg!

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Eva Amsen September 10, 2009 - 3:24 AM

Platypus! =)

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Sabbi Lall September 10, 2009 - 3:33 AM

Yay, the platypus made it!
It actually sounds like you’re doing a lot (giving talks about blogging in megalopolises and such-like), but understand that you’re missing the nagging insistence of timers. I often end up organizing my time military-style to the second when I have time off.

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Richard P. Grant September 10, 2009 - 6:28 AM

Bet you’re still not as grumpy as me.

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Stephen Curry September 10, 2009 - 6:52 AM

Kristi – your crabs are fab!

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Jennifer Rohn September 10, 2009 - 6:56 AM

Write some more pieces for LabLit!
(you can’t blame a girl for trying.)

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Richard P. Grant September 10, 2009 - 9:28 AM

Shameless!

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Alyssa Gilbert September 10, 2009 - 11:10 AM

I find the best way to use up some time is by taking naps 🙂

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Richard Wintle September 10, 2009 - 2:03 PM

You know, I’d forgotten about it, but your post reminded me that after finishing my PhD, I felt exactly the same way… after something like 25 years of solid education, it felt very strange to _not be in school any more_.
‘Course then I went straight into a postdoc, which, truth be told, was not so terribly different than grad school.
It does sound like you’re rather busy, though, no matter what you say. Is it the Hart House orchestra that you’re in, by the way?

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Eva Amsen September 10, 2009 - 2:08 PM

I used to be in Hart House Chamber Strings, but I’m now playing “here”:http://corktownchamberorchestra.com/ .

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Cath Ennis September 11, 2009 - 10:35 PM

@Today I interviewed some people for the LabLit podcast, about science and art, and it’s potentially more exciting than Richard and Jenny reading comics from the newspaper out loud@
Surely not!

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Eva Amsen September 11, 2009 - 11:11 PM

Well, maybe not quite. But it will be _almost_ as exciting.

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steffi suhr September 12, 2009 - 8:03 AM

That feeling is why I don’t think I’d be very good at being self-employed. I am probably the world’s best procrastinator, and unless I have some deadlines and pressure, I quite happily put things off or distract myself with other stuff…

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steffi suhr September 12, 2009 - 5:17 PM

By the way, I took this picture for you on the market today:
!http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2504/3912210833_acc7e6a1d0.jpg!
Herbs in test tubes – goes with the cooking/lab theme – much easier to work out than the “sciency bathroom”:http://network.nature.com/people/eva/blog/2009/09/05/take-a-shower-in-the-lab, methinks.

Reply

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