TAM 2012

May 31, 2012

A friend of mine has been trying to gently persuade me to go to TAM for awhile. I had initially thought it wouldn’t happen, then thought perhaps it might, and then had given up on trying to go this year, thinking 2013 might be the year I get to attend. After all, just under 6 months ago, I got to go to London in a study abroad program, thanks to a few scholarships and a lot of hard work. I thought, “I just need to work hard to save up for 2013. No big deal.”

On May 1st, I saw this post by Surly Amy on the Skepchick blog. I immediately opened up a document, copied the grant questions into it, and half-heartedly began to answer them. I left the unfinished document open on my desktop, intending to complete it, but didn’t quite get around to it. Roughly 20 days later, my friend made a post about the grant and I commented that I had thought about applying for it. She said I should go for it, and something just clicked on inside me, like, “Of course I should try for it. Trying is what I do.” I have no idea why I thought stopping was a good idea in the first place, nor do I care to explore that ridiculous avenue. In fact, just as my friend was tweeting about the grant, I had opened up my thesis prospectus to work on it and the grant app popped up in front of it: a lovely coincidence. But really, not such a coincidence, as both documents were incomplete and in desperate need of my attention.

At the moment when I opened the document, I was sitting with a group of writer friends from our local NaNoWriMo group, in a cute coffee shop in Northern Kentucky. I checked my email at some point, and had a message from my wonderfully supportive mother, who had somehow stumbled upon the grant link and sent it to me, telling me, essentially, that as “my little skeptic,” I should try for it. I laughed as I emailed her back that I was in the middle of applying for it.

As my writer friends and I chatted and wrote, and chatted and pretended to write, I completed the grant application, returned home, edited it, and emailed it. The next day, I saw this post, detailing the first 6 recipients of the grant. As I read about these women, I thought how much I would love to meet them, and be one of them. My hopes were up, but they wouldn’t be dashed if I didn’t get it, because I would still get to read about the adventures of others, and despite any jealousy that might stir up, it would still be incredibly fun to read about. And anyway, if I didn’t get it, there was always next year, and at least I had tried.

And then a little over a week later, I got the email notification that I am one of those women. I will link that post when it goes up, of course. I just completed my bio, after fretting over it a bit too excitedly. No, scratch that, exactly as enthusiastically as I have any right to be.

As I was working on my bio to send back to Surly Amy, my friend posted a gorgeous blog entry about becoming a more active member of the skeptic community. Here is her blog post: Keep Shouting.

I tweeted to her that I needed to send her the portion of my grant application where I named her as my skeptic hero. So I will post that here now, the portion of my application answering the question, “Who is/are your lady-skeptic heroes and why?”

Seelix/ Emily Finke is my number one lady-skeptic hero. I was lucky enough to meet her about 7 years ago at a NaNoWriMo meet and greet in Cincinnati. Within the same year, we both joined a group of local Firefly fans, and have been friends ever since. Emily is the one who told me about our local Skeptics group, which runs a monthly Science Café that I have attended several times. She inspires me on several levels. She is always posting fascinating links to websites that I might have missed on my own. She is the one whose advice I asked on which skeptical podcasts to listen to, and I was immediately hooked on Skeptically Speaking, I think most of all, because I felt more connected to the host since she is also female. I loved reporting back to Emily later about which podcasts I felt engaged with as a skeptic.

Watching Emily emerge from an occasional blogger (on topics typically related to science education) to a respected member of the skeptical community has been incredibly inspiring. She knows I am not much for joining the conversation on “serious topics,” preferring instead to play to the sarcastic or satirical aspect of such issues. However, having seen her emerge from her insular bubble has helped me to stop hiding behind the LOLs and figure out ways to intelligently cobble together my viewpoints without playing the role of the jester.

I consider myself immeasurably lucky to have this friendship with Emily, because my favorite skeptic lives just down the street from me. I am fairly certain that without her, I would not have found such a burgeoning and supportive online community. As of now, I am still skulking in the shadows, but I am learning how to step outside that imagined comfort zone and to interact with others. Earlier this year, I helped a young skeptic lady find out about our group. My youngest brother and I had traveled to Washington DC, to the Reason Rally in March, and his girlfriend decided to tag along. During the 9-hour road trip, I learned about her level of skepticism. She was delighted when I told her that we have a local skeptic group, and I cannot wait until I finally get a chance to take her to her first meeting. At the time, I didn’t think much more of the conversations than how it was really cool to have this in common with her. In reflection, I realize that I was advocating skepticism to another female, and that is quite an empowering feat, I think, for both of us. Honestly, I have Emily’s thoughtfulness and encouragement to thank for that.

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