Verb: PROCESS your thoughts

How does one balance “Don’t worry, be happy!” with “When it rains, it pours!” ??

  1. Dog had surgery
  2. Didn’t meet work metrics
  3. Influential ppl in my networks speak terribly of me
  4. Water damage in condo from neighboring unit

This series of unfortunate events all happened within 2 weeks. My mind went spiraling:

Is this gonna jeopardize my down payment? 9 weeks recovery?! first 3 weeks are the most critical…So many meds to manage…Is this too much meds for my fur baby? Oh no, I have travel in the first 3 weeks! What if she fails the surgery because I’m not there to stop her? How am I gonna make it 😫 I have so much travel! Can I rearrange my visits? No, I need the numbers. They’ll think I can’t perform. Should I tell them about the surgery and recovery? They’ll probably think I’m making excuses it I’m weak. This is what they need to fire me. Maybe I should cut my losses and quit now. What am I thinking?! I just bought a house, I certainly can’t quit. Plus I’m no coward. But I bet they think I am. I don’t stand up enough for myself. Maybe I’m in over my head. No one would believe me if I told them that. Everyone always seems to land on “AyaNa HaS iT All tOgEtheR” 🙄 yet the only thing that seems to be together is this dam of tears behind my eyes waiting for the right question. Can’t let them see me cry. Can’t let them walk all over me. I bet that’s what the condo insurance wants to do. They haven’t even been by to check out the damage THEY caused 😡 I can’t even get there to see it for myself. How long is this going to take? How long does it take for mold to grow?! Even if repairs start and I go down to see the progress, I don’t even know what I’m looking for in a good vs bad job. How do I choose a contractor? Am I gonna have to come out of pocket for anything? Lawd my budget can’t take it! I won’t be able to make my down payment if this continues 😭 …
*return to the top of thoughts and repeat*

Art Glitch GIF by James White - Fine Artist

Whew! Are you exhausted too?? It’s safe to say the devil stole my peace and joy.

According to science, up to 91% of things we worry about don’t even come to fruition. ALL THAT SPACE TAKEN UP IN MY MIND FOR NOTHING?!

Yep Laughing GIF by SoulPancake

Take the time to process worries and find their root, before they take root in you. Unchecked worrying can lead to many clinical problems: depression, anxiety, upset stomach, ulcers, high blood pressure, migraines, respiratory problems, weakened immune system (both acute and chronic).

My grad school therapist used to tell me, “If you can name it, you can tame it.” Here are some things I do to tame my worries:

  • Make a worry appointment. Literally set aside a specific amount of time to sit with the woe-is-me feeling. You can set time to do this alone and/or with a confidant.
    • I take 24 hours to ruminate alone, vent to a friend, yell, curse, and cry.
  • Set up the dominoes. Write down everything that is causing concern, prioritized by disaster level. The domino effect is already happening in your mind, but all the spinning can blur issues together. This will keep things separate.
    • I start with bullet points to decide what thoughts are connected, then add numbers to give them order.
  • Take the next best step to take care of you. Once you have your disaster list, figure out which disasters have a solution and which don’t. For the ones that do, solve them in the order that is best for you. For the ones that don’t, accept that they can’t be solved right now (but in time, they just might resolve themselves).
    • I base my solutions on time — what worry can I get rid of RIGHT NOW? Sometimes my solutions are immediate action. Other times they are simply a plan. There are even times when the next best thing I can do for myself is merely self-care while I wait it out.

Note: these are my personal steps to conquering worry. It’s not a perfect process. The domino step can sometimes be a double-edged sword, inviting me to revisit the disaster feelings, even when I have a plan in motion. But my worry appointments become shorter when I remember the plan.

So when my worrying finally slowed, a series of fortunate events occurred in the same 2 weeks:

  1. Recovery going exceptionally well
  2. Received new opportunities and visibility to managers and leads
  3. Bigger problems in my network arose that far outweigh personal opinions of me
  4. Multiple insurance policies in play for repairs

“Take back what the devil stole from me, and I rejoice today, for I shall recover it all.”

Verb: STOP and GO

🗣️ CAN YOU BELIEVE IT’S 2020?!?! You couldn’t tell 10 year old me that I’d be living any less fly than the Jetsons in the year 2020 (and I do mean FLY literally). But here we are, still rolling around on 4 tires that could go flat if the temperature drops too rapidly…

While technology has fallen short of my imagination, my actual life has not! Since I PHinishegrad school, I did a short stint in NY before landing my dream job as a Medical Science Liaison!

But things weren’t a total breeze. I was back swimming in debt from a second relocation. I had to buy a car to even do my job. And I had to find the money to get through field training (sure, work paid me back. . .but I had to pay first). The old me would have shrunken back and worried my way through it all. But the new me has a little more grit.

