2 Posts 2 Furious: Birthday, Professional Development, and Work/Life Balance

This was originally supposed to be two separate blog posts, and it was originally supposed to be posted yesterday (Feb. 14th) but I’m combining them into one because of some unexpected schedule derailments this week.

I live with my grandmother, and, along with my older sister, I often have to move things around to take care of her. She’s 87, and while she’s still pretty independent sometimes my sister and I step in, especially when she’s not feeling well. On Tuesday I spent the night in the ER with her, and she was admitted into the hospital for observation, but is doing well now and was discharged this morning. So that means I spent quite a bit of time hanging out in the hospital over the past few days, which kind of screwed with my plans. But on the plus side they have GREAT free wifi at South Shore Hospital, so I actually finished one of my lectures for later this semester.

Moving right along: anyone else ever have those days off in middle and high school school every once in a while that were vaguely titled “Professional Development Day”?

I never realized how good I had it in high school.
So many days off! So many early releases!

If you’re like me, you just assumed that was a day where your teachers got to catch up on grading and sat around talking about their least favorite students. But apparently “professional development” is a real thing, and, to the horror of my 7 year old self, its something I do quite regularly now.

So what is “professional development”? Well, at its most basic, its any practice or education based approach to learning or maintaining professional skills. It can mean going to a conference, participating in a seminar, giving a lecture, taking a class, etc. It can be in a formal, classroom type setting, or on a street corner– it’s all about what you’re doing to develop your professional skills and how those skills translate to your career.

I didn’t really think about professional development too much until I started working in a museum, where we often have monthly or quarterly meetings and people started mentioning the “professional development” activities they had done. At first I thought I had nothing to contribute– I was never really one to seek out seminars or ask my supervisor what skills I could learn. But then I realized that some of the things I had already been doing were technically professional development activities, and that I could channel my desire to participate in science communication, volunteer at public archaeology events, and tag along as other people did complex rehousing tasks, into something I could put on my CV as a skill I’ve developed.

At work I’ve started seeking out opportunities to communicate with my colleagues and learn from them, both in formal situations, like when I attend an artifact handling workshop a few weeks ago led by one of our conservators, and in more relaxed settings, like when I asked my supervisor if she could let me spy over her shoulder some time when she’s editing metadata on photos.

On Tuesday I presented the results of a nearly six month long work project with the other members of my team, and in preparation for that we had meetings about how we were going to translate our results to a visual product (in this case, a powerpoint with PLENTY of pictures), who was going to discuss what aspects of the project (we had conservators, collections techs, IPM specialists, and many others involved in the day-to-day work), and even what we could do to package what we’ve learned as a shareable resource for other museums. By being involved in this process I now have concrete deliverables that I can say I helped produce, as well as a record of what I’ve learned.

Some other professional development opportunities I’ve been taking advantage of lately have been the online webinars provided by organizations like the SAA and the Connecting to Collections Care online community. CCC is really cool because their resources are, for the most part, free, and they have an online archive of all of their previous webinars. I’ve also been really trying to build up my experiences with in-person science communication efforts, which I’m going to be doing some more blog posts about later.

But all work and no play makes Liz an anxious, lonely, dull girl, so sometimes you gotta party! Especially yesterday. No, not because it was Valentine’s day, but because of the, arguably more important event…

My birthday!

I turned 27 yesterday– big yikes.

Last night I went out for Valentine’s day with my partner, and tonight I’ve invited some friends to join me at a local brewery taproom to have some cake, play some board games, and sample ALL THE BEERS. Which is just the kind of chill, laid back birthday I need at the moment, especially since this weekend I’m going to be diving back into hardcore thesis writing.

Everyone talks a lot about work/life balance, and how important “self care” is. But self care and work/life balance isn’t just about bubble baths and watching puppy videos (although those are totally valid forms of self care). It’s also about making time for activities you enjoy, and making sure that you have not gotten into a negative habit of feeling guilty about spending personal time. That’s something I tend to struggle with — I’ll find myself worrying that my choice to go to a movie is a “waste of time”, or thinking that I should cancel plans with friends in favor of writing.

However, as my therapist says, living your life is a not a negative activity to punish yourself over.

So while I’m not doing all the fun things I used to– I haven’t done a lot of theatre lately, which I’m sad about– I’m still trying to make time for myself. And for just simple, necessary, everyday activities. Because when you add in complex depressive symptoms to all of these anxious feelings about not doing or being “enough”, you get a recipe for letting really important, but basic, things fall by the wayside. Hygiene, eating healthy– or, at some times, eating at all– maintaining relationships, exercising, sleeping. All of these things can get missed, or de-prioritized. So I’m trying to institute a habit of evaluating my priorities when I plan out my schedules and to-do lists. And I’m also trying to be better at listening to my friends, colleagues, and loved ones when they tell me I am focusing on the wrong things. Other people are pretty smart, you know.

One of my favorite experimental theatre productions. This was part of a MA thesis in curatorial studies, where myself an three other actors performed Gertrude Stein’s ‘Objects Lie on a Table’ in an active gallery exhibit inspired by the text. I’m in the middle, sitting behind the 8-foot diameter (WORKING!!!!) lazy susan.

So with that all said, I’m going to attempt to have a relaxing night. Eat some good food, have some beers, laugh with friends, play with my cat. Hopefully my 28th year will be as fulfilling and challenging as the 27th has been.



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