A letter to my five-year-old self

Dear five-year old me,

I know you’re a little busy worrying about five-year old things, but there are some things about life that I need you to know:

You won’t be a princess forever.

You may be one now, but that will change. You will trade your dresses, barbies and bows for athletic clothes and hiking gear. You will get dirty (on purpose). You will collect rocks (for fun). You will travel to Peru, Kenya, Tanzania and Nepal to explore, hike and (gasp) venture into the no-shower world. Being a princess is cool for now, but you’re going to grow up to be one bad-ass chick who’s not afraid to take on a historically male-dominated field. Oh, and you’ll be surrounded by lots of other badass ladies while you do it. (Sorry about the swearing… don’t tell Mom).

You will always be terrified of snakes.

But you will find things that are much more terrifying. And one of those things will shape your whole future. Let yourself be afraid, because it will drive you to understand things that you never thought you could.

People won’t always be nice to you.

You will have “friends” that make fun of you for being quiet, “friends” that laugh at your book-obsession and nerdiness, and even “friends” who joke that you’re a waste of space. But they’re not your friends. And it will get better. You’re an introvert and always will be, but there are people out there who will appreciate you for who you are not who they want you to be. Never, NEVER let anyone push you around. You’re better than that, and you’re better than them.

You will fail.

And you will get up and start again. And then you will fail again. Life is full of failures, but how you handle those failures will shape who you become. Don’t be afraid to fail. Let yourself cry. Let yourself be sad. But damnit, pick yourself up and try and try again.

You’re going to grow up to study some pretty important things.

Don’t give up on science, even when others try to steer you away. Your knack for science is a gift few have, so don’t you dare waste it. Learn all the things you can. Take all the classes you want. Let travel teach you things home never can. Never forget where you came from — your obsession with marine biology and your summers at the beach will greatly shape the scientist that you become.

Sincerely,

Twenty five-year-old you

 

Thoughts from an academic introvert

Take a look around you (wherever you are), and it probably won’t take you long to find an extrovert flourishing. Think of your most successful bosses, colleagues, friends or family members–what are their personalities like? Extroverts have no problem speaking their mind; they participate more and they think out-loud. Extroverts thrive in positions of power; they know how to work a room and their presentations almost seem effortless. Extroverts are in their element when surrounded by others; they love being around people and they certainly have no problem befriending them. TLDR: extroverts get noticed. But what about the introverts?

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It today’s scholarly society, shy has gone out of fashion. Entire courses are graded on participation and presentations with little emphasis on the what goes on behind-the-scenes. Teachers and professors focus on active learning lesson-plans; they push for more participation and more discussion. In graduate school, your superiors expect even more. Course participation still matters, but now it’s time to spread your wings into the global academic world. Be heard. Be assertive. Be confident. Shout your science from the mountain-top. Discuss all the things with [gasp] other people. Being shy in academia doesn’t do you any favors. So let’s be totally honest, extroverts don’t just flourish in academia, they shine.

So, is there really no place for introverts in academia?

As a self-described introvert who’s been [I think] rather successful in the scholarly world, I would have to whole heartedly disagree. Sure, we introverts have to work harder to have our voices heard in a typical academic discussion and to get up in front of a large audience to give a presentation, and we may need some probing from above to speak our minds, but
there’s something to be said about those of us who prefer to sit back and digest information internally. You may not hear our voices as much, but we certainly don’t shy
away from problem solving… we just do it differently (and probably more often).

Introverts don’t like being the center of attention. We stay silent when we want to think things through, and we talk when we have something important to say. Extroverts may always dominate the conversation, but introverts are always there listening and learning. And introverts really don’t mind working behind the scenes; in fact, we thrive there. We care immensely about the work behind the final product, and despite our reservations about having to present those findings in front of a large group of people, we do it because the work matters so much to us. We may never be admired for a public-speaking skills, but that doesn’t make our science any less important.

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Despite our constant inward attentiveness and outward attention to detail, there are always those times when others find introverts not well prepared for the academic world. Our quiet demeanor can come off as a lack of trying or, worse, complete disinterest. I can’t even begin to tell you how many course evaluations I’ve got back that have said something along the lines of “fantastic student, but wish she would discuss things in class more…doesn’t actively participate…” I know these teachers and professors meant well (and I truly took most of their advice to heart), but these kind of statements are a harsh reminder that I strive to work in a profession not designed for an introvert like me. My personality is better suited to lab work, writing, and internal problem-solving; so to get where I want to be in academia, I will have to work a little harder than my extroverted academic neighbor.

Can introverts shine in academia?

Definitely. The thing about academia is that ultimately, the science is what matters. Yes, scientists need to be able to communicate and present their science, but scientists also have to be able to write and think about their science. Everyone has different strengths. Academia is [SURPRISE!] about learning, and we all have to use it as an opportunity to push ourselves outside our extroverted/introverted bounds. If your science is smart, unique, and interesting (…world-changing), people will listen regardless of your personality class. So go ahead and get your __________ (insert introvert or extrovert here) on.

