Adventures of a Postdoc

December 14, 2007

Too far in?

I started watching Dirty, Sexy Money on ABC because I grew up with one of the actors on the show.  Turns out, it’s a pretty good show and it’s one of only 2 shows I watch regularly (the other being The Office).

Incidently, my favorite character on the show isn’t the person I grew up with.  It’s Brian, the reverend in the family.  I like him the best because he’s not fake, which is unfortunately how I view most religious people.  He doesn’t act like he’s better than anyone, and he doesn’t act righteous only to do things behind closed doors that are not only immoral but downright illegal.  He swears, he has sex with his ex-wife, and he once told a little girl she’d go to hell if she pissed God off.  If more reverends were like him, I’d be a regular at church.

Recently, Brian had thoughts of leaving the churchhood after a series of misfortunes.  When asked why he was a minister in the first place, he replied he wasn’t sure.  He was interested in it, studied it, and what else could he do now that he had chosen that path?

If that sounds familiar, it should.  That’s how most people, including myself, end up where they are.  They choose something that interests them (i.e. a major) and that becomes their career.  Most people are unhappy with their jobs, but feel they’ve committed too much time and effort to start something else.  The saying that you’re never too old to start a new career…that’s bullshit.  There comes a point where you have a spouse, kids, car payments, a mortgage, college loans, and you wake up one day realizing you’ve completed a third of your life, if you even live to the average age.

So when do you throw in the towel and continue what you’re doing and give up on any other dreams?

I know someone who was a principal of a school, went back to school to become a dentist at 50 years of age, and is now contemplating going to Law School.  I used to think that he was crazy, but then I realized that doing something you hate for the next 40 years is even more crazy.

After a year and a half at my postdoc, I realized I can’t spend the rest of my life focusing on just research.  I miss teaching too much, but since I still want to perform research, I want to teach at a liberal arts college.  It isn’t a complete change of direction, but it’s slightly different from my original plan to go into industry and get back into teaching later in life.

Life’s too short and being unhappy at work was taking its toll on every aspect of my life.  I didn’t want to wait to teach at a liberal arts school just because industry pays more.  Some things you just can’t put a price on.  We’ll see how the job apps turn out, but in the meantime, I’ll be teaching full-time at a community college.  For the first time since I started my postdoc, I don’t dread waking up each morning.

I can already see myself in the next Mastercard commercial:

Gas for weekly commute:  $50

New teaching outfits:  $350

Reduction in monthly salary:  $2000

Waking up each morning and loving your job:  Priceless

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