Tag: Personal

2016: Music

This year has been a lot of looking backwards, music-wise. I’ve done quite a bit of writing which tends to result in going back to everything I listened to while studying at high school. Having said that, there are some sick as tunes that hit us this year.

In no particular order:

Beyoncé – Lemonade

I don’t trust any list of music from 2016 that doesn’t include this album. Running the risk of comparing the queen that is Yoncé to crusty old white dudes, it reminds me a lot of Phillip Glass/Leonard Cohen – Book of Longing.

Lin-Manuel Miranda (et al) – Hamilton
Honourable mention to: Fugue for Brotherhorns

I haven’t taken Hamilton off my phone since I purchased the album. It’s also one of like three albums I’ve purchased this year. It combines all my favourite things: hip-hop, history, occasionally counting or spelling in songs, and nice use of motifs.

I think it particularly rings true for people who live in former colonies and can feel the harsh juxtaposition between what their country is now and what it once was. The passing mentions of slavery are particularly compelling because while a lot of the fanbase of Hamilton is young scrappy and hungry, on the grand scheme of things slavery wasn’t that long ago, and it’s kind of messed up that we act like it was.

ConcernedApe – The Stardew Valley Soundtrack

Most of the music I’ve listened to this year has been while writing, which the soundtrack to Stardew Valley definitely enables. I’ll talk more about Stardew Valley on my videogames post!

welcome to my happy place

3oh!3  – Night Sports

3OH!3 is trash and I love it. Every time I listen to them it’s like I’ve found a pile of junk but I’m a happy little racoon who is so stoked about this total hot mess with completely predictable drops. Their sound has barely matured since I got into them in 2009 and it’s gorgeous and grungy and everything I love.

Dessa – Quinine

Quinine is a single from Dessa and I hope with every fibre in my being that this signals a new album from one of my favourite artists. A new single from the whole of Doomtree was also dropped this year, which will probably get me through while I wait on the edge of my seat for new albums. Having said that, the back catalogue of both Dessa and Doomtree is lengthy so there’s always something unfamiliar to put in your ears.

Homestuck – [S] Collide

Homestuck is a webcomic that has pushed the boundaries of what digital content can be and do since 2009. It finished this year with a whirlwind of new content, including [S] Collide – [S] Collide refers to an animation that can be found on the Homestuck webcomic, and the album includes the music used on that page.

You can hear me Telling Everyone About Homestuck on the “Fandom” episode of Things of Interest, which I link so I don’t start telling you about Homestuck right now.



2016 wrap (me) up

This year has been wild, on both personal and geopolitical scales. A lot of people have been writing lists and sharing things that they’ve found good this year, successes they’ve had, things that take away the sting of a world that seems to be sliding inexorably toward the apocalypse.

I’m going to write a few blog posts about books I’ve read, movies I’ve seen, and music/podcasts I’ve found (and enjoyed!) this year. This post is about me, so I’ll keep it short (for once).

This year I have:

  • Joined a gym and got fitter than I have been in the past five years.
  • Won a bunch of prizes and got published in a book which ???? what the heck, who let me outside without an adult
  • Made a public facebook page to stay on #brand
  • Started a podcast which is honestly the best thing I’ve ever created and it’s all thanks to Serena.
  • Yelled about racism 90-150% more.
  • Been mentored and done some mentoring – managing to score myself a ridiculously smart and talented mentee.
  • Become a more confident and independent scientist.

A lot of other stuff has happened but overall I’m pretty happy with this year’s haul of happenings.

Once I get the other posts up, there will be links to my 2016 wrap ups here:


Movies + TV



Priorities, the PhD Way

I often get asked how to balance a lot of commitments, especially when studying. I suppose I seem capable on some level. Personally, I don’t think I am that good at balancing a lot of things – normally I just ignore how busy I am and hope it all works out.

That doesn’t work long-term – sure, I busted honours year with a ludicrous amount of commitments, but that was never going to work for my PhD. This year I finally made a list of commitments and prioritized them.

Writing a list is one of those things like goal-setting – my dad told me it would make my life a lot easier, and he is probably right. I have never consciously set goals, but if you have trouble envisioning how to get where you want to go, it is a good thing and you should do it. Don’t be like me, be better than me.

The pyramid below is (to my mind) a manageable amount, but I know that not everyone suffers from my total lack of a social life.

pyramid of commitments ranging from PhD to Free Debate
“Ma’am, do you think you do too much?” “I plead the fifth.” “Ma’am, we’re in Australia.”

The important thing to note here is that in the interest of aesthetics, I put one card underneath the PhD card – the “self-care” card.

