I wanted this and now it’s almost over

From when I just started grad school I knew I wanted to do a post-doc in the US. I understand that many disgruntled post-docs will laugh when I say that being a post-doc was my dream job; not many kids will answer “post-doc” when asked about what they want to be when they grow up. It’s also not something very permanent. But what appealed to me is that it was an easy way to live in the US for a while. America. The country I knew from watching The Simpsons and Beverly Hills 90210. The country that made me realize that Sim City was based on actual cities, because to a European it seems weird that you can start a totally new city from scratch. Unless it was bombed in WW2.

So we did it: my husband (boyfriend at the time) and I moved to the US and became post-docs. Fast forward 4 years, some papers, a baby, a wedding and another baby and we’re almost ready to move back to the homecountry. I guess this extended maternity leave time gives me some space to reflect and made me realize: this was what I wanted and now it is almost over. I have a husband, children (saying this in plural still feels weird) and I lived in the US for 4 years. I guess now the rest of my life starts. (I know, I’m ‘only’ still a post-doc, there’s so much more after this, but stopping and realizing this makes me feel both appreciative and a little shocked about how time goes by as well).

So now these last few weeks that we’re here I am extra mindful of the squirrels outside (we don’t have those in the homecountry), the homeless people falling over after taking opiates (we don’t have those either; at least not visible), the potholes in the streets, the public bathrooms everywhere, the American flags on every building (in the homecountry you only put the flag up when a member of the royal family has their birthday or when you kid graduates high school) and the easy commute by car that leaves your hair like you did it at home (the homecountry is the country of bikes, but also that of tons of rain… not the best combination).

But this is also the country where quitting your job means no health insurance anymore, and where people go bankrupt because of medical costs. You call that freedom, I call that scary. Coming from a country of lots of social security (although I notice that in a crappy economy that is the first thing to go), that is something that I value more than I thought. Also, this is not the country where all of our family lives. And after BlueEyes was born, we quickly decided that eventually we were going to move back. And eventually will be in 3 weeks. Three weeks. I’m going to need new dreams.


Filed under advice for foreign post-docs, baby, cultural differences, cycling, disgruntled postdoc, health insurance, marriage, observations, postdoc, safety, travel

5 responses to “I wanted this and now it’s almost over

  1. jimwoodgett

    Dang – nice post. There is a privilege to living in a country where (in your heart) you know you are “only” visiting. You compare and contrast, you measure your investment (in processes, relationships, etc) knowing that many of them will not be as strong/relevant/useful in the longer term. But that “near-but-distant” effect also provides a distinct perspective and level of objectivity. We should all spend extended time “elsewhere” to broaden our experience and to hone our appreciation of what we like and don’t like. The move back will be a pain (especially with two little ones and some uncertainty) and a chapter will close. But in a decade, these four years will seem like a long working vacation, a different time. How did so much happen? That’s how I look back at a postdoc in the US. I was like an embedded journalist. Accepted but different. No quite like everyone else (aside from other foreign postdocs), learning and absorbing. Some of the best times but also a defined episode in life.

    Hope all goes well with the move and with the hair. I am sure you’ll let us know 🙂

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