Volume 37 Number 3 | June 2023

Christal M. Lane, MS, MLS(ASCP)CM, ASCLS Ascending Professionals Forum Councilor-at-Large

Christal LaneDid you have any pandemic hobbies? I’m sure many of you were too busy during the height of the pandemic to indulge in too many new leisure activities; I know my time was pretty tied up. But now that we seem to be on the downhill, I have approximately 40 dahlia tubers that will be heading my way in the next month that I get to figure out how to plant on my tiny apartment patio (please don’t ask me about the 12-foot-tall variety I accidentally bought …).

Just because they get here in a month doesn’t mean I get to slack off on the preparation. There’s soil to be made up and fertilized, pots to buy and put out, and even figuring out how to store the tubers that came before the final freeze to keep them from going bad. I even have to make up the little garden markers so I know everything that I’m growing. And it doesn’t just stop when they go in the ground. There’s watering and pinching and pruning and checking for bugs that will happen daily throughout the season.

Pink dahlia bloomAs I’ve been reflecting on my new gardening journey, I can’t help but see the similarity to my journey with ASCLS thus far. It’s been interesting—and difficult—transitioning to being an Ascending Professional during a pandemic. Not just in ASCLS, but also that transition within the workplace, from student to new professional. And many of us are transitioning still; we’ve been handed some really big shoes to fill, in terms of the large number of opening shift lead, specialist, manager/supervisor, and professor roles.

How am I preparing to fill those holes? How are you preparing to fill those roles?

For me, it’s been taking every opportunity to network and learn at the ASCLS, AGT & SAFMLS Joint Annual Meeting (JAM) and other ASCLS events. I’ve been incredibly blessed over the years to have been able to receive scholarships to attend JAM, the Emerging Laboratory Managers Collaborative Conference (ELMC2), and the Laboratory Legislative Symposium. Don’t get me wrong, receiving the CE credits is fantastic. I love that I don’t have to panic come renewal time for certification or licensure, but what I truly love is the ability to get to meet and enjoy time with you all.

“[The Joint Annual Meeting] is the bloom that brings joy to my career and helps me to re-focus my attention to how much I love this field and this job.”

I have a lot of favorite experiences from JAM, and it all comes down to the friendships I’m building. It’s the “what comes next” when we head in our separate directions once the conference is over. It’s a Facebook friend request, liking family photos and vacation albums; it’s getting to visit lab friends while on a trip (or taking a trip for a lab friend’s wedding); it’s the texting a known traveler friend to see if they want to come take a new traveler position in your lab; it’s the texts and checking in when you know bad weather is hitting their area or something tragic happens.

One of the first things I can remember learning in my MLS program is how small our laboratory community is. I kinda laughed and brushed it off; but as I continue in this field, I now have so many connections and recognize so many names and faces. When someone comes to interview for a job or comes to do service on an instrument, it’s almost a game to see if we have any mutual contacts. But more importantly, it’s like being in one big family, and JAM is one big happy family reunion.

As my dahlia tubers are arriving, I remember how important it is to prepare. That a beautiful garden doesn’t grow overnight, and oftentimes, it takes a long time before you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor. I likely won’t see any blooms until late July or August, but I already know that what lies ahead will bring me great joy for a season.

Much like with my dahlias, JAM requires prep work too. It’s making sure I have enough PTO, that I’ve applied for travel scholarships, and that I scope out the sessions once they’re announced and make a schedule of the want-to-sees and the have-to-sees. It may include finding a roommate or finding a flight or deciding that my best option is driving and how I can incorporate road trip stops and maybe even a fun weekend trip. It’s connecting with previous conference friends to see who’s going again this year and trying to convince your coworkers to join you instead of living vicariously through your stories. And it’s knowing that everything I do for and at JAM is helping to shape my career.

JAM is the bloom that brings joy to my career and helps me to refocus my attention to how much I love this field and this job. It may be a short-lived week, but the impact on my life and my career has been and continues to be profound. Here’s to Rhode Island for JAM 2023! See you there?

Christal Lane is a Medical Laboratory Scientist at LeConte Medical Center in Sevierville, Tennessee.

Dahlia photo credit: F. D. Richards, Flickr