Things have a way of working themselves out, they say. Cliched, yes. But quite true. After a little over 3 months of apply apply no reply (I had totally written to, followed up, and done all those things one is supposed to do..to 60 odd labs) in the span of a single week I had 3 near offers. I traveled to lab #1 to interview, got the offer, came back to Philly, took care of an experiment, went to lab #2 for a second interview (they had offered me the post earlier), was almost ready to make up my mind, and while at lab #2 I get a phone call from lab #3 with a near-offer. Rented a car and drove all the way to lab #3, because I had to convey my decision to lab #2 by the next day, and didn't want to lose out on lab #3 without giving it a complete fight. Returned to Philly from this crazy exhausting travel and made up my mind on the Amtrak on my way back.
I had been belaboring this decision for quite a while. I knew I'd get the offer from lab #1, and when I heard from lab #2, I spent all my time obsessing the choice. To the point of making me sick. Then all of a sudden I found myself driving a rental car on a 4 hour drive to go interview with #3. For a decision I was obsessing over for so many days and in all that excel-spreadsheet glory, I would have just one night to make up my mind regarding #3. When I was telling my baymate how that was one of the craziest things I ever did, she retorted with "What, crazier than jumping off a plane or into a ravine?". Heh. I think yeah, crazier.
I am finally going with #2.
A good decision-making trick my Ph.D advisor had taught me was to pretend that you've made up your mind, sleep over it and see how it rests with you for the next day or so. I played that game with #1 and #2 , and definitely felt much more at ease with #2. The interview with #3 eliminated it right there, so that kept things from getting any more complicated.
The honest truth is that I wouldn't have gone for either #1, #2 or #3 were this last year, and were I interviewing fresh out of grad school, and were I not desperate enough to leave my current place. I'd be looking for a bigger name, a more experienced advisor. But then, when I had a choice last year, I picked this current place that fit all those criteria, and it didn't work out too well for me.
And now, #1, #2 and #3 are what I had to work with this time around. So lets see how this pans out.
I've good feelings. And after several weeks, today I feel calm. And happy.