Tuesday, April 29, 2008

From Definite To Definitely Vague

Ten years ago I was just entering college. I wanted to study abroad, do chemistry, and go hiking and canoeing a lot. (I did.)

Five years ago I had left a long relationship and was alternating long days at work with sitting on my bed staring at the ceiling. It was not a good year.

When I came to grad school, I wanted to teach at a SLAC. I loved my professors, and they loved teaching. They all did research, but we did real experiments and went to conferences. Eventually I realized, and later accepted, that I could take this path, but I was unwilling to.

So in the last year, I've looked at my options and decided I want something more stable, predictable, and well-paid. Right now, I don’t have career goals. To paraphrase Mrs. Whatsit, I have few desires remaining to me:

1) Sleep
2) Have a baby.

Later I may add:

3) Sew and garden
4) Earn money.

There are a lot of possibilities for jobs, going from science education and editing at the top down to supertech/lab manager at the very bottom. (Somewhere in the sub-basement is ‘Postdoc.’) While my little bear-brain is terrified of nobody wanting to hire me, my science-brain reminds me that two headhunters have already called and I haven't even been looking. So: Work. At something. Near family. This is my career goal for in five years. Plus a baby and a dog. Maybe two. (Each.) Oh yes, and the adorable husband; I'd like to keep him.

What has been amazing- and not necessarily in a good way- is my friends and I have changed. My girlfriends have children; many of them have become stereotypical wives, so it’s grown harder to understand each others’ daily lives. I have become a different person: harder, meaner, sharper-tongued, less patient, less tolerant, but also better at helping others even when I'm exhausted, more able to realize what's truly important, less likely to argue with my loved ones. I have absorbed enormous amounts of science. I can think up a coherent and plausible-sounding answer to any question in 10 seconds or less.

What I want personally, for the next five years, is to continue in a loving partnership with my spouse, to start a family, and to settle down somewhere. I have a picture in my head of how it'll be. I am going to make it happen.

Ten years, though? Too far away!