Monday, December 30, 2013

Post Submission, All Holiday, New Years Resolutions

Its that weird time between Christmas and New Years where I am the most unproductive of the year. I'm pretty sure I've slept an average of 12 hours a day since last Friday. I have NO idea why I am so exhausted considering I have done NOTHING. Since my application has gone in, the monkey on my back jumped off and went back into the jungle. Now is just the wait it out.

My Christmas was fairly uneventful and I enjoyed the time with my family. In the past I'd prefer to be at home in my room on the internet but this year it was different. I was happy to get everyone their gifts and spend time with them. I think as we've all gotten older we like each other more LOL. We've all grown so it is a good thing.

As for my New Year Resolutions, its basically the same thing every year. But I will say there are a lot more adult resolutions this year. Besides wanting to lose weight, I'd really like to officially set up my 403b account. I don't know why I've waiting this long to contribute towards my retirement but I will do that once I'm back in the office. I also hope to join the gym at work. No more excuses. I'd like to pay off all my debts (with the exception of my student loans) and really kick my savings into high gear. I would also like to move out of my mom's house by the end of the year. These seem like simple resolutions, but I know its going to take a lot of work on my part. While I'm quick to start things, I end to quit fairly quickly. I'm really hoping 2014 will be different.

Besides that, I just want to get more involved at church and be more optimistic. I think I'm in my head way too much. Sometimes I need to remember that I can't control everything and that is okay. Not everything is going to go the way I want and that is okay as well. I should only focus on the things that I can change.

I will say that while 2013 had its ups and downs, its been a great year. I'm really excited for 2014 and wish everyone a Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Waiting Game Has Begun

So the deadline for the PhD program was December 1st and then all the supplemental documents needed to be in by December 16th. I have literally EVERYTHING in. I'm stressed though. I mean there is a weight off my back now that I am no longer trying to put the application together and study for the GRE, but now I'm anxious. I mean I almost had a panic attack the other day and really started to doubt myself yesterday.

I started to wonder if I was worthy of getting into the program. I mean if you look at my average GPA and my below average GRE scores, I really don't seem like a good candidate at all. I have the connections, good work experience, and great recommendations, but academically I haven't really proven I'm a good candidate. And there is where the problem is. Are they willing to accept me based on my work, skills, and network over my grades and test scores? How good of a candidate am I compared to the others that are applying?

I put a lot of money into this application. I put all my eggs into one basket. I know you are supposed to apply to multiple schools but honestly, I didn't want to. I know people in the department I want to go to, I've worked with some of them before, and I literally work 3 floors below them everyday. But that doesn't change the fact that I should have applied to other schools through SOPHAS. In the very least, applied to a master's program.

I'm bad at waiting. My current academic mentor, Caryn, who is currently in program said it would be around February before I found out whether I got in or not. OMG FEBRUARY?!?! Its bad enough I have been waiting since about May to start working on the application and my research paper, now I have to wait until February to even see if it paid off?

I think I'm just overreacting. I think the best part of the process is reading my recommendation letters. Well I read 2 of the 3. I legit almost cried. My boss Cheri and my previous/current boss Derrick both wrote amazing letters for me. I think it all overwhelmed me because I didn't realized how far I'd come. I didn't realize how much they valued me and I surely didn't realize how much they believed in me. Its one thing to hear it which I was lucky enough to get constant feedback from them and its another for them to tell complete strangers about how awesome I am. I think it also reminded me about just how much they mean to me. They have both been so influential in my life. They have both mentored me and given me advice and support that I will cherish forever. I really can't even put into words how much leeway they gave me. I was sure they'd both fire me multiple times, but they gave me proper feedback and more chances than I can count. They are both amazing. I love them like family. They feel like secondary parents. They both treat me like I'm their child.

Either way, I think I just need to occupy myself and stop being so hard on myself. There are people out there that believe in me and that is honestly all that matters. LETS DO THIS!!

Monday, December 2, 2013

I Cried, I Studied, I Submitted

Though its been a good amount of time since my last update, I finally got some much needed leeway. I OFFICIALLY submitted my application to the PhD program and I'm excited and beyond nervous at the same time. It is hard to just sit back and wait for that email or piece of mail to tell me what my next 5 years will look like.

