Trying to remember how to be a person.
It's Sunday morning.
I'm caught up on sleep, and resolved to try not to be miserable for the next month or two, until some of my current uncertainty is sorted out.
I will know in the next month or two whether I will be applying for faculty positions.
The alternative is to let my current postdoctoral position run out, be unemployed for a while, and hopefully have some kind of new career in mind by this time next year.
And in the meantime, I need to figure out how to be more of a person.
I have had these times, they come and go. Times when I know that, regardless of how I fare in terms of 'success' or science or career, I am a person:
I have hobbies, and character, and family and friends. I live in the world.
One of the things that appeals to me about academia is that it serves as a built-in, more or less permanent excuse to avoid the real world.
I've been thinking about this because one of the things I do when I'm really stressed out is read novels. Yes, it's yet another form of escapism. But somehow "I'm reading a book" just doesn't fly as an excuse the way it did when I was a kid!
When I'm working my ass off, as I have been lately, I have every right to have no idea what's going on in current events, to pay my bills late, to avoid chores and irritating family obligations.
"I have to work" is almost always an acceptable excuse, for almost everything.
(I'm busy fixing the world! I'm being a superhero! Leave me alone!)
One of the weirdest things to me about deciding whether or not to (try to) stay in academia is having to give up this complete devotion to my career. I just can't see myself being anywhere near as invested in working ridiculous hours if I just take a "job" somewhere doing something that will probably bore me.
And I can't quite see how I would fill up my time without working ridiculous hours. At the beginning, sure. But in the long run? What am I going to do, join the Peace Corps?
Right now, everything is up in the air. And in the grand scheme of things, current global financial crises are not helping.
So, as is often the case, I am not just waiting on my advisor, but also on a variety of other things out of my control.
I know from experience that the best thing to do when waiting is to try to spend some time in the real world. Not just emergency chores, but maybe even some other activities that help remind me who I am when I'm not trying to be a Scientist.
Switching gears back and forth is sometimes harder, sometimes easier.
Right now it feels really hard. I don't want to lose sleep over things I can't control.
I don't want to waste my life in waiting mode, when I could be doing other, more enjoyable things (while I wait).
On the flip side, I'm always afraid to relax even just a little bit, because before I know it, I'll be thrown back into the maelstrom. My advisor will email me, or some other crisis will appear out of nowhere and ruin my calm.
This is one of the things I hate about life in academia. No one ever wants to make a schedule and stick to it, and if by some miracle they actually do, they forget to tell me.
All of this means, in practical terms, that I can never seem to plan a vacation.
Oh, for a little control over my life. I have a few hours here and there where I get to decide, but that's all. I rarely even have a full day off with no emails that need immediate attention.
Nothing is really up to me.
I have two things I can control: what I do each day (the minutia). But I can only plan a day or two at a time. Everything else is at the mercy of scheduling.
And then there's the big, looming question that I still can't answer with confidence:
should I stay, or should I go?
I'm looking ahead at nothing but more of this kind of uncertainty and stress, and I'm thinking, what the hell am I doing this for.
Sure, I remember what got me into science. But why I stay will have to be more than that.
And what I'm going to do if I don't stay is another question entirely. Watching the Second Great Depression is not making me feel optimistic about options.