Friday, November 7, 2014

The end of an epoch (or at least this blog)

Well, not quite, but it seems like my various blogs (all two of them) seem to correspond with different epochs in my life.

I started this blog to document my thoughts and feelings as I moved to a new area to embark on a new path, and share my struggles as a young woman with a Spinal Cord Injury, addressing issues like sex, dating, depression, identity. When I arrived in Boston, I was on a set academic/professional path (medicine) and climbing was not in the picture at all. Discovering that I could still climb again has been a joyous and frustrating journey. I found that as I got back into climbing again, doubts about my chosen professional path surfaced and grew. When I decided to quit my old job at Google, volunteer in Guatemala and then embark on the pre-med post-bac program in Cambridge, I made this decision based on the belief that I would not be very ambulatory/mobile again, not be able to do much in the way of physical activity, and therefore, what I did professionally had to be all-consuming and my life's work. Naturally, medicine fit this bill quite well. I had wanted something good to come out of what was otherwise a really shitty thing, and I wanted to transform my experiences as a patient and use my analytical abilities to help others.

As I got more into climbing, I realized that climbing, being outside, traveling were all, still, really big parts of my life and that I could still derive immense fulfillment from this aspect of my life. Fulfilling this part of me that needed to be expressed did not seem compatible with the lifestyle of a medical student for the next 8-10 years. I also did not fancy the economic and romantic opportunity costs, which seemed especially high for someone in their 30's.

I struggled with worries that I would experience a tremendous feeling of failure if I abandoned this path. I also thought about the immense changes I had effected in my life to do all this: quit a good job, leave friends, beautiful weather and scenery and a place I loved, good Mexican food...for, the Northeast. But then, I reminded myself of the sunk-cost fallacy; these were not reasons for me to lose even more time toiling away at something I wasn't sure I was completely passionate and committed to.

In the spring, I made the decision not to sit the MCAT examination and apply to medical school. I needed to figure out next steps and also make a bit of money to support myself, after having eaten through my savings the last few years as I was a student. I put the job of finding my next job/pursuit on hold, while I trained for Paraclimbing Nationals and the World Paraclimbing Championships. After I returned from Spain, the job hunt began in earnest. Things were magnified even more by my injuries and being super-down about what I was doing with my life if I wasn't training for climbing.

I mulled over a number of options, including more schooling but in the PsyD/PhD in Psychology route; but, in the end, practical financial realities won over and I decided I needed to find paid employment. I have always had an interest in issues related to energy; thus, I accepted a position at a Cambridge energy economics consulting firm. Check them out:

I've just finished my second week at this company. Oh, I had to use a pic from Paraclimbing Nationals as my official company website headshot for the time-being, while I wait for a photographer to take "proper" photos:

I think it is hilarious that every one is dressed up (somewhat; casual is definitely the usual dress-code unless we are meeting clients offsite, giving testimony etc etc) whereas I'm looking in the other direction, covered in chalk.

I am going to cease posting to this blog and move over to another site. I've registered a domain name, but need to find the time to get that website together/going. I will certainly make an announcement when my new site is up and running.

The pursuit of happiness (or, rather, meaning)

Clearly, I have put a lot of thought into the concept of happiness. I have always struggled with a certain darkness and spent most of my late teens and 20's battling debilitating depression.

Ironically, one of the things that came out of my accident and subsequent experiences, is that, for the first time in my adult life, I no longer took anti-depressants. This is the result of a number of things. Perhaps it is partly age, experience (experience = making lots of mistakes) and maybe evolving out of all my growing pains/angst; part of it is that, for the first time in my life, I had to tolerate a really shitty situation. In the past, if I hadn't been happy with things (e.g. an academic path, a job, a relationship) I could just move to something else. In this situation, I had nowhere to run to and was forced to endure.

I read Frankl's short but powerful text, "Man's Search for Meaning" a year or two after my accident. Frankl articulated what I had always struggled with, and perhaps one of the root causes of my depression. This article does a good job of summarizing themes that have dominated my life. I know I am no hedonist, and that simply experiencing pleasure, does not make me happy.

One question I still struggle with is whether happiness is a choice or not. Sometimes biological factors seem to be very strong; yet, why is it that quite a lot of people can find happiness amidst pretty poor circumstances and others, manage to grab failure from the jaws of relatively good circumstances?

Anyway, a topic worthy of an entire blog of it's own.