I’m Mackenzie and, as you may have guessed, I’m a geoscientist. Back in the day (aka, the 90s), I was that child who picked up rocks everywhere and, if I’m honest, I still am that child (just, you know, a 26-year-old rock monster). My desk has rock paperweights from Death Valley, my end tables are adorned with garnet from South Dakota and variscite from Australia, and, of course, my car always has a handful of samples rolling around (a rotating cast, now mostly from around my new home in Florida). Some things never change, though I’ve come a long way (geographically and metaphorically) from the small child version of myself in Columbus, Ohio.
In May 2014, I completed my Bachelor’s degrees at DePauw University, and immediately thereafter, I began seeking my Ph.D. in Geology at the University of Kansas as a Madison and Lila Self Graduate Fellow. I defended my Ph.D. in April 2018 and, because (frankly) I was completely burned out from academia, I transitioned into a consulting position near the beach in South Florida.
As my fellow bloggers have mentioned, graduate school is tough and can be grueling, mentally, emotionally, and physically. It’s also full of opportunity and, in my case, adventurous exploration. As I look back on my time at the University of Kansas, my main impression is one of balancing conflict. In other words, I loved and hated it at the same time.
One major difficulty, and the source of a significant portion of my graduate school ire, was establishing a work-life balance. How do you balance having a life and an all-consuming question? Or a life and an all-consuming advisor/boss, as it may be? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer.
I could say:
Do more of what you love. Make time for yourself. Self-care is key.
All of these things are true, of course, but implementing these ideas to create work-life balance is difficult.
For me, the only way I could create lasting work-life balance was to establish realistic, reasonable, specific boundaries and enforce them. In practice, this looked like writing out my boundaries between work and life (e.g. “I will leave the lab by 6pm,” “I will not accept research related phone calls on weekends,” etc.) and hanging them up in my home and school offices. When that (inevitable) Saturday phone call would arrive, that piece of paper would help hold me accountable (and several friends were good at this too). Setting and abiding by my boundaries was, without a doubt, one of the most important lessons I learned during graduate school.
As for consulting, and my transition to full time #adulting, I don’t really love or hate it. And, while some days I don’t succeed at enforcing my boundaries, I do spend quite a bit of time at the beach.
Yours in LadyGeoscience.