I always need to be reminded given the fact that I have so many choices of what I can do with my career. I am an academic scientist. I’m a neuroscientist, a researcher in the biology of the brain and spinal cord. I study chronic pain.
What I do is a mystery for many of my family and friends. I’m not paid much compared to my friends in other careers. I don’t know what the next step is for my life. There’s uncertainty in academia.
I’m chasing shadows, and the shadows are chasing me. It’s like the feeling that you’re about to take a final exam and the exam never arrives. The feeling of that “test” never leaves you. Your days are filled with “hurry-up and wait”.
About me: I have my PhD in neuroscience, 3 years of postdoctoral training, and 1 year as a non-tenture track junior faculty member at a well-known University. But, like I said, it’s hard. I’m wrestling with my future and there’s always some failure waiting for me: a poor result in an experiment or a grant rejection, ugh.
So why do I stay?
As an academic, I go where no one has gone before. I search for treasure with no name. I’m free to govern my time. My ideas are valued until they are proven wrong by an experiment. If I have questions about a subject in the world, I have the tools or opportunities to seek an answer.
I’m surrounded by a diversity of people. Some are mean, cut-throat jerks; but the majority of my colleagues are great people to work alongside.
However, there are days when I really question why I endure such struggles with no promise of tangible reward.
Then I remember again and again….
I’m free to be me.