Paciência (Patience)

Mesmo quando tudo pede
um pouco mais de calma
até quando o corpo pede
um pouco mais de alma
A vida nāo pára…Enquanto o tempo acelera
e pede pressa
Eu me recuso, faço hora,
vou na valsa
A vida é tão rara…Enquanto todo mundo
espera a cura do mal
E a loucura finge
que isso tudo é normal
Eu finjo ter paciência…

O mundo vai girando,
cada vez mais veloz
A gente espera do mundo,
e o mundo espera de nós
Um pouco mais de paciência…

Será que é tempo que lhe falta para perceber?
Será que temos esse tempo para perder?
E quem quer saber?
A vida é tão rara
Tão rara…

Even when everything asks
for a little more calmness
Even when the body requires
a little more soul
life does not stop…While time speeds up
and asks to hurry
I refuse, take my time
and slow down as a waltz
life is so precious…While everybody expects
the cure for evil,
and madness pretends
that everything is normal
I pretend to be patient…

And the world goes around
even faster
We expect from the world
and the world expects from us
a little more patience…

Do we lack time to realize it?

Do we have this time to waste?

And who wants to know?
Life is so precious…
So precious…

Looking for *alternative* options

That’s it. It is definitely time for a change. And probably took me way too long to realize that. But It’s not easy to think about giving up almost 20 years in academia. It’s really scary to look into the unknown and think about other options. During all our training, we are very familiar with the academic way of life, teaching and grants, but what else is out there? What are those *alternative* positions that most of the PhD’s end up getting? And most important of all, how to look for them?

The first question people ask when you say you want to leave academia is “What do you want to do?” That’s such a tricky question when you are not really sure what’s out there! Industry is the first thing people usually suggest. I am a little skeptical about going that way. I really love my research, and it’s not about the bench itself. It’s about the scientific discovery, doing research with a purpose. As I’ve been working with a very specific subarea of neuroscience, and I am not sure if industry cares about fundamental questions in science. I believe they pursue more practical and translational aspects. It’s not that I’m not interested in those either, but again, it’s hard to let my research go… I don’t want to be at the bench for the sake of just being there, so it seems that industry is not the most appropriate pathway for me. Right?

Then the second question is “Are you willing to relocate?” Again, this is another tricky question. I mean, I’m single and don’t have anything that really ties me to this town. So yes, I could relocate. But, I’m also not that young anymore. It is already too scary to think about leaving the academic path into the complete unknown. However, it’s even more scary to think about moving to a complete different place where you don’t know anyone to work in a job you know nothing about. It’s not about the money, it has never been. I am passionate about science. I certainly believe there are amazing jobs out there and that I can be happy doing something else science-related. Just need to know exactly what!

I’d rather think about my skills and what could make me happy. In case you haven’t noticed, I am a VERY social person. I love interacting with people, I really love science, reading and talking about science. In that line of thought, I’d rather go for jobs that I could work remotely, like science editing or consulting. But apart from that, I’m not sure what else I could try.”You know nothing, Jon Snow”. Please, let me know if you have other ideas/suggestions of possible jobs. I am ready to move on. Just need some directions now! Can you help me?

Is it time for a change?

Just realized my last blog post (except for the #DiversityJC ones) was on June, 18th. Yes, I’m not a very active blogger, but no, I’m not okay. Writing definitely helps, but I don’t want to sound like a broken record – that’s why I’ve been away for so long, I suppose. But I need to get it out, somehow…

When did my crisis begin? I’m not sure. I believe during job season last year, when I applied for 15-20 TT positions at MRU and didn’t get a single interview. Shortly after that I started to attend to job talks for a position in our Program, and started to realize how my CV falls short of theirs!  Decided to write an R03 grant and try to teach – to fill up some holes in my CV. Teaching went great, but my R03 was not discussed. When I talked to the PO, it was not because of the science, but because I’m a senior PD and I’d need to receive research staff status for them to fund me. Except that our R01 grant is ending next January and they can’t promote me now. Sigh.

