Archive for the '[LifeTrajectories]' category

The PostDoc Experience: Reinvention

Feb 13 2011 Published by under [Education&Careers], [LifeTrajectories]

I love being a postdoc, although I often get the sense that, at least on the internets, I am in the minority. This series of posts is dedicated to some of the more wonderful aspects of this middling, temporary, and underpaid position.
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This is not the real world. This world of the postdoc, where the words "you can't" are rarely spoken.

Armed with a Ph.D., presumed evidence of his intelligence, perseverance, and creativity, a friend of mine foraged into the world of industry some years ago. There, people only wanted to hire him to do exactly what he had done before. Motivated by quarterly profits and complicated investment models, the real world is unwilling to take many chances. No chances on you learning something new. No chances on broadening skillsets, no chances on real innovation.

And that's fine, there are some other benefits in those sectors. But it's not for me. The opportunity to increase my knowledge base, the call of the experimental unknown... giddy up!  Being a postdoc, at least for me, has been like taking a trip to Disney World, and being told to "go play". And just like when you're at an amusement park, you have a choice: you can ride the merry-go-round again and again and again, or you can hop on every ride in the damn park. The former choice is comforting and fun, but the returns are diminishing. The latter choice-  disconcerting, maybe, but thrilling.

It's this opportunity for Reinvention during the postdoctoral training period that is so outstanding:

Candid Engineer reinvents herself. A) As a virgin researcher enamored with gaudy lace, Candid Engineer carried out her graduate studies on Banana Peeling. B) Dr. Candid was thrown for a loop in her new position as postdoc, and did a lot of praying to get her through a transitional period. C) Confident and beautiful, Candid Engineer slices and dices Mangoes for the first several years of her postdoc. D) Maturing in her intellectual desires, Candid Engineer cuts her hair and shifts research focus as a senior postdoc. E) Professor Candid embarks on the Tenure Ambition World Tour (projected).

And you know what? I'm getting it in while I can. Because once I'm an assistant professor, the funding agencies aren't going to want to take a chance on me, and at least for 5 or 10 years, I'm going to have to rely more heavily on everything that I already know. Not that you can't reinvent yourself as a professor, but it appears to become significantly more challenging. This is the time, I say.

17 responses so far

She's on Her Way

Nov 11 2010 Published by under [Etc], [LifeTrajectories]

There I was, tucking my pretty pressed shirt into my skirt, sliding into my velvet blazer, layering on my favorite pearl necklaces that felt so cool against my skin. There I was, drink pressed into my left hand, ice cubes jingling, working the human connection with my right. Shaking hands, smiling, throwing down witty banner to the amusement of my companions.

All this bullshit, while my grandmother lay in a hard bed many miles away, moving toward the end of her 97 years. Simplicity at the end, the in and out of breaths that are heavy while she sleeps.

There I was, checking my reflection in the mirror, smoothing a shiny pink gloss onto my skinny little mouth. All while my aunt applied Vaseline to the lips of my grandmother- you see, they are cracked and dry because she hasn't had anything to drink in 4 days.

This week, my life will go on, but hers will not. Today, this day, I can look toward the future. I have the privilege of considering where I will be in 10 years, with my love and my children and my dreams. She does not.

I am not there. I am never there, it seems, because science takes me elsewhere. And sometimes it is too easy for family to equate distance with caring. If I lived down the block, you know, I would love them more. If I saw them every Sunday, if I shared meals and more frequent conversation. If I took an interest in the people who raised me, the people who will always love me the most. Why do I have to be so far? Why am I always somewhere else?

But next week, I'll be there to hold my father's hand. To grieve however it is that I'll need to grieve at the end. To lay my hand on the ground, to give thanks for what was, and for what is. That is what I can do.

15 responses so far

The Squeaky Clean Wheel Gets the Grease

Oct 17 2010 Published by under [Etc], [LifeTrajectories]

I am neat. My husband is clean.

The converse is also true- I am not clean. My husband is not neat.

I have no problem going 2-3 months without cleaning my shower. My husband has no problem throwing pillows and clothes and whatever else on the floor and letting it lie.

The optimist would conclude that our house would be immaculate- best of both worlds, no? But the realist that lives in my house knows that our natural tendencies lead to nothing but friction.

I estimate that 90% of all arguments with my husband are about cleaning. And they can get vicious.

When I started taking anti-anxiety medication two years ago, I realized that I was a lot happier when I wasn't harping on my husband to close the hamper lid properly and just chose to do those things for him, myself. This has actually resulted in a lot of peace, I would think on both of our ends.

The problem is that my husband cannot come to terms with my reluctance to and extended delays in cleaning. Due to personal preference and pervasive allergies, he wants the house cleaned much more often than I do. Also, things that don't bother me around the house (or that I don't even notice) are a big bother to him.

Even though I don't care about cleaning to the extent that he does, he expects me to clean my share of stuff when he feels that things need a cleaning. I have attempted to be sympathetic to this over the years, and I swear, I make efforts to clean, I really do. It's just that these efforts fall far short of what he wants.

Our weekends often devolve into this hell where he is constantly pissed off that the house is not as clean as he wants and/or I haven't cleaned what he wants. And where I am distressed / feeling guilty/ feeling hurt that he continues to expect me to do the things that are important to him while not acknowledging all of the things that I do that are important to me.

I cook dinner 90% of the time. I pick up around the house. I do most of the laundry. And why does it have to be a pissing contest, anyway? Why can't we just fucking get along?

I have suggested hiring a cleaning service to come in once a month. I think this is a great solution. Although I can't hire someone to exercise, sleep, or write my manuscripts for me, I can hire someone to clean my house. The problem is that my husband thinks it's fucking absurd that we/I cannot manage to keep our house clean and that we would even consider spending money on such a ridiculous thing.

I think that given how frequent and hurtful our fights are about cleaning, it would be money very well spent.

The point of this post is to poll my fellow dual-careered coupled friends out there. How do you and your partner handle cleaning duties? Do any of your have any suggestions as to how to remedy/soften this problem?

p.s. Please don't suggest that I just suck it up and do more cleaning. I have tried this, and it does not work/is not adequate. I would simply rather lick the bathroom floor clean with my own tongue than fill up a bucket with water and cleaning solution, get down on my hands and knees and rub the floor with a  wet rag.

29 responses so far