I’ve learned that self-care can never fall below any other commitments. If you fail at self-care, you will start to fail at everything else.

Sometimes I forget this, and forget to eat, or don’t give myself space or time. I’m trying to get back into yoga (using Yoga with Adriene) to help regularly clear the cobwebs out. It’s important to remember that while undergrad might be a sprint, the rest of life is a marathon, and we need to make sure to take breaks and drink enough water.

I’ve also signed up for Adopt a Grad Student, a wonderful enterprise started by Jess Shanahan (@Enceladosaurus), a disabled astrophysics grad student in the US. The idea is that being a grad student is suffering; you work long hours, have regular stress, and are underpaid. You deserve a Fairy GradParent. It’s wonderful, and I hope other grad students get on board – if you’re in NZ, YouShop is a good way to help get around the “million dollars plus your soul” international shipping fees.


screen capture of a purchase showing item costing $0.01 and shipping costing #23.45
This is why I have trust issues.


Looking back at my list of priorities is a good way to reset the whirring to-do list in my head and remember what’s important – health, relationships, and currently, study. It’s also good to remember that this focus on my studies isn’t going to last forever and one day I won’t have Thesis Fear because I will have Thesis Satisfaction.

No matter what you’re doing, remember to take care of you.

Depression as an Overachiever

Disclaimer: I don’t want to say that my experiences are universal, and neither do I want to suggest that any experiences of depression are illegitimate. We all have our own struggles, whether you’re an academic overachiever like me or talented in other ways. One of those struggles is depression.

Depression is a mental illness that can make it hard to do things, stop you from enjoying yourself, or make you feel tired all the time. One of the warning signs is doing fewer activities, or doing worse at school or work. This can make discussion, and depression, difficult to navigate when you’re an overachiever like me.

I saw my first psychiatrist when I was 15. The first line of the report she gave me on leaving stated that I was “a very intelligent young woman”. It went on for a page and a half, finally stating there was nothing wrong with me – I was just being a teenager. It’s part of that intelligence (appropriate adjectives: brutal, painful, aggressive) that has made depression so difficult.

In my final year of high school, I competed in the International Biology Olympiad, worked part-time, was in five music groups, practiced piano and flute, swam regularly, and did five scholarship exams. I wasn’t withdrawing, or not being involved, or doing badly at school. About the only hallmark of depression I showed was a stubbornly low mood. I was still depressed.

In my honours year I attended national and international debating tournaments, spoke at a poetry conference in the USA, taught for the university, taught for charity, helped found the Science Community of Otago, spent time with friends – I did well, I was brilliant, I was still depressed.

I felt guilty for being depressed and being unable to fix it myself. Whenever I achieved something I believed if anyone found out about my depression, they would take it away somehow. And (this is my favourite part) I was terrified of going onto medication in case it stopped me being smart.

Depression isn’t something that can be whisked away by listing your achievements. I can’t get out a book of newspaper clippings and use that as a shield to make my brain be better. What I can do, what I have done is get medication that brings me up enough to function. It doesn’t stop me from having depressive episodes, but it’s enough that I don’t lowkey want to die constantly.

Medication doesn’t work for everyone, but my second go at it (and five psychiatrists, two psychologists, and three counselors later) did work. I’m not doing more, or more awake, or nicer at all – I just have the ability to be happy again.

This hashtag was a great thing 10/10 would recommend.

There’s a belief that intelligent people are often depressed. I was told it a lot. Ignoring for a moment the fact that higher-educated “intelligent” people often have a higher socio-economic status so are better placed to get official diagnoses, it’s a bad thing to say even if it is true.

Connecting mental illness and intelligence can transform itself into perverse beliefs in the depressed mind – like the idea that without hating myself I wouldn’t be as motivated or intelligent. That’s obviously not correct. But it’s important to remember that the depressed mind twists things very readily.

I know I do well. I know I am good; good at science, writing, speaking, running events, and generally being a fantastic knowledgeable gorgeous all-rounder. But none of that changes the fact that I have depression. Being good has made talking to mental health professionals difficult, as my work doesn’t suffer and I don’t stop doing things. Being good has made accepting that I’m not good at depression difficult.

Recently I got called one of 20 Young Australians on the Cusp of Greatness. It’s amazing, I’m incredibly flattered and excited to be listed alongside other amazing people. I’m still depressed. I’m still a suicide survivor. I’ve still struggled with self-harm since I was 14.

Being good doesn’t change any of that. But I’m finally in a place where none of that changes my ability to be good – and maybe quite soon, great.

If you might have depression, or have been struggling with your mental health, check out Beyond Blue or call Lifeline on 13 11 14.