#teamintrovert

 

 

 

 

 

Ice is slippery: We all fall down

I fall down a lot. This week, it was a epic fall-flat-on-my-face in front of lots of people after taking my chances on some exquisitely slippery ice. Last month, it was a trip induced tumble while crossing a teeny tiny little wood bridge near the end of a run. I’ve slipped down stairs in Nepal; I’ve made it through an entire Tough Mudder (literally the entire race) before falling face first in the mud two feet from the finish line; I’ve even forgot to clip out of my road bike and fallen over in the middle of a very busy intersection (bikers, you understand). But probably my most epic fall ever was not being accepted to graduate school the first time I applied.

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What I looked like falling on ice this week (people saw)

Receiving those graduate school rejection letters was hard. I had done everything I was supposed to: took extra classes, completed two research projects, worked in multiple labs, tutored other undergrads, but all of that experience (for reasons still a little unclear) wasn’t enough to get me where I wanted to be. Nothing was as embarassing as missing out on a dream I’d been working so hard for, especially a dream I was convinced I’d have no problem achieving. But still I fell.

If cliche quotes have taught me anything, it’s that getting up after a fall is everything. But even when it feels like the whole world just watched you smack your face into the cold, icy ground, it’s much easier to get back up after a physical fall than one that’s happened in your head. My own personal Inside Out mind characters probably looked a lot like the image below (Sadness obviously started touching things) when I got that last rejection letter. But up I had to go, and up I went (all the way, in fact, to a higher than mile high mountain town with one hell of a research university).

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Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear from Inside Out.

We all fall down. Some of us (hi mom), are masters of the hiking/running/oh-just-walking fall and we’re scary good at shaking those physical falls off. But all of us (don’t deny it), have fallen reaching for something great: a job, a dream, a home, even a championship game. The metaphorical ice is slippery, but up we must go.

 

Twenty fifteen, you were swell

It’s that time of year again (the end of the year) where we all wonder where the time has gone and admire all our glorious accomplishments (or not). A year ago I was living in a strange land (Chicago suburbs), working in a mythical place (asphalt plant), and running like a champ (… at sea-level). Now, I’m a one-semester-complished PhD student at CU-Boulder prepping for classes and TAing and planning my next six months of research, writing and conferences. Twenty fifteen, you were swell–so here it is, my year in review.

January Twenty Fifteen

Month of the most boring Super Bowl of all the Super Bowls… but that Puppy Bowl was serious business.

And yes, I’m still a bitter Packers fan.

February Twenty Fifteen

Month of Wisconsin Men’s Basketball making us all damn proud and Mike buying me a heart-shaped deep dish pizza (because he knows the real way to a midwestern girl’s heart).

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Taking down Kentucky was one of the best games I have ever seen, and being in Madison for the craziness that followed made that game even more special. Yeah, my guys lost the championship game to one of my most hated teams (Duke, I hate you), but we were one proud Wisconsin fan-base after that hell-of-a-run.

And heart-shaped deep dish pizza? I bet your boyfriend doesn’t buy you heart-shaped deep dish pizza.

March Twenty Fifteen

Month of deciding to frolic off to the mountains for graduate school at CU-Boulder.

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Source: CU-Boulder

It took one day on campus for me to decide that I absolutely had to come here to get my PhD. Okay, so probably more like 30 min talking with my advisor… but who can pass up that view!?! (Sorry, Wyoming and CSU).

April Twenty Fifteen

Month of “OMG I FINALLY GOT THE SEE THE HIMALAYA MOUNTAINS IN REAL LIFE!”

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It was almost a spur of the moment decision for Mike and I to join this trek in Nepal, but we are both so glad that we did. I mean, look at those giant icy beauties!

May Twenty Fifteen

Month of peace out suckinois.

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I love Chicago and really liked my jobs (minus the working in the steel mills and an asphalt plant), but the suburbs… not the most exciting scenery for a newly graduated outdoorsy 20-year old. It may not really be the “worst state ever,” but I wouldn’t wish the drive south through the state on anyone (except maybe my worst enemy).

June Twenty Fifteen

Month of “I can’t believe I actually live here! It’s like a painting! Seriously… like a real life painting” … oh and moving in with Mike… and living through him buying a couch (#adultmoves)… and learning to run again (at altitude).

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(1) Boulder is absolutely beautiful. I still can’t get enough of the amazing views I get to look at every day.

(2) Mike doesn’t like making decisions. And when he has to make a big decision… things get hilarious. Hours of research, mostly him not being able to decide what he wanted and where he wanted it from, and four trips to IKEA later, he finally managed to buy his couch (because he couldn’t fit himself on the normal-size people couch I already owned).

