Tuesday, January 12, 2010

yo-yo

Just yesterday, I was feeling very happy and at peace with my decision of wrapping up my current postdoc by Dec and returning to India. Nothing specific caused that sense of ease- may be it was a culmination of ruminations going on in my head for days and weeks on end, weighing the pros and cons. Most days, my brain is going through a series of flow-charts- if this happens then that, if that were to happen then this..etc etc. This is the way I hash out scientific ideas, and was unconsciously applying it to my life too. :) But yesterday, I felt like I could give it all a rest.

Today was a very interesting day at work, I got to speak to a doctor about the clinical aspects of some of the work we do and it was very fascinating and informative. I came back from the meeting with the usual high I have after such stimulating conversations...but all of a sudden a wave of depression has struck. I can't put a finger on it: may be because meeting with the doctor reiterated how I have a long way to get where I want to in my project, and I wonder if the next 10-11 months I have set for myself will be sufficient.  I am very sure that going to the next step in my career is not going to be greatly influenced by whether I spend 1 or 2 or 3 years at this post-doc. Having decided to pursue a career in industry, a post-doc doesn't count for much-I could pretty much leave now and go to India and I'd find the same job I'll find in a year from now. 

Why am I staying here for a year then? The honest truth is that I was simply  too scared to up and leave- and look like I had thrown it all away to follow my boyfriend. I was fed a constant stream of caution- from within and from outside. It is a big decision, and I was worried about regretting and being bitter. Although, there was this constant voice at the back of my head telling me that a year was not going to change much: this one year was not really the tipping point- the decision of R2I-ing or not - and therefore being with B or not was the real tipping point. If I had decided to be with B, marry him and all that,  it entailed moving to India. If I could find a good job now and move, it was just as well. But I gave in to the fear, decided to stay for a year and accomplish enough towards a paper by Dec 2010.

There were other, smaller influences though. For one, a year gives me comfortable time period to position myself -network, research and land the best job I can in India. So that's a real, practical advantage of this one year period. Secondly, having quit my Philly post-doc after a year of achieving nothing, I felt like I needed a successful post-doc stint just to prove to myself that I was capable of doing good science, that my Philly experience was just one bad phase, and not indicative of what I could or could not achieve as a scientist. This post-doc has served that well- I have a good post-doc mentor and am regaining my confidence. I spent time developing and writing up a research plan and applied to several post-doc fellowships few months ago and became successful in getting one- a tangible achievement that I very much needed to boost my morale.

Today things have changed in that it seems like I will be spending the next several months just doing grunt work needed to get to the next point in my project  meaning that by Dec 2010 I will still be nowhere near the semblance of a paper.  The thought of investing my energies for the next few months in the grunt work, and then not being around to reap the benefits of it, is what is bringing me down. There is no getting around this grunt phase- what I was given to believe was a matter of a few weeks is now turning out to be a laborious process involving all this standardization and trial and error thats easily going to run into a few months.

At the same time I am steadily reaching a point of increasing investment in my work here, and it is going to be hard to pry myself away from it come December. That is the addictive and consuming nature of the work we do - It is something I was very aware would happen, and I am going through it now.

Then I remind myself of how I had gotten very attached to my Ph.D. project and was having trouble coming to terms with graduating, even when I was ready on all other counts. I remember telling myself how more can always be done, but there were better things to be achieved by graduating. In this case, the question of whether a better career move awaits is debatable. On the one hand, it's going to be a real job. However, it will be in India and therefore runs the risk of not being as intellectually satisfying research-wise. However, better things do await, life-wise. How badly do I want one over the other? I don't know: its hard to decide because until very recently, work was life. Now there's more to life and I am having the problem of plenty, in a twisted way.

Just when I was feeling settled with my decision, the boat is rocked. I guess this thing is going to yo-yo for a long time to come. With time, things will happen, including may be a miracle, and help me go forth with my plans the way they pan out.

In the meantime I can continue to do what I am doing: "accelerate" this post-doc the best I can and research opportunities in India so I know what I will be getting into. On that note, I am pleased with the way my networking plan is taking shape, I am talking to relevant people and getting very good advice and acting on it. So that's one thing that moving in the right direction, and I am really happy I went to all those job-search/ career-development seminars I went to that teach you how to do this stuff..there is definitely something to learn here, especially because grad school teaches you none of it.

I also realized - in the process of writing this post - that there are ways I can make my effort at the grunt work count- may be come up with some authorship agreement with my boss so that my contribution is accounted for even if I don't stay behind to complete the analyses on the samples. Yeah- that already makes me feel better and less negative.  That is why blogging is a good thing. :)

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