Archive for October, 2012
Some reflections

One of the perks (or pitfalls), depending on how you look at it, is that staying home with kids affords you lots of time to think.  Too much time, one might argue.  I have tons of time to think, ruminate, obsess, and worry, but not much time to actuate anything that I am thinking about.  My mind is reeling, but I am paralyzed.

So what do I think about?

I think about things I want to teach H and E.  I think about the most efficient way to keep a clean house.  I think about whether keeping a clean house even matters.  I think about how I want to fix up the house.  I think about how I should be exercising, and how to fit that in.  I think about things I want to learn.  I think about things I want to read.  I think about short- and long-term career goals.  I think to myself:  Will I ever get grant funding? If not, what then?  How can I be strategic in what I learn about my job in order to apply what I am learning to some unrelated career endeavor, should academia fail me again?  What do I really want to do?  Why do I feel worthless unless I am working?  Why do we feel the need to define ourselves through work?  Why is this an especially big hang-up for me?

As you can see, this is an exhausting line of inquiry.  Coupled with the equally exhausting parade of political debates and heated arguments over the past weeks and months, I am feeling like I just want to stick my head in the sand for a bit.  I’m feeling overwhelmed.

But—-last night was the first night in a very, very  long time where I got an uninterrupted stretch of sleep.  E doesn’t nap during the day sometimes, and at night he is up constantly.  But last night he slept.  For 12 hours.  And when I woke up, I felt a lot better (minus the engorgement!).  I didn’t feel crazed and anxious and grumpy.  I didn’t feel hopeless or fatigued.  Maybe part of my problem is that I am just exhausted, and nothing can feel right when you’re tired.

I’m going back to work in 2 weeks.  Of course I have mixed feelings about it.  I’ll miss E during my special days with him, but I’m also going to benefit from having the time with colleagues.  Feeling productive is going to be good for me.  That said, I’m going to share some anxieties with you about my job.  I had been working on a grant for the past few months.  It is a career development grant, and it requires a training plan, solid resources, sound mentorship, etc.  One of my university’s policies, as I recently discovered, is that anyone applying for a grant must have a full-time appointment.  I am temporary, part-time employee.  I can’t be full-time unless I get the grant.  But I can’t get the grant unless I am full-time.  It’s a problem.  But there are exceptions to this, and the chair of my department can request an exception be granted from the vice president for research administration at the university.  Despite my many appeals to my boss for a letter, my e-mails have gone completely and totally unanswered.  And when I’ve reached out to others in my lab group, I have heard nothing from them.  I am starting to feel nervous, and I am beginning to wonder if my job will be there for me, or if this is maybe not the long-term scenario I had been hoping for.

At the same time that all of this has been going down, my graduate advisor sent me a job ad for a tenure-track position at SMC for neuroscience.  While thoughtful of him, we aren’t interested in living in southern MD again.  After I checked out the job ad, I decided to check out available jobs through the Chronicle of Higher Education for VT.  There is a tenure-track job in neuroscience at a prestigious liberal arts college in VT that I am 90% sure I could get if I applied for it.  The teaching load is 2/2, with the expectation that a research lab would be established for training undergraduates.  I could do the job and rock at it.  Of the 4 courses that they want taught by this hire, I’ve taught 3.  I would be amazing at this, yet I can’t allow myself to apply.  I’ve taught at a few institutions here, and I’ve always come to the same conclusion:  I’m an engaging and committed teacher, but my introversion is incompatible with always being “on” in a classroom.  I have no tolerance or patience for students who are dragging their feet and making excuses, and I hate talking to the parents of the overprivileged, which would almost certainly be a situation with which I’d have to deal at this particular school.  I know these things about myself, so even though this job was the goal for so many years, and I would have jumped at it coming out of graduate school, I have to disengage from that idea of myself now.  It’s not for me.  This is not to say that I can’t ever be in the hot seat and be up in front of people—I love giving talks about research.  What I don’t enjoy is 10+ hours per week of lecturing/leading discussions.  It just is too much for my little introverted brain.  Even after 5 years of teaching, it never got easier.  But the job isn’t just teaching….it’s research too?  Could I tolerate the teaching if I got to have my own lab?  That’s an answer I don’t have.