(3) Running at altitude is hard.

July Twenty Fifteen

Month of making friends with the ICP-MS.

While not the exact machine I made nice with over the summer, the photo above is pretty similar looking to the behemoth I spent most of July learning how not to break.

August Twenty Fifteen

Month of hiking and making friends with real [geology] people.

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Hiking in Colorado is like a fairly tale–for my eyeballs not my lungs. And there’s nothing like bagging some 14ers with some awesome geology ladies (Left-Ice, Middle (me)-Marine, Right-Beavers).

September Twenty Fifteen

Month of learning how to (and how not to) TA… or just starting to.

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Source: “Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham. http://www.phdcomics.com

I swear I’m not a nazi-TA. Hopefully.

October Twenty Fifteen

Month of “what am I doing again?”

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Embarrassing myself (slightly) at my first committee meeting, losing my mind (slightly) finishing my NSF GRFP proposal, writing my very first mid-term exam ever… grad school is fun! (It is guys, don’t worry).

November Twenty Fifteen

Month of Harry Potter world and butter beer and family and food and turning 1/4 of a century old.

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Because the most important moment of this whole month couldn’t be anything school related after my glorious day (really a few hours) spent at Harry Potter world drinking my grand ole one butter beer (it was glorious). A girl can only hope she’s as cool as Hermione.

Seeing the DiGiovacchino family was obviously more exciting than butter beer. I think they still like me. But I’m never participating in a vodka tasting again.

Getting older is weird.

December Twenty Fifteen

Month of “how do my students still not know what a sedimentary rock is?” and eating my weight in lefse. Oh and selfies with Amber.

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The dog is Amber. She sort of loves me.

Final exam grades were depressing. Lefse made it better.

Amber is the cutest dog who has ever lived (all six pounds of her). And now that she’s toothless, she rocks the Marnie look from time to time.

 

Fare-thee-well twenty fifteen.

Finding the pickle and other glorious Christmas things

Every family has their holiday traditions, and for my family, it’s traditions associated with the 25th of December and jolly-ole Saint Nick. I love Christmas-time with my crazy, wonderful family, and I love our Christmas traditions even more. So in the spirit of the holiday season, I present a compilation of some of my favorite Christmas things.

Finding the pickle

For those of you not in on this odd (and awesome) German-sourced tradition: a pickle ornament is hidden in the Christmas tree with good luck or a reward for the person who finds it first. This is a new one for me. Mike is German, so when I walked into one of Epcot’s German shops over Thanksgiving break and saw the giant tree of pickles I knew I had to bring one home. The pickle now proudly hanging amongst my glittery and shiny balls, and it’s glorious.


 

Lefse

I’m Norwegian. And for Christmas (and Thanksgiving… and really anytime of the year), Norwegians make lefse. If you’re not fortunate enough to have put this glorious tradition on your taste buds, you my friend, have been really sucking at the Holidays. Lefse is made out of potatoess and it is often described as a flatbread; however it’s really more like a tortilla. Making lefse is serious business in my family, and if you don’t have the right gear (i.e. lefse stick, lefse grill, ricer…) the making won’t go well for you. Smother it with butter… or sugar… or fill it with all the meat and gravy you can get your hands on. It will change your life.


 

“Give up your dough for Christmas yo!”

We all have favorite Christmas jingles. But among the Rongstads, this is not one of them. This masterpiece by Run DMC found its way onto one of our epic Christmas CDs, and every single time we put on our Christmas morning tunes it finds its way to the playlist. We grumble. We complain. We laugh. But not a single one of us gets off our lazy butts to change the song. (I think it’s growing on us).


 

Frosty Friends

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Frosty Friend 1990 ornamen; source: http://www.etsy.com

Hallmark’s Frosty Friends ornaments have been hanging on my Christmas tree as long as I can remember. My mom has been collecting them since before I was born, and since moving out on my own (with my own big girl fake tree), I have started my own collection too. Some of my favorite holiday memories come from post-Thanksgiving decoration days finding the perfect place on the tree for my favorite Frosty Friends ornaments.


 

Pizzelles

I’m Norwegian… but I’m also Italian. And Italians make the best desserts. Pizzelles are one such scrumptious treat, and my 100% Norwegian father was trained to make these (on a special Pizzelle grill) by members of my mom’s Italian family. He makes them every single Christmas, and they go so fast you better not blink around them.


 Fuzzy socks

Remember when you were little and you absolutely HATED when someone gifted you socks. Well, now we’re all grown up and socks are better than gold. I love all socks, but the colorful, fuzzy Christmas socks that my wonderful mother manages to find year after year are by far my favorites things ever. (And yes, I wear them all year long). (And no, I am not ashamed to admit that).


