Sunday, November 30, 2008

Not December Scientiae

I had fully intended to write a post for the December Scientiae, especially since I love reading Isis the Goddess' shoe science blog. This month's topic was "My Science is Way Hotter Than Dr. Isis' Naughty Monkeys Because..." This was a difficult topic for me for two reasons:
(1) I'm not really into fancy shoes. My idea of a nice pair of shoes are sensible, comfortable, and boring.  

Figure 1. Lands' End All-Weather Mocs, available in wide widths, even.

And (2) I'm having difficulty summoning any enthusiasm at all for my research these days, despite the fact that I'm preparing a press release in a few months time.
Figure 2.  Stars.  Thousands of degrees hotter than Dr. Isis' shoes.

I would have like to written a post channeling my inner Goddess, full of self-confidence in my science, in my fashion choices, and in my life choices in general, but it just wasn't working for me.  So instead, I wrote this post:

I've spent a lot of time these days doing some major soul searching.  I've been thinking about alternative career paths. I've mulled over the idea of doing some adjunct teaching for a while. I've spaced out during group meeting pondering leaving astronomy altogether.

I've also done some calculating: I'm the kind of person who functions best on 9-10 hours of sleep each night. I make do on 8 generally. It takes me about an hour to get myself and the kids ready in the morning. Let's say I spend 10 hours a day at work, including the commute each way. That leaves me 5 hours every evening to cook dinner, eat with my family, mother my kids, wife my husband, and do whatever else assorted activities I need to do to get ready for the next day.  Whatever extracurricular activites I do in order to maintain my sanity, whether it be singing in a chorus or reading a book or playing stupid video games, eats into this time. And, of course, there are the evenings spent shuttling kids around to various activities of their own. I also prefer not to work on weekends if I can avoid it at all, because weekends involve still more mothering and wifing and shuttling kids to activities and running errands and etc etc.

Unfortunately, a 40 hour work week is really only part-time for an academic scientist. So does that that mean I don't really have the dedication it takes to be an academic scientist?  And that's why I've been spending so much time in existential angst.

Quite honestly, I do enjoy my day-to-day work. I been getting some pretty spiffy results lately, which I go to show to my advisor/mentor looking for a pat on the head, and he says, "ooh, go do these five other things with it" which is his way of giving you a pat on the head, even if it feels more like he's assigning you another week of work instead.  But the shadow that's looming over everything is the fact that my postdoc has a fixed end date, and I'm not sure if I'll be able to land another position after this one, especially in these uncertain economic times. 

It would probably make me happier to focus more on my short term goals rather than the long term ones, except that I am sending out a few job applications right now, which is forcing me to think about the long term, and it's making me depressed, especially since it seems that I'm already out of the running for at least one of the positions I applied for.  And another two of the searches have already been cancelled.  The astrophysics jobs rumo(u)r mill is both a blessing and a curse.

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