In 2019, I chose a word to lead my year: AVAILABLE. I wanted to make myself available to every opportunity – to learn, to wait, to love, to grow, to receive. And I somehow did all of those things. In 2020: the word to lead my year is DISCIPLINE. And so, under the guise of discipline, I will stop letting perfection be the enemy of done and press go on this post (4 days late, not how I wanted, but done). ¯_(ツ)_/¯

 

Verb: FIND your why…

So much life has happened since my last post 3 years ago. The short summary is: My beloved Grandaddy passed away; I finally Phinishegrad school; I lost my road dog Missy to cancer; I started my career! But to shorten those 3 years to a few bullet points and just move forward from this new starting point would be a disservice to those trying to decide/enter/navigate the terrain of the road less traveled.

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Verb: STAND

This time last year, I began my 4th year as a PhD candidate displaced. I had no mentor, no lab, and no thesis project. I felt betrayed, bullied, and abandoned. I didn’t know what I had done that was so horrible to deserve this.

But I hadn’t done anything to deserve it. The truth is, my program had failed me. I did what I was supposed to. I talked to all the “right” people. I made the requested adjustments. And still, I was in jeopardy of leaving school without my PhD.

Never had Donnie McClurkin’s lyrics felt so real to me:
What do you do when you’ve done all you can
And it seems like it’s never enough?
And what do you say
When your friends [mentors, in my case] turn away
And you’re all alone?

Tell me, what do you give when you’ve given your all
And it seems like you can’t make it through?
Well, you just stand when there’s nothing left to do.
You just stand, watch the Lord see you through.
Yes, after you’ve done all you can,
You just stand.

I didn’t understand at first. You see, patience is not my virtue. In my opinion, standing always symbolized laziness or loitering, basically being unproductive. It never symbolized strength or silently fighting back. . .until now. This time last year, I had nothing else to do except stand and it was the most difficult thing to do. All I wanted to do was hide, lay in bed all day, and cry. I didn’t want to be seen, answer any questions, or explain the situation anymore. But I realized if I ran away from this, that would mean they successfully stole my dream without so much as a peep from me. I would have HANDED my dream over. And I knew I couldn’t do that.

With no energy left in me to fight the enemy, all I could do was stand in his face. So that’s what I did. I went to school every day and sat at my student desk. I’m sure those who tried to tear me down were surprised to see me, but there I was. . .standing in the fire without being consumed.

And sure enough, the Lord began to make a way! Soon I had interviews to find a new lab. My spirit wasn’t fully prepared to fight just yet, but God sent me a sign reminding me that I didn’t have to: all of the opportunities that required too much fight were taken away, leaving a single opportunity to take. Here was my chance to start over.

So in the spirit of starting over: this time last year, I began my 4th year as a PhD candidate on a new project, with new mentorship, and a new spirit. ”You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done”. In a single year, God took me from 0 to 100 (real quick, 😛 ). I am so excited and overwhelmed by the favor He has given/is giving me.

The countdown to graduation has already begun. T-17 months!!! Follow me on this journey to become Dr. Martin as I go through the ups and downs of school life, career development, and personal growth. I know I’m not the only one out there, so I hope my stories can help you too!

©2014 by Ayana Martin

Verb: BLOOM and GROW

“The lotus is the most beautiful flower, whose petals open one by one. But it will only grow in the mud. In order to grow and gain wisdom, first you must have the mud — the obstacles of life and its suffering. ” -Goldie Hawn, A Lotus Grows in the Mud

Well I must truly be that Lotus Flower Bomb that Wale was talking about because I have been slung through the mud so much in grad school that I’m convinced I now live there. I took a hiatus from blogging because an effort was made to end my graduate career early and I had to refocus and figure out how I would overcome this obstacle. I knew the actions were unethical. Post-prelims, it cannot be decided for me whether or not I can continue pursuing a PhD (unless I have failed to meet milestones after a cautionary probation). Yet that is what transpired. All of a sudden, I was an advanced grad student (4th year!!!) competing for space with new students. I was suffering. While sitting in my suffering, trying to figure out how I got to this point, I realized there were just as many advantages to my position as there were disadvantages, so I optimized those advantages.
1. Con: as an advanced student, a PI might not want to take me in because s/he would have a limited timeline for a project (translation: less free labor).
Pro: as an advanced student, a PI can get more progress and product from me because I have already acquired applicable lab skills and would not require much training.

2. Con: as an advanced student looking for a lab, I don’t have funding to support me.
Pro: incoming grad students also do not have funding to support them. I would require less $ due to less amount of time I need to complete my degree.

3. Con: as an advanced student without a lab, I do not have a project to complete in order to get my degree.
Pro: as an advanced student still fighting to be here, I have more dedication, drive, and perseverance to complete my degree, whereas a new student may end up not passing prelims or deciding to leave grad school.

