It was a week of firsts for me. My daughter walked up a (small) mountain for the first time, all the while reminding me what it was like to feel giddy with joy at every turn in the trail and with every bird sighting. I started a full-time job outside of research for the first time in my adult life, and left at 5 pm every day without guilt. And my husband and I worked on building a shed together with our daughter there and actually got stuff done. Amazing what happens when babies are old enough to walk. This is not to say this last task was easy; there was more than one pause in the building project because someone wanted to walk over the instructions or “help.” But the fact that it was possible is progress in my book.

On a not quite unrelated note, I’ve been musing about careers tonight, and have come to the conclusion that I need to answer a few questions about myself before I pursue any more career change. I have always had a sense of unrest about my career path; nothing I have done has felt quite right. With each change I learn more, which in itself is valuable, but the unrest remains. Perhaps this is the year in which I seek to discover its origins. Or perhaps it’s simply time to take a step back and let other things be more important for a while. It’s hard for me to conceive of this; my identity has been so wrapped up in what I do for so long that the whole concept of balance is unnerving to me. But that fear, like so many others, is surely arising out of the darkness of the unknown.

If any of you have been through a similar career change, what helped you make the transition, and what lessons did you draw from the experience?

A week in

I am now a cubicle worker. I’m not yet sure how I feel about this. My colleagues are nice, but I miss problem solving. I keep telling myself I need to give it more time, that I have not yet done any work. And so I wait, while trolling ads for professorships far away. Maybe stability is not all it’s cracked up to be. Or maybe, with time, I’ll make space for other ventures.

Meanwhile, in reality…

Academia is an odd place to exist sometimes. I am currently surrounded by a generation of people who have spent a lifetime working towards one goal, and a generation after that who cannot afford to do anything but be everything to everyone in search of a wisp of a promise of being employed a little longer, and one more generation still who has not yet caught on to the reality of the scheme. Is this a picture painted by cynicism? Or simply a realistic picture of what academia has become?  The number of people have grown considerably, but the size of the money pot has remained (at best) the same.

I leave in a week and a half.

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A glimpse at my future

I’ve been sitting in on some training workshops for the job I will start in a few weeks’ time. In some sense, this is nerve wracking–to meet new soon-to-be colleagues at a time when I am personally trying to steady myself for a major transition. I am still (in some sense) clinging to the identity I built for myself over the last 16 years, to the point where I’m checking on a paper submission in the coffee break, tweaking one more little thing before submission. But in reality, it was a nice window into the future I’m about to begin.

What have I noticed? Well, everyone’s so nice–and professional. People introduce themselves, and introduce me to others. They know how to talk to each other. In fact, networking has never been so easy (if only i were better at names). And the talks? They were great: understandable, full of knowledge that I know will be useful, and very, very thorough. I came away with the impression that there will be a lot to learn, but once I get my head around the whats, whys, whens, and hows, I’ll do fine in my new position. I know how to write grants, and I know how to teach people how to write great ones. It’s even something I can say I’m passionate about.

So, despite the difficulty that change brings, I’m feeling positive about this one. More on that later.