a day in the life of my present-day self

5:36AM I wake up to the relentless beseeching of my impatient cat demanding her breakfast. I groggily roll out of bed and begin to recall the journal papers I feebly attempted to read last night to prepare for the meeting with my adviser today, but was hopelessly unable to keep my eyes open.

5:50AM I take off for a run along the Long Island sound. The sun and I greet one another as it peaks up over the water illuminating a pink sky. I remind myself it is these moments of mental clarity and absorption of fresh, crisp air that I know I will thank myself later for waking up at dawn.  The first ten minutes drag by and I curse myself for forgetting to charge my iPod. I begin to pass the time by recounting the things I hope to get accomplished today. As my legs carry me along, I take notice of the birds also joining me in the morning glory. A swamp sparrow and his mate dutifully forage for the first meal of the day. This reminds me of the idea for a project proposal idea I had about the invasiveness of sparrows throughout the world. I begin to ponder ways in which I could answer this sort of question.

5:58AM The wheels of my mind are now rolling full speed. I applaud myself for thinking of such a simple, yet important question and fantasize of publishing in world-renowned journals and becoming a famous ornithologist. Oh, the directions I could take this project! The details of the execution such as months of sampling in the field and long hours cooped up in the lab are insignificant at the moment and the work seems effortless when I work it out in my head at this instant in time.

6:32AM Upon returning to the house, I am filled with a euphoric motivation to take on the world and excitement about all aspects of my life.

7:18AM I quickly am grounded from my high as inane tasks of daily life creep their way into immediate priority—I shower, pack my sack lunch, and eat a bowl of cereal sprinkled with blueberries.  I spend several minutes cherishing two cups of freshly-brewed coffee.

8:06AM My dance party with myself to Mike Doughty’s Haughty Melodic  as I decide on today’s outfit is rudely interrupted when I glance at the clock and realize I will be late for class.

8:36AM I waltz in several minutes late to Biometry class and stumble around in the back to get to the open seat.  The next two hours are spent with divided attention between taking notes on logistic regression and catching up on reading the papers I was supposed to read last night in order to have some sort of educated discussion with my adviser.

10:45AM The other students in my cohort and I discuss the impossibility of beginning the problem set due next week before Monday. I scramble together last minute notes on progress I have made in forming my research question to discuss with my adviser. I casually  glance at my calendar but then nearly break out into a mad panic because I just notice that registration and abstract submission for the international Evolution conference is due tomorrow. Suddenly, everything I had planned for the day comes to a standstill.

11:49AM After meeting with my adviser, my franticness level subsides as she helped in organizing my thoughts. I sit down and begin furiously typing everything we have just discuss for the abstract and try to think of a catchy title for my presentation. I want people to find it interesting! I send a first draft to my adviser.

12:38PM I am struck with a moment of disappointment when I realize I left my sack lunch this morning sitting on the kitchen counter. I head down to buy a cup of soup from the Life Science Building food cart. Roseann, the lady who works behind the counter, dishes me a bowl of Tomato Bisque and reminds me that I am only allowed to take two packets of crackers.

1:20PM My adviser sends her feedback basically tearing the pathetic thing to shreds. As I chuckle at some of her comments and question what I was thinking when I wrote that sentence, I begin to rewrite.

1:36PM The flow of productivity is interrupted when the undergraduate helping me with my project comes into the office and asks me to take a look at some of the data she has been editing. Happily willing to procrastinate, I help her with some of the questions she has.

2:45PM Wow, where the hell does time go? Time for class again. I hurriedly make a second round of coffee and bring the entire pot to class. I talk myself out of bringing my computer so I will actually pay attention during Population Genetics. Focus, Laurel. FOCUS. The first 30 minutes slog by, but things do pick up when I snap out of my daydream and ask a question. This sends the professor off on a 45-minute tangent and it actually turned out to be pretty interesting. I am glad I asked.

4:30PM I realize I have not yet finished anything I had intended to today. I wrap up editing the abstract and catch my adviser before she walks out the door to get the “okay” to submit it. Whew! I make a mental note to check off this task of my endless mental to-do list.

5:44PM I spend the rest of the evening not reading the chapter in Biometry that I was supposed to and instead share with two of my classmates a deep discussion regarding how it is possible for birds to be colorful if the male and female are the identical in coloration. Usually colorfulness evolves for mate selection and only the male is adorned with beautiful feathers while the female remains quite drab. Okay, that was not necessarily productive towards anything in the immediate near future, but it somehow instilled inspiration and I am once again motivated about life and the beauty of its diversity. I bring home 3 textbooks and several papers I plan on reading through when I get home.

7:41PM Upon returning home, I nearly topple over my cat as she runs to greet me (which in turn, becomes a desperate imploration for dinner). After feeding her, I remember how hungry I am and warm up some leftover tuna casserole. Will this leftover dish ever end?

8:32PM I crack open a Stella and sit down to putz around the Internet for a few minutes. I then grab my guitar and strum of the few simple songs I know. I surprise myself as tonight I actually feel motivated to practice my scales.

10:20PM I crawl into bed with my computer and all the readings I intend to do. I open up Evolutionary Ecology, but somehow cannot bring myself to get through the first sentence. I look longingly at the Game of Thrones series I cannot wait to begin reading again when summer finally commences. Instead, I open up the April issue of Runner’s World.

11:43PM Realizing that I need to do something research-related, I grab my copy of Ernst Mayr’s What Evolution Is and suddenly all the passion for this topic comes back to me. After reading a chapter, I convince myself that I accomplished something and allow myself to say that is enough for the night.

12:20AM I toss and turn for several minutes, concerned that I achieved nothing I had set out to this morning. However, I do remind myself that everything always seems to work itself out and submitting the abstract was quite productive. I briefly question why I am doing any of this if I spend the majority of my day stressed out. However, I recall the fact I am getting paid to think of any question in the entire world that I find interesting and spend the rest of my life answering it. What an incredible gift. I drift off to sleep and a similar oscillatory rhythm ensues the following day.

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