So yesterday I met with my PI to have a chat about my postdoc applications. I had already prepared cover letters for the half dozen or so places I wanted to apply, customizing each based on the reason I was interested in their work and how I saw myself fitting in, based on my previous experience. I had my updated CV ready, and the list of the groups...
Now, it should be said that PI is actually a pretty nice guy (deep deep down inside), but in (I'm guessing typical) PI fashion, he expects a lot from his people, and wants them to go on to bigger and better places... I, on the other hand, was trying to find a more supportive environment (in terms of many factors like male:female ratio of colleagues and mentors (tipped heavily in the male direction in my current environment), geographical and cultural environment, and potential family-friendliness (just in case things ever actually work out on husband and my side project)) and a new topic/field/model organism. In other words, NOT the kind of places he would pick for himself... so I suppose it shouldn't have surprised me that he told me he was disappointed in my choices, that I was aiming "too low", that he saw me as someone who had be quite ambitious while here in his lab and that he thought I would be disappointed by the environment of smaller, perhaps less ambitious places.
Now, I know that it's MY postdoc and I can apply where ever I want to, and don't have to apply anywhere I'm not interested in, but his point was, if you don't go try it (at least apply/interview) then I'll never know... he's challenged me to re-write my list, dropping those labs I'm least convinced of myself and replacing them with "big shot" postdoc factory style labs in places that least-well fit my criteria.
I guess I understand why in a way, I mean, who wants to live with all the what-ifs and could-I-have-made-it type questions. But honestly, I'm not so sure I WANT to "make it". I'm so exhausted from this place and my time here that most days I just want to crawl up in a little ball in the closet and ask the world to leave me in peace. I just don't think I have the energy to go sell myself to the sort of super star places he wants me to go.
Before I talked to him, I was quite sure I had figured out what I wanted out of a postdoc, and now, I'm all confused again. It seems like a big decision... something you really only get to choose once (or maybe twice, but gosh I hope no more times than that!). And I can't help but think that his advice is also in *his* best interest, since so often PIs are judged based on the kind of pedigree their lab gives rise to. I've spent a great deal of my time here pretending I'm someone I'm not, and I don't like that person very much. I was really hoping for a chance to start again and be more true to myself. Not to say that such an endeavor means I can't be ambitious, just not in a ultra-competitive arrogant way that is all too strongly encouraged in this place.
So, what DO I want? Where should I apply? What should I do? ugh. I better figure this out soon.