Archive for April, 2018


Stargazer

She was staring at the sky, childlike. Her head thrown back and eyes open wide, willing each point of light to stand out from the deep dark night. From afar it might have appeared as if she was searching, so intense was her focus. This was not, however, the case. She was found. As overwhelming as the galaxy was, in that moment it did not cause her to lose her nerve. The infinite possibility, instead, seemed a comfort. Welcoming and challenging in equal measure. This moment, the night, and even the possibility was hers for the taking.

Blinking at last, she shook her head. Trying to clear both her mind and her starfilled eyes, but the damage was done. A knowing smile replaced her look of wonder as she turned back to the heavens. Now, now she wouldn’t be satisfied till she reached out and touched one.

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Big little decisions

Something unexpected and amazing has happened, and I had to share it. I am currently working as a postdoctoral fellow, but my project is nearing a natural expansion point. So, the decision I was faced with was A) follow the project or B) pass the baton.

I have chosen to pass the baton.

Please do not misunderstand me, the passion and ownership I feel for this project has not waned, it is just time to face another challenge. My decision to move out of my research headspace and into a job hunting headspace, turns out, was actually a series of smaller decisions. These big little choices held a weight which I did not full comprehend at first.

My first big little decision…”I do not have to finish this project.”

As a scientist I know that there is no such thing as a “finished” project, there are always more questions, but I have never been very good at leaving a story half written. Projects I have worked on in the past all resulted in publications. Proof, in my mind, that at least my part of the story was complete. This time the attachment I felt toward the work was different. I no longer felt the need to have top billing when this manuscript goes to press. I just wanted the work to actually become translational, to continue, and grow.

My second big little decision…”I get to ascribe the success in my career.”

I am very much a people pleaser, and though I’m not proud to admit it… I like praise. This means that I often hang on others conception of my achievements, and am therefore held back by others belief that I am not worthy/capable. It was only by giving myself permission to be proud of my work and my progress without external reinforcement that I could start to see my worth. I’m sure this sounds a bit like ego mania, but that’s not my intent. I mean simply, that by finding myself worthy I could now justify looking at my next step. I no longer had to wait for permission to take the next step in my career.

My third big little decision… “I can choose what my focus is.”

I tend to be very goal driven, and in academics the goals are for the most part predetermined. For me this basically amounted to; take GRE, get accepted to PhD program, pass my qualification, write 3+ first author manuscripts, defend, obtain PostDoc, publish in top tier journal, obtain tenure track position. I was on a treadmill. No need to look around, or even up, because I was on “the path”. However, in the last year I started to look around. I started dabbling in science communication and outreach. I joined the committee of a nonProfit. I even started looking at jobs outside of academia. *gasp* This gave me the renewed perspective to ask myself what it was that I wanted most/least out of an academic career. My responses surprised me.

What I had not realized was that in slowly letting go of my academic dream I was becoming more honest with myself. I had finally allowed myself to admit that sidestepping the grant cycle and working without tenure were not failures, they were choices. That I could have all the positives of an academic career (mentoring opportunity, creative license, and a diverse list of collaborations) without the negatives (grant writing nonstop, ego politics, and the lack of appreciation). Could I love my mission statement and feel valued without an R01 at a top 10 university? I had to know the answer. So… I interviewed for a job that would have never been on my radar before. It’s too early to know if this will be my dream job, but by consciously pursuing these new opportunities I feel more certain that it’s within my reach.

As seen on Pixabay

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