In the middle of all this I met someone. Even though I was busy and totally focused in my career, one cannot predict romance.  I tried to fight it, and I was still strong enough to tell him that I could not promise anything for the future. He owns business in town and told me he would not move from here. There’s no place for me at a MRU here. So case closed. We split apart. Buuuuuut, of course, he planted the seed. I have forgotten that I also needed someone by my side. That I still have some hope of getting married and having kids. And I was sad… I started to doubt if I wanted to go for TT at a MRU. I started to look for *alternative* jobs in town. Because of him? Not sure. I think partially, but wanted to see what was out there in case that our R01 was not renewed. Didn’t see anything that caught my attention.

Then we wrote the R01 renewal, new job season arrived. I had a big project to finish and needed to write the paper, so I decided I was not going to “waste my time” applying for all the jobs. Why would I bother trying jobs that kind of suit me if I still don’t have a grant on my own nor glam publications? Started to look for jobs at SLACs too, but most of them were in tiny cities, that is for sure a no-no for me. I finished my project, I’m almost done with the manuscript. Ended up applying for a single position, the only one I found that asks for my specific neuroscience area of expertise, in a SLAC. Haven’t heard from the job and our R01 grant received a 16th percentile score (we are still in the grey zone). Grant ends in January 30th, and I still don’t know if I’ll have a job or not next year!

As the end of our grant gets closer, so does my stress level. I start questioning myself why this is happening to me. Bad choices, I should have gone to a different lab for a second postdoc and not the same I’ve been doing since grad school. Bad mentoring, because no one told me I should apply for grants by the time I’ve got here and we had 2 R01s in the lab (life was good). But that’s all done and now I have to face that I cannot come back in time and fix my mistakes. Now I feel I don’t want to go for a TT position at a MRU, I don’t want to live under the constant stress of having to get grants and publish to get tenure. But then I wonder, is it really that? Or I’m just giving up because I feel I’m just not good enough? Or, do I feel like choosing a TT pathway would definitely end my dreams of finding someone and starting a family? In this meantime, I briefly dated someone else, thought that my ex was done with me, but recently we had a *deja vu*. He seems not to be over with me, I’m definitely not over with him. He is helping me a lot with this crisis, despite we don’t talk about “us” anymore. He is also not happy with his job and thinking about making a move. I know we cannot talk about us until I know I’m going to be here for a little longer. Or until I know what I want to do with my life. And I also think that it will not be wise to make career decisions in the middle of all this mess. But maybe I’ll just have to…

 

 

That’s why I’m still single

Sometimes I catch myself imagining a hypothetical man who describes the woman of your dreams:
“She has to work and study hard, have an inbox always crowded with emails. Her feet must have calluses and blisters because she walks with very high heels, back and forth. She should be independent and do what she wants with her own salary: buy an expensive bag, donate to a social project, travel by herself to Eastern Europe. She needs to be a good driver and to do her own taxes. Cooking? No need! There’s a a certain charm to even mistake the rice. She doesn’t need to be in shape, because she doesn’t have time to do all that she does and still workout. But above all: she has to be sure of herself and doesn’t want to depend on me or anyone else. ”

Yeah. I haven’t heard this speech from any man. Not even part of it. Maybe that’s why I’m single here, still fighting.
The fact is that I’ve been thinking about it. In the amazing dissonance between the way that us, girls and young women were raised and the expectation of most boys, young men, men and old men.
What our parents expect of us? What we expect from us? And what do they expect from us?
We are the generation that was created to win the world. Encouraged to study, work, travel and above all, build our independence. The few cakes I ever made never made my mother’s eyes shine like my A grades at school. The days when I’ve dressed flawlessly never stamped a proud smile in my father’s face as he gave me when I’ve got my PhD. When I decided to do a short course of gastronomy my parents thought it was cool. But when I decided to do a short course in French language and civilization at the Sorbonne they inflated their chest like pigeons.

We never had sewing classes. Never learned to cook a stew. No one asked us to change a cousin’s diaper. No one explained to us the difference between whitener and bleach. Just as it happened with the boys of our generation. But they taught us sports. We did learn a second language. Learned to drive. Learned how to build a good resume. To work without fear and to invest our money. Just as it happened with the boys of our generation.