But on top of that, I finished my research paper. While it could use some editing, it is all but ready to submit to a journal. I'm not sure if I'm going to send it to a general Public Health journal or to a journal focused on smoking. All I know is that I'm SOOO excited that its FINALLY over.

I literally have been stressing to the point of losing my hair. While not all of it has been work or application related, I was stressed nonetheless. I was wondering if I was ready to take such a large leap so soon after college. I started reading how people took skip years where they traveled and saw the world. I have been working. I love the experience I've gotten but I also wish I'd taken time out to actually done some traveling as well. I still have most of 2014.

I had originally scheduled my GRE for November 23rd and as it got closer, realized just how unprepared I was. So I spent the $50 and pushed it to December 4th. Am I ready for it? No. But this is as close as I'm going to get. I don't want to stress myself more than I have to especially considering that I have horrible test anxiety. I don't do well on standardized tests. I'm surprised I did so well on the SAT to be honest, considering I didn't even study for it. But I will say that I have actually invested in this exam. Between the $600 prep course, 2 GRE test prep books, and an additional GRE math workbook I'm hoping to improve my scores from 2011.

Now is the hard part. Do I write a supplemental statement discussing my medical issues which not only explain my average grades, but also my difficulty with standardized tests? I am an able student. I am a determined person, I just tend to be better when I'm discussing subjects, not being timed during a test. I've gotten a bunch of answers which don't necessary help me. I'm not sure what to do. But I know I'll make the right decision.

Regardless, once my 8am GRE is over with, I will be relieved beyond comprehension and rest for 13 hours. Okay maybe not that long, but I'm sure I will eat the HEARTIEST of breakfasts.

Heres to the future!!


Friday, September 27, 2013

Mini Mentorship

Today was the 6th Annual Vaccine Day at JHSPH and every year for the last couple years one of my previous professors has taken her Global Health students to meet some people at Hopkins (like Marie Diener West and various faculty in the nutrition department) as well as sit on the Vaccine Day lecture. I went last year when I was her student and Dr. Bill Foege was the speaker. This year it was Dr. Bruce Alyward. He talked about the global Polio eradication program where he is the World Health Organization Assistant Director of General Polio, Emergencies and Country Collaboration. It was a great talk.

Before the actual program, my former professor took the students on a tour of the Bloomberg building and took them to the outdoor terrace area where they could see the city and I took the time to introduce myself and explain a bit of what I do as well as some of the history of Hopkins and the East Baltimore community.

As we got ready for the event and a good amount afterwards, I helped field questions. They really wanted to know how I got my job and how they could get an internship or apply for Hopkins for grad school. It was great being able to give them advice.

I honestly never thought I would be one of those people but I really felt good trying to give them advice that I didn't have at their age. A good number of them had minors or were double majoring so they were definitely more ambitious than I was. I tried to give them practical advice and not the same regurgitated advice that everyone gives. I really felt like I was personally invested in them and honestly it was the first time I'd ever met them (except one of my summer interns).

I think it really reiterated my goal to eventually teach healthcare at the college level. I just feel such a connection with them. I think a lot of it is also that I was in school not that long ago. I've only been out of college for a little under a year so often times I feel like I haven't really left.

I can't wait to really give back. I sadly haven't been able to get my schedule together to volunteer and stuff like I'd like but hopefully I can help more students. I really hope that they can use my advice and do it 100 times better. Its a great feeling helping others to go down the path to reach their goals. 

I know I'm going to get a bunch of emails once my old professor gives them my contact information. So much happened I haven't really taken it all in yet. All I know is my voice is horse and I'm exhausted. But its a good exhausted. I can't wait to be able to do this full time one day.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Hindsight Really Is 20/20

Today I was given permission by my boss to go to my old job at the USDA in order to get a new badge. I am on extended leave without pay currently. I have two admin. that I love that I helped train before I started working at Hopkins. I didn't always have the answers but I tried to the best of my abilities. There was a lot of just giving them the names and numbers of people that I knew could help better than I could. I enjoyed spending time with them today.

