I often think about what kind of qualities a scientist should have. I think a scientist should be curious, adventurous (science-wise, not necessarily bungee-jump-wise) and inventive. But lately, it also seems like an important part is to be resilient to stress about having an insecure job. As I said before, whether or not I will have the position I want in the homecountry depends on whether I get a grant (any grant) before next year when we are moving back. This type of insecurity, that I know almost every scientist faces, does not make me work better. To be honest, it stresses me to the point that when I have to write a grant, I can’t because I keep thinking: ‘this has to be awesome, or else’. I think some people excel under pressure, but I’m currently not one of those.
You have to understand that I was raised in a country that has a lot of social security. Everybody has healthcare – and with that I mean real healthcare, not the one where you have to co-pay 20%, leaving you bankrupt after an expensive procedure – and it’s a lot harder for employers to fire people with a contract than in the US. Deep down, I did not envision being older than 30, not knowing where I would work next year or whether I would be able to afford a house.
You also have to understand that wanting to get a grant funded to secure a position seems to be my type of nesting. Being pregnant has amplified these feelings enormously, because I seem to want to imagine what life will look like when this prospective baby is born, and moving countries when he or she is only 5 or 6 months does not really help in this process.
It would help if Dr. BrownEyes would have be a millionaire, or at least have a job that we would know he could keep and that would bring in money, but he doesn’t, because he’s also a scientist. This is great, and his enthusiasm for science is one of the things I like about him, but it doesn’t help in my anxiety about getting a job.
So does this make me a bad scientist? It did for a while, because I really felt like a deer in the headlights trying to write grants and papers, but now that I know that I can at least get bread on the table doing another post-doc that gives me some room to breathe, and to be good and creative while writing grants again. But why aren’t there more scientist-jobs for people who don’t love insecurity about grants and their future (and the future of those in their labs)??