Earlier today in response to this very powerful post, I told Dr24hours: “Because we all get scared, but only some of us have the courage to write about it”. So here it goes…
Every time that there’s something that bothers me, I tend to set it aside my thoughts. A la Scarlet O’Hara I always say “I think about that tomorrow”, and keep postponing it forever. I know that our grant is going to finish in the beginning of next year. I know there’s little chance of it being renewed. I know I’m too old to look for another postdoc somewhere else. I started applying for TT jobs, tried to aim to “middle options”, avoiding the really famous and the really small Universities. I know the job market is tough lately, but i thought that my CV was ok and it was worth a shot. Received a couple of rejection responses, but that still didn’t alarm me. The wake-up call started to come when I started to attend to job talks at my University. I’m at a tier 1 research institution, but I wouldn’t consider it as one of the top Universities. All the candidates either 1) have glam publication(s) and/or 2) have grants. Then I looked back at my CV and without any of those attributes it seems pathetic. Then I regretted having overlooked those small Universities, those teaching positions.
Today I’ve attended to a talk about tips to find jobs outside academia. I’m not hopeful at all about my job applications, and the thought of being jobless in about a year terrifies me. If there’s no place for me as a TT, maybe I could expand my horizons somehow? Big mistake. That talk was not really about finding jobs outside academia but career change. Alternatives for what to do if you hate graduate school. At every slide and through the whole talk, the only thing I could think was “But that’s exactly what I love about my job, that’s exactly where I want to be”. Realizing that brought me a tremendous pain. I believe that even without realizing that’s the reason I never really looked for jobs outside academia. I think about that almost everyday, but there’s always something else to do. Me and my usual denial. I don’t look for jobs outside academia because I don’t want to get out. And on the other hand I stopped applying for jobs at academia because I feel like I’m not good enough for that. And that left me with the sensation that I’m not doing anything and can’t do anything to avoid being jobless in a year.
I know I’ve neglected some precious years of my academic life investing in my personal relationship. I wanted to get married, to have kids and build a family. Of course, I was still working, but without a professional goal. My partner didn’t want to leave this city or his job, and I just passively lived my life by his side. When I finally woke up and realized that things were not going to work between us, it was already late. It took me a while to set my feet on the ground and look towards the direction I wanted to go. Then my visa problems kept me one year out of the US, and despite still working, all I could think and wish was to be able to come back. When I finally came back, I was ready. I spent a whole year hoping and planning what I was going to do once I was here. I completely immersed me into a working mode, wrote a grant, started a collaboration, worked on job applications. Totally closed myself to relationships, at first in home country because I knew I didn’t want to stay there, and later here in the US, because I just don’t want anything or anyone to muddle my goals.
About a month ago I started to have second thoughts about that. I started to miss feeling something, and unconsciously started to lay down my guards. Allowed myself to look around. And to be looked. It’s amazing how being alone is just a matter of how you feel about it! Then it happened. I met someone. Everything was unexpected and we still haven’t met again after our first rendezvous. Before anything he was really honest and told me he was still recovering from a broken relationship and I thought “Great. I’m not looking for anything serious, so let’s go”. But words and feelings are such different things! After a couple of hours I started to realize it was a big mistake. That he was a really nice and sweet guy. I secretly wished that he wouldn’t ask for my number so I could avoid trouble. He asked. Then I thought that he would never contact me and he just asked for my number for politeness. He texted. We’ve been texting everyday since then and despite feeling happy to receive his texts, deep inside I wish I had the strength to cut it off. I know I may fall in love for him. I know I might get hurt, but what terrifies me the most is to let my feelings get on the way of my professional goals, again. But he asked me to get together and watch a movie sometime this weekend and before I could even think about it, I said yes.
I’m scared. But at least writing this post made me stop crying.