Total Leadership: Critical Events in My Life

At the age of 16 or 17, I realized that I wanted to “me” and not to follow a crowd or to be what people expected or wanted me to be if it was not what I was.   It is a really odd story as this self-revelation happened after an all night party when I was jumping off a gate in the local park.  We went there to see sunrise or something; probably just for the thrill of being in the park when we shouldn’t have been there.  When I jumped off that gate, my best friend asked if I was all right. Something about her question, or the way she asked, triggered the idea that I would be myself and not what anyone else thought I should be.

I have written before about how I fell into my PhD program and landed on my feet.  I cannot possibly explain the joy that lab research* gives me.  The lab was one of the places that I feel at home and do not worry about people judging me and probably find me wanting.  There were only a few of those when I was in my mid-twenties.  As I remember, another one was when I was dancing to folk-rock bands, such as the Barely Works or Davy Spillane.

Just over thirteen years ago, I moved to the US.  I originally came for a two year postdoc.  I did not realize what a big step I was taking.  Luckily, probably, otherwise I would not have come.  While my first postdoc was frustrating, it was at this same time I started voice lessons. I had the thought that since I was away from home I could do anything I wanted for about six months, at which time I would have caught up with myself**.   I can still remember the amazement and pleasure of knowing that I was singing in tune for the first time.  My creative side also grew when I roomed with Karen Searle in St Paul, MN.  Nothing like a fiber artist to teach you how to take your creative knitting to a new, higher, level.

Fortunately, in Minnesota, my professional life found a new leash of life and I grew as scientist there too.  That lead to my first tenure track position at a research university that was very supportive of undergraduate education.  I was delighted to find out that teaching did not have to me standing in the front of a big lecture hall and talking at my students.  This way, using student centered learning and group work, I discovered that I had a natural ability to help, teach, and inspire students.

Not getting tenure at the aforementioned research university was another kind of life event!  One that I am still dealing with today.  I found that I had an inner strength.  Even at the beginning, I picture a room where even though one door was shut there were other doors and windows to try.  Shortly after my tenure fiasco, I was diagnosed with a growth on my colon. Since, health is far more important than any career, I decided having both a research and teaching career was too much for me.  So I changed my career emphasis to teaching.

*After writing the above post, I wondered when did science come into my life?  Has it always been there or was my PhD the real trigger?  I don’t know the answer.

** I also took up beer drinking – in England I drank [hard] cider.  This did not turn out so well.


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