Archive for April, 2010
Jumping in February

i am jimmy mcnulty

It’s been a while since my last substantive post.  I have SEVERAL half-finished posts, including a post that is actually about how I have a pattern of starting things and never finishing them.

And actually, in addition to being incredibly busy trying to unsuccessfully balance work and family, I have had much on my mind lately.  This is the biggest reason I haven’t posted in such a long while.

I have decided to leave science.  And I am leaving my job (only 10 more lectures and 8 more surgeries to go!).  Once I do this, there will be no turning back.  Once you’re “out of the game” you can’t just opt back in.  It’s a permanent decision.  And I am about as OK with it as I could possibly be.  Here are my reasons for this decision, in no particular order:

1.  Rob has a good job here in VT.  VT is a good place to raise a family.  There are no permanent positions in my field in VT.  Therefore, staying in VT means that I will not be able to get a permanent position in my field (being geographically-restricted becomes problematic when you have highly specialized skills).

2.  The job I have (although not permanent) is completely non-optimal.  I get paid about enough to cover H’s daycare costs.  That’s it.  I don’t have paid sick leave–every time I get sick (or H gets sick), I don’t get paid.  But the daycare still does.  In addition to the crappy pay and lack of benefits, I have ZERO scientific autonomy.  I could suck up the pay situation if I felt like I was deriving some job satisfaction in terms of pursuing my own research interests.  But because I ultimately have to collect data to satisfy the funding agencies, what I want to do does not matter.  I’m basically like a technician then—sort of like what I was doing when I first got out of college, except that I am paid far less.

3.  The university offered me a position for next  year—more teaching responsibilities and the snazzy new title “Research Scientist.” I quickly deduced that it’s the same thing that I am doing right now, just a new job title.  I turned the university down.  They now have to do a national search for a candidate that has the appropriate background and skills to teach the courses they are offering.  You know what amazes me??  My skills are apparently so rare that they have to initiate a national search to replace me, yet I was getting paid less than minimum wage.  It just doesn’t make sense.

So that’s it.  I don’t have another job to go to.  I had investigated the option of becoming a licensed psychologist and re-specializing in clinical neuropsychology—but after many conversations with faculty members and the licensing board, it became clear that would also not work.  One of the program requirements was an APA-accredited internship, of which there are none in the entire state of VT.  So that option was out.  I could become licensed at the master’s level, which also involves more training, but honestly, I just need to step away from all of this for a while.  I need some time to process things.  I can’t really say how completely heartbreaking it is to train for so many years—4 years of graduate school, plus 4 years of postdoctoral fellowship—and come out of it with zero options.  And the worst was taking my 7 page CV and whittling it down to a one-page resume.  My publications—gone.  My invited talks—gone.  My presentations—gone.  Part of me feels like I did it all for nothing.  I have to start over, and pretend like it all never happened.

The weirdest part is that people are SO supportive of my decision to leave academia.  Faculty are supportive.  Friends are supportive.  Family are supportive.  Everyone seems to know that it was a lost cause, and they were just waiting for me to realize it too.  I actually felt more support in leaving academics, than I ever felt the entire time I was in it.

I am trying to view this as an opportunity to take a new direction with my life.  And also as an opportunity to spend some time with Holden.  It’s likely that we will pull him out of daycare sometime in mid-May after my teaching responsibilities are over.  I don’t think I will have a job lined up that quickly (and some have suggested that I don’t go back to work for a while—I’m not sure how I feel about that suggestion).  I do know one thing for sure—as much as I put into my research and teaching—the hours, the effort, the driving myself crazy with not having everything figured out perfectly the first time, the endless quest for answers—I rarely felt appreciated each day when I would go into work.  But if I take some time away from the career track to spend with my little guy, I will be appreciated each and every day I go to work.  Holden might spit at us during our meals together, throw his books, terrorize the cat, or whine endlessly for no apparent reason—-but no matter how many times I raise my voice or put him in a time-out, no matter how exasperated or tired he makes me feel, no matter how depleted my patience will become, no matter how many journal articles, invited talks, and job opportunities I will pass up, I would do it all again for Holden.