What are your strengths?

What comes easy to you? What gives you a sense of freedom and excitement when you do them?

Music, singing and dancing are my foremost ‘happy activities’. I love the creativity, self expression, discipline, and the underlying mechanics of it. I love looking into the math and science behind harmonics, sounds and biomechanics. There is so much beauty in the connection between what is expressive and what is technical! I enjoy appreciating things that are. When the colors of the trees are particularly striking against the sky, I stop and admire it. I make a note to appreciate a certain musical phrase that speaks to me emotionally and has excellent use of musical technique.

Solving problems, or puzzles, comes easy to me. You take some insurmountable thing/task and break it down. You break it down until you have a bunch of tiny individual, unique pieces, each with its own puzzle. You solve each mini-puzzle one by one. As you solve each piece, you can connect them. You build the picture. Organization discretization, and the ability to see how everything is related on the microscale, the macroscale, the emotional connection, etc are my strengths here.

So if I were to make a list of my strengths based on this entry..

  • Discipline
  • Problem Solving
  • Organization
  • Creativity
  • Understanding
  • Expression
  • Honesty
  • Discretization
  •  Connecting real to theoretical, emotional to logical, micro to macroscale
  • Identifying aforementioned connections

The interesting one here is Expression. I’ve never really thought about it, but I’m very good at expressing myself. Via technical writing, music and dance, delegating, explaining, the list goes on. People noted how they could see the emotion behind my dancing. Professors noted how I can describe complex mechanisms and theories in a manner that is easy to understand. When I need to communicate something to an audience, I can do so elegantly and simply without undermining complexity. Huh.  I wonder what type of career this strength would lead to?

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What is your personality?

I recently took (re-took) the Myers-Briggs personality test. I used the test provided by 16 Personalities since it’s one of the more positively-reviewed tests. Apparently I’m an INFJ aka “the Advocate”. They describe this personality as quiet, reserved, intuitive, and a tireless idealist.  I fall under the “Diplomat” personalities which means I try to communicate in such a way that everybody will get along and understand each other. I’m constantly looking to improve myself in all aspects.

People tell me that I have a natural knack for teaching and guiding because I can understand all aspects, logical,ethical,emotional,etc, of an issue regardless of whether or not I agree with it. I work hard and am a ‘big ideas’ person. This lends itself well to entrepreneurial endeavors. I’m very independent and will push myself to meet every expectation I perceive to be placed upon me. The perception part is important because I tend to let my unreasonable expectations of myself be assigned to mentors and people around me. It’s important to remember that I’m the one with the high expectations, everyone else is usually just happy that someone showed up.

I’m impatient. Like, really impatient. BUT because of my personality type (and I totally agree with the quiz thing) you’d never know it. Sure, there’s the daily inconveniences of traffic, slow walkers, etc and I’m not shy about displaying my frustration in those situations. What I’m mostly referring to is patience when working with other people. Sometimes this gets me into trouble when people have too much leeway and nothing gets done, but I find that the result I’m looking for from others will come when I need it. I’m happiest when I am able to help others by sharing knowledge. There is a caveat though. I get incredibly frustrated when those I’m trying to teach don’t show the same initiation and independence I expect from myself. <- This is why I’m not a teacher. I like to help, but I spend a lot of time researching and teaching myself and I think it’s important that others read a manual or google something before giving up and expecting me to do the work for them.

I’ve been told I have good leadership qualities. I guess so?  I don’t exactly jump at the opportunity to delegate a group project or run for club president. I’m willing to take the lead when no one else volunteers and I don’t back down when I’m assigned to a leadership position.

I’m an idealist. Seriously though. Can’t we all just agree that people deserve basic rights and worldwide peace!? Anyways, in the sense of my career, I like to think of impossible things. I have a detailed vision of something and how it works and what techniques we can use to make it. Doesn’t always work out, but I see the big picture. Getting a PhD has taught me to look at the details and understand the big picture.

That’s a quick overview of how my personality plays into my work habits. Personality tests are fun and interesting! It’s really cool to see what accurately describes you and what doesn’t.

What will you do when you’ve found your passion?

Great question. My first instinct for this one is to say “I’ll find a new one!” (said rather triumphantly). Now for some, this may seem like a bit of a cop out answer but hear me out.

Learning is my passion. This means that I always want to know more. In a sense, my passion will always have a time limit. Each subject I study fascinates me for a different reason. For example:

Passion: History of languages Reason: I think it’s really cool to see how languages evolved and how that has influenced our history.

Passion: Math Reason: How in the actual fuck did we manage to come up with numbers and equations? Who figured out the connection between said numbers and equations to reality? How does logic manage to actually work?

Passion: Music Reason: I love music. It’s a part of me. I need to know everything (theory, history, etc) and this includes the boring stuff.

Guys, I want to know everything about dogs, the strategies behind certain ‘plays’ in a sport, engineering, religions, surgery and on and on and on. I want to learn about all of it! So what is stopping me from following my passion? Nothing. I’m in school, I am currently following one aspect of something I’m passionate about.

Brain Dump

I’m nervous. Not sure what I’m nervous about, but I am definitely nervous. It’s that feeling of climbing all the way up to the high dive, after talking yourself into it for 30 minutes, and then standing on the edge for another hour because you can’t bring yourself to take the last step. It’s easier to take the last step. You know it’s easier to take the last step. You’ll be proud of yourself afterwards. You know that too. You know it’s harder to climb back down the ladder; going around all the people who were going up after you. You’d feel defeated. You know all these things, so why can’t won’t you just jump already?!

There is an epic battle in my brain right now. Am I simply whining or do I actually need help/guidance? My gut is telling me that I’m the only one holding myself back. I need to take charge of my own life and if I have to graduate on my own…then so be it! <-A little hyperbolic, but you see my point. Because I’ve always picked myself up and figured it out. But I never asked myself what I was getting up for? I’ve done that to get myself out of various mental ruts, but also so I can support others. I am of the mindset that everybody deserves great things that they work for. I can offer support for them, but for some reason I fall short in what I think I deserve.

If you see flashing warning lights and a loud voice shouting (Impostor Syndrome!) here, you’re not alone. It’s something I’m pretty aware of and it’s also something that has a significant effect on every graduate student, particularly minority women in tech fields. My solution for this is to overcompensate by proving I deserve to be here and not asking for help. It’s a stupid solution.

How will I know when I’m living a passionate life?

Next question! (I’m going through this book to get the questions)

I will  know I’ve found my passion when I’m content. Not a just-ate-an-amazing-brownie content, the kind of content where you are aware of how happy you are. Believe it or not, I almost feel as though I’m already living my passionate life. I’ve love being a student and continually learning. I love having access to the latest technologies. I love having the freedom to use whatever equipment I want, to make whatever I want, to work whenever I want.

Grad school has given me the freedom to relentlessly pursue education. In whatever I want. Didn’t like nanowires? Here, try knitting…. Some days really suck. And, yeah, I wish I was paid more and had something that resembled financial stability. But I’m singing, dancing, learning, creating, building, exploring, explaining, math-ing, problem solving, inventing……everything I want to do!

I guess I’m mostly scared of losing this freedom. I know this, learning and being in a university, is my passion and I know this level of freedom won’t follow me into industry. I could go for a teaching position, but that’s a quest for a later date. Gotta get industry experience first (either by getting a dang job or by making my own job via startup), then I’ll consider getting into academia.