But, it was weird seeing how much the office has changed...and hasn't changed at all. The political, catty, depressing nature was still there. The internal fighting and unnecessary backstabbing was seemingly present as well. That is one of the major reasons I don't miss the government. The stress they fell everyday coming to work was how I felt in my last few months there. I was ready to leave. I was ready to never work for the government again. While there are people there that I love and can honestly call lifelong friends, there were also people that seemed as if their sole purpose was to make work miserable.

There were times when I questioned whether I should have taken my current job, considering the pay is small in comparison to a government job I could've gotten with my degree. But my job is where I feel comfortable. I am surrounded by people that I enjoy their company and they enjoy mine. They respect my opinions and they are eager to offer help/mentorship. I feel like I am growing as a health professional at my job. I also know that it has helped give me the opportunity to do what I've always wanted and thats go to graduate school.

I now see that I made the right decision. I left a place where I potentially could have made more money but I wouldn't have been happy. All the stress of wondering if I made the right decision is mute. The grass isn't always greener but in this case, this side sure is nice and green.

I spent the majority of 2013 stressed over finances, student loans, moving out of my mother's house, my health and my relationship with my boyfriend. I spent a lot of time in "what-if" land. I don't have time for what-if land. I have to just make things happen. Hindsight is 20/20 for a reason. I can play what-if and never get anywhere or I can acknowledge it, change it, and move on. Ultimately, it's about growing as a person.

I really hope the environment of my old office changes. I really think that more could get done and people would be happier. But for the time being, I'm going to continue to be grateful for being where I am. My boss saw something in me that I didn't know that I had.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

When Life Gives You Lemons...

I haven't updated my blog much. The main reason was because I'd given up hope of trying to get my PhD. I was stressed and really thought I couldn't do it. I told my mentor "maybe next year". I walked away from my paper and told myself that maybe grad school wasn't for me anyway. THEN, I couldn't walk away. I watched my interns hard at work on their papers and posters and told myself that if they can do it, so can I (especially considering they are 4 and 5 years younger than me). So I got back on the horse and started on my project, but this time at my pace. I also found out that my alma mater UMBC had a GRE prep course but by the time I was all set to take it, the registration had ended and the class was due to start 3 days from then. I emailed the contact and asked if they had a cancelled spot because I REALLY needed to take this class. Turns out one, yes ONE person had dropped out and I could join. Only problem was it was nearly $600 so I ended up paying for it with my credit card. It was sooo worth it though. I had a great instructor and I got some great instructions that I hope will really give me an edge when I take the test in October.

I had to realize that the title of my blog really does explain this process. Its all a journey. I will have ups and downs but I can't give up just because it gets too hard or I get a little too stressed out. Now my paper has switched gears and has slightly changed but is in essence the same concepts. I still have a lot of studying to do and I registered for a one credit online course.

I'm stable. I'm happy. As hard is it is to believe, I feel normal and that feels weird. I told my therapist last week, "so this must be what normal people feel like all the time." I'm excited and scared but extremely determined. I have people surrounding me, telling me that I can do this. I'm not worried about letting them down. I'm worried about half-assing. I WANT to do my very best. If I don't get in, well then at least I know that I did the best I could. It sounds cliche, but honestly it really is a good way to deal with that type of disappointment.

On top of all that, I've given up red meat. I did slip up twice. I ordered pasta from Panera and forgot that it was a meat sauce. Then I went to a party a little over a week later and had jerk and curry chicken. It smelled so good I was already biting into it before I remembered I wasn't supposed to. I mean who wouldn't want authentic jamaican food from an actuall jamaican? I really wasn't going to say no to that. LOL. Then yesterday I had 3 pieces of bacon in my breakfast combo from Silver Diner. I honestly didn't like it as much as I thought I would. I could've stopped at half a piece. It just seemed so salty. Red meat actually tastes weird to me now. So I figured having some one every week or every other week shouldn't be too bad but I'm actually really content without them. I have actually started eating fish more than I ever have and all is well. I'm liking this new lifestyle. I won't call it a diet considering it just a new way of life.

The hardest thing is eating out. I realized that I was quick to get burgers and chicken before. I spent the majority of my income on food. Now, I'm cooking at home, bringing my lunch, and can hardly find fast food meatless options I like so I'm saving money. I feel like I should've done this sooner. We'll see how I feel a couple months from now.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Mini Update

So far it has been a whirlwind couple of weeks.

