You can f*cking do it!
A simple message, but one that definitely resonates with me. You might be wondering why I decided to stitch this particular phrase into an embroidery hoop... well, let me tell you.
Let's go two and a half years back in time
I had just completed my undergraduate degree in Botany and Conservation Biology, and was about to begin my Honours - spending two semester's completing a research project on the aquatic carnivorous plant Aldrovanda vesiculosa (Droseraceae).
Anybody who has done an Honours research project will know how stressful of a time it can be. This whole project is your responsibility and you need to be self-motivated to get it done. Without much prior experience in the field of academic research, you have to read up on the literature surrounding your topic, plan and execute your experiments, collect and analyse the data, then report on it in a big ol' thesis document.
I felt incredibly lucky that I had the guidance of three passionate supervisors, and the support of my fellow students, friends, and family. I honestly don't know how I would have got through the year without them. I was also incredibly lucky to be given the opportunity to study something for my Honours that I found really cool: carnivorous plants! Awesome! This definitely helped with the self-motivation bit!
And yet, I ended up in the last week before my thesis was due - struggling. Ideally, at this stage you want to have written up your entire thesis document, and just spend the week making edits and corrections so that it's perfect. Unfortunately, due to complications with experiments and complications in my personal life, I was not at that ideal stage. Within my thesis, I had an okay introduction, an okay methods, two-thirds of the results section, no discussion, and a whole lot of stress!
Don't ask me how, but I managed to get it all done. That week is still a bit of a blur. One thing I do remember is the yellow post-it note where I scribbled that phrase you saw before: you can f*cking do it! This note was important to me, because it was a note from myself. It reminded me that I believed in me. It motivated me. It was a pick-me-up when I was feeling down. And it made me laugh because of the cursive curse word in there...
After successfully completing my Honours, I decided that this little post-it note was important enough to me that I wanted to immortalise it forever, and what better way to do that than through embroidery? The pink-ish plant twisted around the embroidered post-it note words is a very simplified version of Aldrovanda vesiculosa, the plant I studied for that Honours year. These words and that plant are both very important to me.
So why am I writing about this now?
Well, there's a few reasons:
Firstly, I began this embroidery craft project a year and a half ago. And I only just finished it the other day. That's right, I procrastinated on finishing a craft project that literally says "you can f*cking do it!" - talk about irony!
Secondly, I am now nearly one year into my PhD, which is basically a harder, longer, scarier version of Honours. Having this embroidery hoop over my desk at home reminds me that I can f*cking do it!
Finally, this motivational embroidery hoop (what a weird phrase) is also a reminder of the stress that I felt during that Honours year. It's a reminder that I should actively avoid stress and enjoy life during my PhD.
This leads me to my resolutions for the New Year - we're two weeks into January already, but hey, it's never too late to share right?
2016 Resolutions for any PhD Student
This is my personal guide to avoiding stress and finding peace and joy over the next year or so. I'm no expert on the subject obviously, and this is more for me to look back on than anything else, but hopefully (if you read these resolutions) they help you in some way too.
1) In the wise words of Shia LaBeouf, just do it
"Don't let your dreams be dreams! Yesterday, you said tomorrow, so just do it!"
I'm definitely guilty of putting off the things I need to do: sending important emails, sorting out my taxes, and other fun adult responsibilities. I need to realise that these things would be a lot less scary if I just bit the bullet and did them straight away. And hey, according to my motivational embroidery hoop, I can f*cking do it!
2) Ask for help and support when needed
Of course, some of the things I need to do, I have very little experience with. Everybody starts out as a beginner, and it's okay to ask for help if you feel like you need it. When it comes to being a PhD student, there are people whose job it is to support you through the PhD journey, including administrators who can help with important tasks, supervisors who can guide you through the obstacles in your project, and even mental health professionals who will be available if things become too overwhelming. There's no shame in asking for help, everybody needs help sometimes, and I am no exception to that.
3) Wake up and go to sleep tech-free
Let me preface this by saying I love all of our modern technology, and of course I wouldn't be able to share these thoughts on-line without the Internet! But, as with all good things, moderation is key. Too often, I have found myself stuck in a loop of reading emails, scrolling through social media, and checking random websites - this isn't a productive or relaxing way to start or end the day, it's just procrastination!
In the morning, I want to focus on what I want to do with my day and eat a healthy breakfast. At the end of the day, I want to celebrate what I have achieved and relax before bed, maybe with a good book so I can get lost in another world.
4) Make time for creative projects
I've always thought of myself as a creative person, however in 2015 I hardly made any time for creative projects. In fact, the only one I really worked on was my motivational embroidery hoop!
I think it's important to make time for creative activities, so this year I'd like to take some time every few weeks to focus on something in the realm of art and craft, food and drinks, music, or non-scientific writing (such as this blog!). I'd especially like to become better at illustrations with water colour paints - I'd love to be able to do some botanical art!
5) Exercise regularly and eat healthily
This is an obvious choice for a list of resolutions, and it couldn't escape from mine! Regular exercise is so important for both physical and mental health, and yet I've let myself become a bit slack about it over the last year. In 2016, I'd like to focus on leading a healthier and more active lifestyle.
I'm committing myself to proper exercise at least four days a week, which might not sound like much to some of the more active people out there, but I'll be happy if I achieve it. This exercise could include anything really: roller-blading with friends, playing soccer after work, walking to the river, riding a bike, fitness classes at the gym, or running on the cross trainer and doing a little circuit of gym equipment. I'm (surprisingly) excited about this goal!
6) Sometimes, just sit on the grass and do nothing
So I'm about to go on a bit of a tangent, but is anybody else here a big fan of the show Scrubs? If you are, then maybe you'll recognise this quote from JD's 74-year-old patient Mrs Tanner in Season One:
"WHAT ABOUT YOUR LIST? HOW MANY OF THOSE THINGS HAVE YOU DONE? FOR THAT MATTER, HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU SAT ON THE GRASS AND DONE NOTHING?"
When I first watched this episode of Scrubs all those years ago, the above quote really spoke to me. Yes, making goals and achieving them is great, and it keeps you moving forward. But you're not going to go backwards if you stop still for a moment, and just take the time to relax. To just sit on the grass and do nothing.
So this is my final resolution, to take the time to sit on the grass and do nothing - the picture above shows my view when I do exactly that from my backyard! Really though, "sitting on the grass doing nothing" could mean anything that helps me to properly relax, clear my mind, and forget about all the things I have left to do. Here's just a few ideas: deep breathing exercises, taking a walk outside in the fresh air, meditating and stretching, doing some yoga, having a bubble bath, or even going out for the occasional spa day with a massage! #treatyoself
Good luck and happy 2016!
So, we'll see how this goes - I'm pretty excited about everything on my list of resolutions, and I feel motivated already - thanks in part to my motivational embroidery hoop ;) If you're still with me at the end of this post, please do let me know if you've made any resolutions or goals for 2016! Maybe we can all check back in with each other at the end of the year to see how we went!
Wishing you all a safe and happy 2016!
Credit: I had a lot of inspiration for this post, which I will list below. Please do check out their work!