But there’s more to this story.  While searching for jobs on the Chronicle, I also came across a job for a local educational lender.  They are looking to hire someone who has some statistical prowess and can analyze data related to educational outcomes.  In the local VT talent pool, I’m about 95% sure I could get that job.  It would satisfy my analytical cravings, I would still get to do some writing and a bit of presenting, and although I don’t actually like teaching all that much, I DO enjoy thinking about pedagogical issues.  So should I take the leap and leave the academic path altogether?  It’s a freeing idea.  There’s no going back if I do this, but at this point, I feel like something needs to change.

So the question is this—am I even ready to go back full-time?  I was kind of hoping for a part-time gig for the foreseeable future—ideally until Emery is closer to 2.  But maybe I shouldn’t wait—good jobs are really hard to come by.  Maybe I should interview, just for the practice.  Just to get more information.  It couldn’t hurt.

One of the most important realizations I’ve had lately, is that my flexibility and willingness to try ANYTHING here in VT in order to keep my career going, may have backfired.  When I thought I was preparing myself for everything, I was actually preparing myself for nothing.  I took every opportunity that came to me, but at the same time, I was avoiding making any choices.  I wasn’t saying, “Gee, I really want to do X.”  Instead, I was saying, “I’ll try this new thing because, who knows, maybe it will be important one day for some hypothetical situation/job that may or may not ever materialize.”  I did administration, teaching, bench work, clinical work, animal work, human work, advising.  I’ve done it all.  But which of those did I actually WANT to do?  What is my goal?  My goals have really changed with the situation.  If clinical work was the work where the grant $$$ were, then clinical work is what I wanted.  If there was money for a teaching position, then teaching was what I wanted.  Or at least, these are things I thought I wanted.  Now I realize I haven’t ever even known what I wanted to do at all.  Knowing this about myself is incredibly freeing.

So here I go—off to figure out what works for me.  Watch out academia.  We might be breaking up for real this time.

Six months and some change

Little E, who also goes by “The Emanator,” and “The Emster,” is now half a year old.  Wow!  He is an incredible little guy.  He started solids about 3 weeks ago, and has surprised us by enjoying broccoli more than banana.  So far he has had acorn squash, carrot, apple, broccoli, banana, and rice cereal, of course.  Tomorrow we introduce him to peas!  Even though it’s messy, I actually enjoy introducing my kids to new foods because it means I can impart healthy attitudes about eating to them and have their first experience with fruits and vegetables be a positive one.  Just like with H, I am making all of my baby food from scratch, simply by steaming or cooking the food, pureeing, and serving.

E’s very first bite of solid food was delivered by his adoring big brother:

Don’t you love how focused E is in this photo?  Don’t worry…he doesn’t take it too seriously:

E sits well while supported, but topples over after a few seconds if you leave him to his own devices.  He’s rolling EVERYWHERE these days; in fact, he’s kind of adopted rolling as his own default mode of transportation.  His latest developmental milestone from the past couple of weeks is that he now transfers objects from hand to hand.  His babbling is getting more and more speechlike, more and more purposeful, and I often hear a “ma-ma-ma-ma” coming from him when he needs me.  I love that!!  He articulates his right wrist in a really interesting way—he kind of circles it around at the joint, with or without staring intently at his wrist as he does this.  He loves jumping (assisted of course!), reading stories before bed (Baby Faces and Baby Cakes are his two favorites), and watching H play.  E has the best laugh EVER!!!  He is totally cracked up by H.  All the time.  Even during long car rides.  Here are the boys during a typical afternoon.  Funniest thing all week.

I love love love my little E:)