But, listen, did someone remember to warn those boys that we would be like this? That we would fight for the same jobs with them? That we would prefer to dine out rather than cook dinner? That we would like beer, whiskey, football and UFC? That we wouldn’t want to account for what we do? That we would be willing to find happiness in freedom and we dread submission?
And then, us, with our crumpled shirt at the end of the day, our heavy purse, cell phone beeping with 26 new emails, girlfriends waiting for dinner, car unwashed, 4 meetings scheduled for tomorrow, ask ourselves “what guy on earth will want to be with me?”.

Maybe if I was more delicate … didn’t curse that much. Didn’t have subordinates. Didn’t drive alone at night without fear. Maybe if I appeared fragile. Maybe if I said that I do not mind washing his underwear. Maybe … ” But no. These is not who we are. We want a companion, side by side, as equals. Many of us dream of children. But not only them. We want to make a risotto. But we may want to die if we our partner gives us a blender for our birthday. We want to tell you how our day was. But we will not allow anyone to question our routine.

The fact is, who was educated to want us? Which man is safe enough to love a woman who flies? Who is willing to make us want to land on your side at the end of the day? Who understands that lying on his chest is our way of cuddling? And that sometimes we will need your lap and sometimes we just want company for a wine? That we are the generation of the partnership and not of dependence?

And I’m not here on a tirade, blaming men. No. The fault is not exactly theirs. It’s from the society as a whole. From the way we were raised. The image that the world has of woman. From the parents who raise daughters to the world, but desire brides to live built in family. In the end we are nothing like the collective unconscious that the world expects from a woman. And best of all: we neither want to be like that. Let it be clear, we’re not going backwards. So it’s that old mentality that needs to move forward. We’ve opened ourselves to win the world. Now the world has to turn around to win us back.

I feel like I’ve failed

So lately I’ve been focusing on trying to understand why I’m in such a mess lately. Of course, a lot is going on in my life, but seriously I’ve never been so beaten down as in the last couple of weeks. It’s not just that I don’t know if our grant is going to be renewed and I’ll have a job next year. It’s not just that I don’t know what I want to do next. It’s not just the end of my “relationship”. Or my green card that never arrives.

Deep inside I feel like I’m a failure. Feel that I’ve failed in my professional life and I’ve failed in my personal life. I am almost 40 years old and I see myself in a foreigner country, with no stable job and no family around me. Deep inside I know that we make our own choices in life, and I know I could still be “married” if I wanted. But after that I also know I focused myself so hard into my professional life, leaving every feeling and every possibility of relationship for a future “after I get a job”. Years went by, I had to spend a year away in home country, and when back everything I did was to find that dream TT job. That never happened.

It seems that this last short relationship just made me aware to the fact that I am getting old, and I’m getting out of time. I still dream to find someone and have kids, but, can I really dream about that AND a TT position? While I was with him it seems that I lost my focus in a certain way. It was good, I was happy. But I lost my focus. Now that I’m finally seeing things clearer now, I can see my fear of the unknown was indeed fear of having to choose between my work or love life. So, as everything is over now, I should be happy and just focus on my career again, right?

Wrong. The little bug has been awaken. It’s there, all the time. Your biological clock is ticking and you have to be aware of that. Don’t shut yourself down like you’ve done during all these years, find someone nice and just settle down. I wish things could be simple as that. I’ve never been that kind of woman. If I was, I’d be married to my long-time BF from UG and be *happily* working as a dentist in a little town in the middle of nowhere at home country. I always wanted more. I always had big dreams. I wanted to be big. Today I realized I can’t be scared of being alone. Maybe a family is not for me and I was born to be by myself. Maybe I’d regret it someday. But I think that’s just the way I am, and I’m way to old to change it.

Life is not always easy

I am someone that always thought I had very clear goals in my mind. Simply as finding fulfillment in my personal and professional life. Finding the balance it’s never easy, and after sharing my life with someone for a couple of years I realized I left my professional desires behind. Slowly started back on track, still trying not to lose the balance between both. However, after being forced to stay one year in home country due to a denied visa, I felt my time for finding my professional pathway was getting short. Started focusing everything on getting a TT job, and actively avoiding any possibility of finding someone that could lead me out of my professional goals.