I finished a epidemiology course where we learned how to use GIS (geospatial) software to map different health issues like Malaria in Honduras or access to health centers in a Mexican county. It was really exciting and I COULD potentially work on a project in October *fingers crossed*.

I am steadily working on my research paper and currently working on my analysis and organizing my tables for my presentation. This is on top of my full time job.

I also found out my Alma Mater has a great GRE prep course and although the registration and class were closed/full I emailed them and left messages. I was told today that there was a cancellation. YAY! So Monday I will start my GRE prep course and hopefully can dramatically improve my GRE score.

I'm still looking for an apartment but nothing yet in my price range that is in a decent neighborhood. It really shouldn't be this hard, but it is.

Other than that, I'm just ready for this entire application process to be over. I still have to write my personal statement and get one of my professors to write a recommendation. I will email two of my professors in August before school starts. They both teach summer courses, so I don't want to put too much on them too early.

I would hate to go through this for Med School. That seems like its even more stressful then just a regular PhD.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Working Through Illness

One thing you have probably noticed is that I'm illness prone. I have a nice little laundry list of illnesses that plague me. Luckily I've learned a few tricks over the past couple of years that have helped to get me through the day as much as possible.

1. Let others know I'm sick.

  • This can also work against you, but since I was open from the beginning about the illnesses that I have, I have had no problems my entire work career. Some of my medication can cause drowsiness, others can caused more bathroom breaks, and I am also prone to migraines (which can make staring at a computer screen all day a little hard). So when I let others know I am not feeling well, they tend to give me a little more time with specific projects. If something is time specific they will find someone to split responsibilities with me.
2. Tell my mom.
  • My mom is an angry woman LOL. She WILL not put up with my sick excuses so she will either force me to go to work or guilt me into going to work. While this may not work for some people and it has created many a raspberry behind her back from me, it actually forces me to decide if I REALLY am too sick to go into work. She will know when I'm really bad when I literally can't get out of bed (which luckily is less often then in the past).
3. Take mini breaks at specific times.
  • I am a night owl by design. So early mornings is my least productive time. So usually I will get to work, check my email, decide what is important, organize my day....then take a break. I spend time checking my personal email (not on the work desktop) and reading the news. I will also look at some work related e-newsletters for fun. After that I get to work and hit my stride, break for lunch and get back to work until I leave. This allows me to stretch my legs and reduces eye strain and feeling overwhelmed. If I'm really feeling sick I may add additional breaks and sit outside a little for some fresh air.
4. Drink lots of water
  • I have noticed that when I'm sick I am easily dehydrated which makes me feel worse, so I have a cup in my office just for getting cold water. Its really helpful and its healthy.
5. Telework
  • I am lucky enough to be able to work from home occasionally. So if I'm very sick or feel like it would be unsafe to drive the 25 miles to work, I will work from home. I will usually take small naps throughout the day and tend get the majority of my work done at night. I will check my emails and texts for urgent matters. But I will usually sleep in late but work longer into the evening. I don't necessarily like working from home because I don't have an office so its harder to stay focuses and productive, but I've worked it out somehow.
My number 6 is probably the weirdest one which is why I chose not to really make it like the above. But I do like to kid-geared snacks to brighten my mood. This could be Goldfish, Gummy bears, Fruit Roll-ups, Teddy Grams, etc. They are fun to eat and not always the best for my diet, but tend to help me feel better. Improved mood = improved health outcomes (sometimes, lol). I will usually snack on these throughout the day. Its important to create small portions, otherwise you may end up eating a whole bag of Goldfish before you know it!

So hopefully my little list was helpful. Its getting better. But there was a time when I missed, A LOT of work so working through it is important.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Today was one of those days that was originally set to be a GO GO GO day. I had meetings set up, papers and analysis to do, and just general daily job tasks. But, today turned in to a very slow and unproductive day, which means using sick hours. I had a specialist appointment with a GI doctor. He told me I may have IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) but wants to schedule a colonoscopy anyway to ensure there is nothing else as well as a blood test before hand. My dad was not so happy to hear that information, my mom is used to my issues and was like "oh well that sucks" and well my boss is just happy that hopefully I'll get some answers soon.

