You know those kinds of blog posts or tweets where you ask for help for a friend? Well, I wish I could say that this post is to help a friend, but in reality, I’m shamelessly asking for help for myself. If you don’t want to read through the entire blurb, skip to the very last paragraph.
After working long hours and weekends, I am burning out, and I feel that I am not as passionate about science as I used to be. The idea of being a smart, academic woman is something that attracted me; in other words, I fell for the glam and glitz. However, this phd thing has been the complete opposite. There is nothing glamorous about being a science phd student (except maybe, that some students call you professor when you’re a TA).
All my respect goes to my professors, advisors and people who genuinely care about advancing science. I have nothing against being passionate about something that is so dear to people’s hearts. Quite contrary, I am inspired by people’s passion toward something. And after all, I will always be a science nerd. It’s the process of getting there that I am not so sure about anymore.
Some people have compared the process of getting tenured (I originally thought I wanted to be a PI) to a marathon, and another one I heard recently, to climbing the Everest. The things is, I’m not thrilled about making it to the finish line, or getting to the top of the highest mountain, or being called professor. Ironically, I’m not interested in that kind of glam and glitz. With the proper training, planning, and motivation, many people have done it and continue to do it. Kudos for them. But in wanting to climb the Everest, there’s a reason behind it. I’m not interested in doing it just to prove that I can do it.
Yesterday I had an epiphany. Okay, it was more like a “duh, you’ve known this for a long time” moment, but regardless, it made me re-think about where I’m headed with my life. It’s kind of like when you fall out of love with someone you weren’t even in love with in the first place. You try to convince yourself that this person/thing is what’s best for you for many reasons, but you know deep inside that it is not. That, my friends, is exactly how I felt yesterday (with all the due regrets).
But hold your horses. It was sad to realize it, but at the same time it opened a world of possibilities in front of me. What would I do if this isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing with my life? What wouldn’t I do? I would be free. And I wouldn’t have to depend on the opinions of others to believe that I’m worth something.
The thing is, I’m not sure I need a PhD anymore. Or maybe you think I’m burned out and I just need a break. What I do know, though, is that I want to stay in a university setting, but I want to work with people (not necessarily teaching). Tweeps, blogging academic community, I want to hear from you. I want to hear from those of you who stayed and are making great careers in academia, those of you who left academia but not science, and those of you for whom the process was so painful that looking back was not an option.
I’ll be happy to hear what you have to say!