You know the feeling when you step off of a roller coaster that was just beyond your threshold for fear? You think to yourself, "I'm never going to do that again, but at least I got through it". That's how I feel after these past two weeks.
Almost two weeks ago, I left for the American Society for Virology 30th Annual Meeting. This was the second time I have attended this meeting and the first time I did an oral presentation. I am terrified of public speaking. I shake, my stomach gets twisted in knots and I tend to need a restroom (sorry, TMI!). I was giving a talk to about 40-50 experts in arenaviruses. Me! Telling experts things they don't know yet about their favorite virus! Nerve wracking? You bet! Intimidating? Without a doubt. But I came out the other side accomplished, having fielded their questions as well as I could and having given a presentation that I could be proud of. Phew!, you might think, glad to be off that roller coaster, but that was just the warm up hill.
This was also the first time I was away from Miss T overnight since she was born! B has managed to get me out for a few date nights here and there, but I always get to go home and watch her perfect sleeping little body and reassure myself that she's ok. The first couple of days away, there were a few tears and heartaches. Luckily, my meeting kept me very busy (8:30 am to 10:00 pm!) which provided a good distraction. Best of all, was that on most days, I could make a quick stop at the local Starbucks and video chat with my loves through FaceTime on our iPhones. What a huge blessing that is! The hardest part was waiting for my suitcase on the baggage claim carousel, knowing that that was the only thing keeping me away from my B and my T. I spent the next day with T, reading books, playing in her pool or splash table and just loving my time with her. But wait, we're not off that ride yet. Here come the huge final hill...
While I was away I received news that my mentor had resigned his position at the University and was taking a position at another beginning 9/1/2011. Mind you, I didn't hear it from him. And, once I found out about the resignation, I learned that many other people at my meeting knew the day before I did! "What a jerk!" you might think, or even "How unprofessional!". Well, I'll get to that. The bottom line is that he is providing the funding I need to finish this December, I don't need to move with him or change projects as other students have had to do, so it could be much, much worse. When I returned, I was ready to give it to him. Unfortunately, he cancelled our meeting and we wouldn't meet for a few more days, approximately a week after his resignation was turned in. Well, I'm glad I had the few days to cool off. I was able to make a timeline for completion for my experiments, paper manuscripts, and thesis. I was able to reassure myself that I can do all of this and get it done in the timeframe provided. While I waited for our meeting, I learned of all the abuse that he was taking from other people in our institute. I found myself defending him! Why shouldn't he be able to take a position that will accelerate his career, that will recognize his expertise and contributions to the field, that will reunite him with his family.
My mentor grew up in cold war Russia, trained in virology and medicine under the Communist Regime in Moscow. He first met his current colleague that we collaborate with at the Berlin wall - he was on the East side, she was on the West side. Here in the states, his wife works for a pharmaceutical company 3 hours away - they only see each other on the weekends. They have had this living arrangement for the last 11 years! His sons and grandchildren are even further away. This move provides him with a way to not only reunite his family (allowing his wife to retire) and to be recognized for the leader in the field that he is. How could I be mad at him? Isn't this the exact same thing I want? To be able to excel in my career and to be reunited with our families back north?
When we did finally meet to discuss logistics and planning, I mentioned to him that I realized all the abuse he was getting, but that I was happy for him, that I recognized what a great opportunity this was for him, and that I was going to miss him. He actually started to choke up and squeezed my hand! My mentor is devoid of emotion, at least on the surface, so to witness this, well of course I started crying. Par for the course with me! So while I may have had those horrible thoughts initially, I was able to see things from his perspective and see how this move had nothing to do with me and that in the end, wasn't going to change all that much. Sure, it's a bit more stressful now and I need to start searching for a postdoctoral position sooner than I thought, but I can handle it. After all, I managed to be away from Miss T for 5 days and present at a national meeting right?
Because I can't resist, here are a couple of pics of Miss T while I was away...