This outlook gave me hope, for I could now see above the mud. Just before the close of 2013, I found a new lab home. I began 2014 very guarded and hesitant because I had been emotionally bullied and nearly defeated. But I continued to stand (in the mud). Little by little, I let down my guard and opened up my mind (one petal at a time). I received instruction and encouragement positively (growing and gaining wisdom). After 6 months, I think I’m finally on my way to becoming the most beautiful flower (lotus). I have accomplished more in these 6 months with my new mentor(s) than I ever did with my old mentor(s). I have finished my first aim, was accepted to TWO national workshops, and received travel awards to attend both. Not only that, but I am also applying to receive a Certificate in Global Health with my degree. Funny how that worked out: somebody didn’t want me to get a PhD and now I’m getting a PhD and then some!

This has been my process. It has not been easy. It has not been pretty. But the bullsh!t dealt to me I have turned into fertilizer. So the grass is finally starting to look greener on MY side.

©2014 by Ayana Martin

Verb: LET GO!

After a wonderful time dancing the night away, we got back with just enough time for a catnap before the next day’s adventure: ZIPLINING! Christina had no idea what was in store. All she knew was there was a harness involved. To keep the nerves away, she began cooking our first breakfast while everyone else got ready. Just as the huevos began to sizzle in the pan, there was a knock on our door and a friendly voice called out to us, “Hola! Que lo que!”

Christina and I were a little startled. Were we that friendly last night and gained a stalker?!? Naaah. So I went outside to see what was going on. The guy introduced himself and explained that he was the transportation that was going to take us to the ziplining transportation. . .a taxi to take us to the taxi? #sketch. I went back inside to check for any email updates from the company that booked our tour and sure enough there was a new email validating his story. The only discrepancy: he was 45 minutes early. He told us there was a change in the ziplining transportation’s schedule and they were already waiting for us, so we must hurry. #facepalm

Christina finished up the eggs as I finished drying my hair and brushing my teeth. Then we switched positions so she could dry her hair and brush her teeth while I put the food away. . .

As we apologetically climbed into the zipline truck, we were greeted by warm smiles (and a wink from the guide Elvio). On the way to Monkey Jungle, the warm wind whipped our hair, the sun melted our worries, and the excitement was additive as we all chatted to calm our nerves. Two girls from Oklahoma were also on their first trip abroad, and they were staying at the resort we were headed to later in our trip, so we were excited to hear their stories. They told us about all the great music and clubs they’d been to and all the great food they had. Assuming the places they were talking about were outside of the resort, we asked if their taxi experience was as crazy as ours. Shockingly, they actually never left the resort for their experiences. They only left for excursions like today, and that transportation was door to door. They had NO IDEA what it was like in the actual city. . .and they didn’t think they were missing out on anything. Seriously?! How can you say you experienced the Dominican Republic without actually leaving the walls that confine you? 

Thankfully Elvio gracefully inserted himself into our conversation to avoid the awkward silence that was sure to come. Elvio was intrigued by our expression to experience the true Dominican Republic. His green eyes sparkled as he shared stories about his family and his favorite things to do in the city. He and Christina “clicked” on the topic of baseball. He told us about his son who was a professional baseball player getting ready to sign a US professional contract until he got bit by a mosquito and contracted malaria. Despite the tragedy of the story, he had a jovial outlook on life. He was even looking forward to getting married! Soon! To Christina! Hahahaha He announced his ‘engagement’ to the passengers as we pulled up to Monkey Jungle and told the guides to take extra care of his future wife and ‘sister’-in-law (me).

Monkey Jungle is a 280 acre working farm with nearly a mile of ACCT Certified Zip Line. There are 7 Stations and a free fall fan descender, which drops almost 60 feet into an ancient cave! After Ziplining, there is a tour of a botanical garden with rabbits, peacocks, turkeys, and squirrel monkeys! There is also a large enclosure that houses rescue capuchins who entertain and provide countless memories. The extra special thing about Monkey Jungle is that all proceeds benefit the onsite medical/dental clinic which provides FREE service to the community!

Aside from a great adventure, ziplining was a lesson in letting go. You’re strapped to a cable, on a ledge, and you can’t go anywhere if you don’t take the leap. Sometimes you’re on a ledge that is in the middle of nowehere and you can’t go back to where you were. You can only trust life, let go, and move forward. And when you do that, you might be surprised at how enjoyable the journey is. This is important to overcoming things that may be holding us back in life. Maybe you have the death grip on your comfort zone, or you’re dragging out your latest relationship (job, friend, love included). Whatever has you stuck, you’ve got to let go.

We truly enjoyed the experience at Monkey Jungle. From the jolly Southern-accented, Tennessee-native owner, to the guides nicknamed after celebrities (Eddie Murphy, Will.I.Am, Kobe, Chris Brown, Mariah Carey, and later we met Usher), to feeding the squirrel monkeys, parrots, and rescue ashy-faced owl. . .this experience was more than words could express. So enjoy the pictures and video of our experience!

©2013 by Ayana Martin