Sunday, February 14, 2010

Now what?

Hi there
Wow, February already huh? LittleOne has been keeping me busy and life has been a satisfying slow, but with lots of things to think about pace that has left me more than a little stressed. That said, I'm really enjoying (and so grateful it's been a possibility) my maternity leave. As I've been watching Husband struggle through the post-postdoc job search (he's been unemployed since last summer) I've been spending a lot of time reflecting about whether I really want to go down that postdoc route or if I should jump academic ship while I still can... A great friend and former labmate has been so helpful in listening to all my inner worries and finds solutions to all my doubts. She is currently 2 years into her postdoc and loving it right now, and really encouraging me to do one too. But I still have all these nagging thoughts and feelings... so, I thought I'd share them here. If anyone is still out there reading, I'd love to hear your take, your experiences, your advice...

So, why am I so doubtful about the whole postdoc experience? Besides the work/family balance, the huge open "can we even think of making this work financially?" and "do I even want to move to another not home country AGAIN and start over my whole village AGAIN?" or for that matter, do I want to be the REASON to uproot our family and take them farther away from family AGAIN or is that just more than a bit too much pressure to have hanging over my head at the beginning of a postdoc?

To be honest. I'm still feeling exceptionally stupid. I miss work, miss experiments, miss hearing/reading about cool science, but I feel so out of the loop. And I'm not even sure how to get back in, though thanks to great friend I now have access to online journals again. And then, I'm not even sure anymore what questions I'm interested in, let alone who is working on those things, and definitely not who would be a great or a crappy boss to work for. I'm not sure why I want to do a postdoc, since I'm really not sure if a group leader job is in my future, and if it's not then what is the point? I guess mostly I'm scared that I suck and no one would want to hire me (I'm terrified of interviews right now) since I have a kid and I'm still pregnancy/mom brain stupid and I'm not feeling even slightly ambitious. Or they would hire me and then be so disappointed :(

See, I read a message from great science friends now postdocing at amazing places, or even make a trip into visit the lab and I hear all about everyone's cool projects and ideas and I get excited for them, but just end up thinking that I'd never be smart or creative enough to think up a project on my own, or know what to do to make the project a success. Friend put it really well when she said that in the lab where we did our PhDs we learned a lot (A LOT!) but the price we paid was our confidence, and our enthusiasm.

I'm having kind of a rough time emotionally/psychologically right now though, and I'm super stressed about money/visas/jobs/having a place to live right now so I know that's clouding my judgment, but it certainly doesn't motivate me to start reading and researching out postdocs. I hate hate hate living in limbo. I'm so sick of it and I feel like I've been stuck here in uncertain future limbo land for several years now.

Friend tells me that the worst reason to NOT do something is because you're afraid it won't work out. I think friend is a wise wise lady. But I'm still not so sure I'm ready (or ever will be ready) to take that blind leap off the cliff and jump into postdoc land.


  1. Well, it really sounds like you miss the science, which is a good sign if you're considering a post-doc. Just remember: doing a post-doc does not mean you have to stay in academia and go for the TT position. I am doing one right now with absolutely no intention too do anything of the sort (unless, by miracle, they start hiring teaching-only TT's).

    The great thing about a post-doc is that it's short, and you can leave whenever you want. It might be the easiest way for you to figure out if it's something you really want to do.

    Good luck!!

  2. I'm looking at making the same decisions right now (albeit without a child) and it's hard. I don't know if I want to stay in academia, but I don't want to _not_ do one just because I'm scared. Then, again, do I want to uproot me and Dr. Man to go somewhere else? So, I guess, that I don't have any advice for you, just sympathy. :)

    Have you thought about what you'd do if you didn't do a postdoc? (I'm just curious-- for my own sake-- about what other options are out there.)

  3. "Friend tells me that the worst reason to NOT do something is because you're afraid it won't work out."

    I couldn't agree w/ this more. It's always better to take a risk and fail than to have not taken the risk in the first place. Failing isn't as detrimental as it's typically perceived. When you fail, you 'learn' how to succeed.

  4. Jenn, I don't know if you have made a decision yet, but I have to say that you should do it. Just because you have a baby and are afraid of interviews doesn't mean you won't be successful. You completed your PhD, which means even though you think your brain is muschie at the moment, the mushieness will one day evaporate, most likely when you are getting some sleep again. Don't beat yourself up about moving to another country either, trust me the experience is worth its weight in gold. I am living in Dresden, Germany at the moment and loving it, although it is sometimes tough, I would not trade the experience. Just take a deep breath and go for it! Oh, and good luck!