I'm almost 32, and I'm wondering when the heck I am going to be able to chart a life path. I have heard of people who have five-year plans or ten-year plans. I don't even have a five-month plan. And for that I blame my husband.
I don't mean to complain. I'm married to a very smart and faithful guy who works hard and loves his family and has his priorities in order. But he is also a guy who takes 3 hours to find hiking boots at REI. (This really happened; unfortunately for everyone involved G was with my dad on that shopping trip. The family will never let him live it down.) So if a footwear decision takes 3 hours, just imagine how excruciating it can be to make decisions like -- oh, what to do for a career, for example.
Yes, he has a field. He's a hydrologist, or more specifically, a hydrogeochemist. He's about two-thirds of the way to a Ph.D. He's spent four years working as a consulting engineer. He's no dummy, and he's accomplished some good things.
But right now he seems to be at a crossroads. He has this interview at the community college tomorrow. He loves teaching and he loves the idea of having an academic job without the pressure to publish he'd find at a university. He has a lot of great ideas for things he could do there. Community colleges in California pay pretty well, so that's not a huge concern.
But then yesterday he had a meeting with some of his research colleagues from Livermore and got re-energized about what he's doing in that arena. He said, "I get all excited when I talk to people about research, but then I just don't like going and doing it." He also said, "I'm at a place where I'm realizing I could really blossom in research if I wanted to."
I think the issue is that he is profoundly gifted at interpersonal relationships -- collaboration, discussion, brainstorming ... those are some of his biggest strengths. And because of that, working as a solitary scientist doesn't satisfy him in the least. He accuses me of making everything into a mental health diagnosis, and he's partly right, but I think I'm also right on this.
I wonder if a real research career would really be as lonely for him as being a Ph.D. student. I think there's a possibility he could structure a career like that in a more social way, a way that he would enjoy more. I wonder if he would regret jumping that track for a career at the community college, if he is selling his intellectual abilities a bit short. He is starting to wonder if he would really be able to finish the doctorate after starting another job.
The good thing is that once he does finish the degree, he can still jump ship, theoretically, if he decides he wants to go back into research. He can always frame the community college job as something he was doing to support his family during the last phase of his doctoral research.
But really, that just prolongs my agony. I'm getting tired of wondering when my "real life" is going to start. Selfish me.
After all that ... let's all wish G good luck for his interview tomorrow, and better luck at the temple today trying to sort it all out.