 

Yelling over Christmas lights

When I was little, it was my dad. He would spend hours (and I mean hours) un-tangling the hundreds of feet of lights we shoved into boxes in our post-Christmas slump the year before. Yells. Half of the lights wouldn’t work, and then he’d spend more time trying to find the one bulb out of thousands that was causing the problem. Yells. He would then have to go outside (in Minnesota winter) and attempt to hang everything before dark. More yells. Now, it’s Mike. He was tasked with hanging one string of lights (yes, one string), and the task was so frustrating for him that he lasted a grand total of five minutes before throwing the lights into our flower pots and storming back inside. Yells.


 

Yelling over everything else

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Like who gets to ride the toboggan first or who gets the leftovers of broccolli cheese casserole or just yelling because we’ve been sitting in the same room for far too long. Yelling is a part of Christmas, and we do it because we love each other too much (I think).

 

Happy Holidays!

 

Farting around

In the wise words of the the greatest writer to ever live: “I tell you, we are here on earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you any different.” Kurt Vonnegut was a magician with all his words (and if you’ve never read any of books, drop everything you’re doing immediately and proceed to arguably his greatest masterpiece: Slaughterhouse Five… or Cat’s Cradle… or in my opinion The Sirens of Titan), but this particular quote from A Man Without a Country, is one of my all time favorites. Per the ultimate source on odd words and phrases (Urban Dictionary), farting around can be defined as “The act or process of wandering aimlessly with no particular goal.” And like Kurt Vonnegut, I am a firm believer in farting around.

farting aroundMost of us spend our adult lives chasing something. A job. A house. A beautifully written thesis in paleoceanography on El Nino Southern Oscillation during the Last Glacial Maximum. We become so focused on one thing for so long that we forget to look around. We forget what it’s like to explore with no plan. We forget what it feels like to get lost (and afraid) only to discover something absolutely amazing. Growing up shouldn’t have to mean we have to leave our farting around behind. In fact, I think it means we need to quite a bit more of it.

Now, I’m a planner (I got that from my momma), and I’m late if I’m not five minutes early. I hate running behind schedule and I don’t really “go with the flow.” I freak out about all things future, and my closest friends know they have to work hard to find the spontaneous buried under all my layers of “guys, I was just going to sit on the couch tonight.” Farting around does not come naturally to me. I have to remind myself that some of my greatest accomplishments in life have come from wandering aimlessly, and I really need to do it more.

Fart around somewhere strange. Go somewhere unexpected. Hang out with people you just met. Try something totally new with absolutely no reason for doing so. If you don’t know where you’re going, don’t freak out (or do it spectacularly). Lots of wonderful things came from periods in my life when I wasn’t sure what I was doing, or where I was going. Farting around brought me to science. It sent me to East Africa (to the ultimate surprise of literally every single member of my family) to study abroad. It even lead me to CU-Boulder and to working with my fantastically brilliant advisor.

But farting around doesn’t have to be all about big life decisions. Let yourself procrastinate a little. Spend some time digging up obscure facts on the interwebs. Go running without your glasses. Get lost in the Canadian wilderness snow-covered swamp land (the best way to make friends… and boyfriends). Go on a trip with people you don’t know in a place you’ve never been. Just do it… fart around that is.

#happyfarting

Ten things I learned this past Halloween

Halloween is over, but writing about it is not. And because I love lists (you sick of lists yet guys?), here’s a super short post about ten glorious things Halloween taught me this year.

[ONE] Just because I’m a grad student doesn’t mean I don’t know how to have fun (and how to play a mean game of slap cap… or vortex… or whatever the hell you young people call it).

[TWO] I may still know to have fun… but it must all be done before my bedtime. Which is pretty much no later than 11:30pm (but really more like 9:30 pm).

[THREE] Sexy Halloween costumes? HELL NO. I’m rocking onesies for the rest of my halloweens.

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[FOUR] Pumpkin carving is just as fun as it was when I was three. But now my clumsy self has to handle the knives (and Mike will probably never let me carve a pumpkin ever again). And by making it all the way to pumpkin seed roasting… I think that makes me a real adult.

[FIVE] Mike is the Halloween Scrooge. Next year, he gets to rock a matching onesie as punishment.

[SIX] No one is safe from Halloween mayhem. Exhibit 1: Mike’s parked car being pummeled by another parked car which was run into by a supposedly malfunctioning car which had already run into a building and another car in our parking lot on Halloween afternoon.

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Poor Mike’s car (on the left)

[SEVEN] Being warm is so much better than looking cool–Dear Mom: I forgive you (and thank you) for all the years you made me wear turtle necks under my costumes.

[EIGHT] Did I mention that onesies are everything? Yeah, onesies are everything.

[NINE] Hocus Pocus is [still] king.

[TEN] Being in charge of the halloween candy is hard. I have no self control.

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I’ve never had any self control #teambabychubs