It’s not all there is.

I was tied to my electrophysiology rig for the past three days and completely missed the #postdocalypse hashtag on twitter. It started with Ethan Perlstein’s post where he describes how even a “prestigeous independent postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton” did not guarantee him a TT position at a top institute. At almost the same time as I read about this on ProflikeSubstance’s blog some people on twitter were talking about how the median age to first receive an R01 is 41. And I thought: sure all of this sucks, and we need to do whatever we can to try and change this; it would be great if there was more money for science, and a higher chance of getting a desired TT job. But at the same time, all this panic is not getting us anywhere.

Sometimes PIs lose funding, or decide to move to the other side of the US, or decide to fire a bunch of postdocs, and not too long ago one of those scenarios was a serious option in our lab. I thought for a while that I could lose my job, and I seriously thought about what I would do in that case. I could make myself useful in another lab, I could stay home with BlueEyes. I could become a yoga teacher or a babywearing instructor or both. I could write a book. All of a sudden the possibilities were endless, and I was almost sad that this scenario wasn’t going to happen and I continue to be a scientist.

What I’m trying to say is that even though you’ve worked to become something ever since high school, and you will be extremely disappointed when you don’t become what you want because of factors out of your control, that is not all there is. Seriously, it’s not. And sometimes it is extremely liberating to realize that. 

In case you worry what all this hippie talk is doing here: don’t worry, next time I will write a disgruntled postdoc post again.

Advertisements

8 Comments

Filed under academia, disgruntled postdoc, science

8 responses to “It’s not all there is.

  1. Namnezia

    Well put…

  2. Anonymous

    your blog makes me happy! -Almost done PhD student

  3. Good thoughts. When things are going badly at the lab my colleague jokes that she will just quit and raise goats. We laugh about it, but I think it can be really helpful to think about other things that would make you happy. Also envisioning the worst case scenario for a situation can sort of make you realize that even that is not the end of the world. I had a true career disaster earlier in grad school and thoughts like this were exactly what helped me get through it.

  4. I was a senior postdoc with a scientist wife and without a stellar record when the PI decided to retire and close the lab, so I know what it's like to face relatively imminent unemployment. This helps put a perspective on things, when you look at your (hopefully) supportive family and think of other routes to happiness.

  5. Anonymous

    I agree completely. Frankly, even if my academic career ends up somewhere other than PI-dom, I feel privileged to have had the chance to do such interesting work for X years. (Of course, that doesn't stop me being disgruntled some days, but I'm happier when I see things in perspective.)

  6. “What I'm trying to say is that even though you've worked to become something ever since high school, and you will be extremely disappointed when you don't become what you want because of factors out of your control, that is not all there is. Seriously, it's not. And sometimes it is extremely liberating to realize that.”

    Amen Sister!

  7. become a babywearing instructor! though probably slightly more precarious than a job as a scientist…

  8. 😉 Yeah and also a bit less intellectually challenging I'm afraid. But a good plan B (or C) option.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s