In terms of my paper, I am on the fast track now. I was worried that maybe I wasn't ready but after talking to some people I had to realize I spend WAY too much time in my head (or what I call Negativetown: The Vast Wasteland Abyss). I am trying to stay focused and positive. Lets see how long that lasts.

In POSITIVE news, I do enjoy the new summer interns we have in the office. Its weird being so much older but they get my weird humor. I don't feel so out of place like I did with my original coworker, though I enjoyed them as well. I think I was intimidated because they were so much ahead of me. The environment is just different. But I do miss my old coworkers. Also, on Thursday, I will be looking at houses near campus. They have a Live Near Your Work program where they give out grants to full time employees who buy homes in various areas around the University or Hospital. I'm hoping to take advantage of it before I (potentially) start school. *crosses fingers* But in the meantime I'm looking for an apartment to move into. I need my own space and its just time. If only it weren't so stressful. Someone HELP!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day

I just wanted to send a very quick Happy Father's Day to my dad. He is one of the people that got me interested in health when I was younger and I love to talk about the latest news or research in the medical field or public health with him. I am also the youngest AND only girl so I AM the offical daddy's girl. So my brother's and I took him to Nandos Peri-Peri for lunch, gave him some gifts and hung out for a little. My brothers got him some UnderArmor gear and I got him a very nice card (if I say so myself) and a CD because he LOVES music. He was really happy and couldn't stop smiling. He has always been a great dad and always a constant in my life despite my parent's separating and then divorcing when I was younger. Only thing hes waiting for now is me to get my PhD and for one of us to give him some grandkids. HA! That's not going to happen ANY time soon.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Stress Debts

Before my December graduation, that looming fear of student loan repayment kicked in but "luckily they won't be due until June", I thought. How VERY wrong I was. I had planned to pay off a $500 personal loan and $500 credit card I had with my credit union from my previous job at the USDA. I figured I could pay those off in 6 months easily with my new job including my car payment, insurance, transportation costs, food, and incidentals. Once again, how very WRONG I was.

First I was hit with a mysterious pain and swelling in my right wrist which required 2 separate doctor's visits and an xray, a routine visit to the dentist which turned into a not so routine visit and need for a filling, as well as trip to LA to visit my boyfriend after receiving my tax return. Well, as my medical bills increased and the price of the trip increased, I realized I was paying more catch up with bills than I was at paying off my debt. I continued to pay the minimums until I could get my money back from the dentist's office....only to find out that they would not be covering 2/3 of my bill and though my out-of-pocket cost skyrocketed. In order to not have my bills sent to collections (I was NOT willing to ruin my credit), I paid off all of those bills.

Then shortly after returning from LA, I got an email saying that my first student loan payment would become due soon. "Um, wait I thought I had 6 months." Well once my loans were sold, things changed and either I failed to pay attention or I never received the information. Either way I was NOT going to ruin my credit with paying late. At this time I was also trying to lose weight and went to a Weight Management Center at Hopkins. I actually got a Groupon for this which was a full work-up and meeting with everyone for $300 which was a drastic discount. I went, started on supplemental foods (which once again came out of pocket) and hoped insurance would cover it. Only to find out later that they didn't cover that center but one at Bayview. Woops. So no recouping my $300. Keep in mind I did read my policy and it stated that it would cover one nutrition meeting/visit a year and any subsequent ones would be on a case-by-case basis based off your need. They never specified it had to be a specific facility. Bummer.

So between mounting medical bills (this including my medications for another condition), I was officially living paycheck to paycheck and struggling to pay everything off. Then in March, I got another email saying, yep you guessed it, another loan was due. Out of my 3 loans, only one would give me the full 6 month deferment. According to various calculators, I made too much per month to qualify for any of the repayment plans. So I continued to struggle and my debts continued to spiral. 

I had tried and failed at maintaining well thought out budgets because new bills would appear, new repairs for my car would crop up, my unhealthy spending habit due to my illness would crop up. So about 2 weeks ago I was able to apply for Income-Based repayment for my student loans since my last loan would take my loan payments over the $400 mark a month. Now I get to pay $0 for 12 months. 