I’ve applied for about 15 jobs last year. Didn’t have a single interview. After attending to several job talks at my University I just realized my CV was just not good enough for the positions I applied. No glam publications and no grant or fellowships in the USA. Also, reading on twitter how bad the research funding was, seeing how many junior faculties were struggling to keep going made me think that maybe this life was not for me! I kept thinking that I was going to allow myself to have a personal life again after I got a job, but how long this is going to take? I’m almost 38 and my time to have a family it’s little. Maybe it will never happen, but I still wanted to try… Our R01 is going to finish in January 2015. My PI has retired and now we have a new PI that’s not exactly related to the field. We managed to write a decent proposal for renewal, but as things are so tough out there we have serious concerns about getting the renewal. I told myself I was going to wait until we get the scores to start applying for jobs.

Then, despite all the odds, I found someone. Told myself it was going to be just for fun, that it could never get serious. We were from too different worlds, and he could never move from here. On science you have to be able to move where you find a job, right?  But slowly I started to enjoy his company more than I should. Although it never became an official relationship we started to get closer and closer. It reminded me that work cannot be everything in life. And helped me to avoid thinking about my uncertainties and fears. But he was broken too for his own reasons, and now that we finally broke up I feel like both of us were using the other as an excuse to feel a little better.

Now I feel lost. I’m terrified with the idea of our R01 not being renewed. I believe my CV it’s not good enough to go for a TT job, and I’m not sure anymore if I want the craziness involved. The taste of maybe finding someone to share my life and finally have a family made me think that I’ve been postponing this for way too long. But on the other hand, I look at other alternatives and nothing really appeals to me. Industry scares me because I don’t feel like leaving my research that I’ve been pursuing for  15+ years. Teaching would be nice, but again, I don’t feel like I’ll be happy without the bench. But really? I think that I wouldn’t mind trying something different if I was younger, or if I wouldn’t have to move, to change my entire life around for the unknown. A lot of effort for a possible failure.

People around me just says that I’m focusing on the bad possibilities. That there are many other ways to be happy in life, and I should be excited with possibilities of finding happiness somewhere else, doing something new. But all I can think it’s being scared….

Changing is hard to do

This wasn’t an easy week for me. Started with a huge wake up call from former PI telling me that our R01 is very unlikely to be renewed and I have to behave as I’m going to be out of a job by January 31th, 2015. Also, in order to be successful into this new funding tendency, I’ll have to come up with a wonderful idea and use a totally different technique that no one has ever used before in our field of research. Ah, and also have preliminary data for that, of course. Not forgetting to mention that our R01 is ending and there’s no money (and time, and expertise) for anything like setting up a new technique in the lab! Later in the week, I received the news that my R03 was triaged. That didn’t really surprise me, I really didn’t have high expectations due to it being my very first submission of a grant and with the shortage of funding to new researchers. But such a bad timing for unpleasant news!

I get it. I can’t continue doing more of the same. I have to change. I have to learn new techniques. Look at my research from a different perspective. But right now I also need to look for a job. There’s no space for me as a TT researcher, at least not yet, not with my CV. I feel like I need to develop an strategy of plans A, B, C… and Z! But my problem is that I can’t see any thing that pleases me right now. I could try to go to industry or other “alternative careers”. And give up my research dream that I’ve been pursuing for about 15 years? That seems so lame.  I could also try to go for a teaching position in a tiny small college and try to do some research in my *free* hours. Very unlikely to be happy, but at least I’d have a job…  I could also try to apply for another postdoc and change my research focus, moving to a lab that does fancier research. But after being here for so long, I always told myself that I was done with PDs, that just wanted to move from here if it was to have my own lab somewhere else. And be able to move on with my personal life also!

Now, what I need to do is start applying for jobs. Everywhere, anything. But that makes me so sad. I don’t wanna give up my research. I don’t wanna give up my dreams. But on the other hand, I don’t know if I want this crazy life of writing grants desperately and living in the constant stress of not being funded. I feel lost and I see no light at the end of the tunnel.