So currently I'm using the Dave Ramsey Baby Steps. I'm actually paying off my credit card and adding money to my savings for an emergency fund. I'm technically doing step 1 and 2 together. I am paying the minimum on my personal loan since it has a lower interest rate. Once I have 1000 in my savings and pay off my credit card, I will finish paying off my personal loan and then that money will go directly into saving for a house and paying off my student loans as well as starting a retirement fund at my job. Even if I get accepted for the PhD program, I wouldn't start until next fall, thus I would lose out on a lot of the benefits I get as a full time employee currently. I do not want to lose out on those due to debt.

Its an ongoing process and I'm always adjusting my budget but I finally feel like I'm on the right track. Ask me in a couple weeks if I feel the say.
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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sick? Say goodbye to productivity

I have been getting increasingly sick the past couple of days and I'll spare you horrid details but lets just say...eww. Today I TRIED yes TRIED to work from home. The option to telework has truly made life easier for me. But today was NOT one of those days. I won radio tickets, went to pick them up and came home to basically live in the bathroom.

At this point, I doubt I'll actually be able to use said tickets. But its nice to finally win something for once.

But back to the task at hand. Which is basically getting nothing done. I eventually had to email my boss and let her know I was going to use the rest of the day as sick leave. I mentally am not all here. The fact I'm coherent enough or have the energy enough to write this post tells you a lot.

I would like to say I am one of those people that can work through their pain but I am NOT one of those people. I tend to wade in it like its a half filled Dora the Explorer kiddie pool. I'm working on it. I actually can work in very short spurts depending on the illness. But considering I can barely manage to stay still, it's truly difficult to focus in the state I am now.

On top of that its hot, I'm poor, and I'm hungry but afraid to get sick again. Gatorade has become my best friend. I have way too much to do to be sitting around like this.

So how do you deal with productivity levels and sickness? Any tips? Horror stories?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Research Questions Make My Head Hurt

So yeah today was surprisingly humbling. Being in a room full of interns that are at least 4 years younger than me and far more prepared then me, was scary to say the least. I really hadn't formed my question well, though I did have a decent literature review.

Luckily, I was able to work with my mentor/adviser/new best bud Caryn who is already in the program. She gave me some pointers and she helped walk me through my thought process in order to better come up with my question. I was honestly having a hard time with working through it through email. So it was good actually talking with her.

Part of me feels like maybe I should wait another year after this experience but it was all constructive criticism that was necessary. I surprisingly took it a lot better than I thought, probably because I already knew how ill prepared I was.

I will say I am EXTREMELY proud of the interns for their level of preparedness and I can't wait to see what they do with their topics.

Top things I learned today:

  1. Do not take criticism personally. They are there to help you.
  2. Practice makes perfect. Being told the majority of your life what to write makes coming up with your own topic that much harder.
  3. Never buy school food. Why exactly did I spend 3.25 on a bag of gummy bears and 2.75 for a PB&J sandwich?
  4. Make eye contact! I'm getting to the point where I'm really struggling with this when conveying my message. I have to look people in the face more when I am talking instead of only when they are talking.
  5. Getting free things is fun. Thank you Panera for the free smoothie.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Tomorrow is another day!

Tomorrow I officially start my research paper. I have a question, dataset and literature review but tomorrow we work on some of the statistical analysis and hashing out our topics. I'm nervous. I am not only the oldest but will be the only person who will be submitting my paper. I am also the only full time employee. The others are summer interns who will be turning their topics into posters that they will need to present.

Luckily, I already have experience with STATA so that should cut out some of the "wasted" time learning a new program. The only problem is that doing this paper is on top of my full time job and studying for the GRE again. I'm so NOT excited about that.

Pray for me. LOL


Hi everyone,

My name is Paulette and I am a 24 year old Research Assistant at Johns Hopkins. I work on mostly on health disparities and diversity & inclusion at hospitals. I graduated from UMBC this past December with my BA in Health Administration. I decided to skip my Master's and will be applying to a PhD program here at Hopkins which is due December 1st.

I still live at home (eww) and I have two older brothers and a boyfriend. My boyfriend and I are long distance but going on 5 years. Hopefully he'll be moving out here soon and I'll be able to lean on him during those mental breakdown grad school moments that everyone talks about.

I'm hoping this blog will help me to stay focused during this application process and keep my life in perspective. Lets see how THAT goes.