Saturday, June 23, 2007

What happened?

That's the question that not only I but others ask of me, as well. Years ago, I started graduate school wanting to be a scientist. Not just as a career, I felt it was a calling. I obsessively threw myself into it. I would speak in hushed tones about it. I wanted nothing less than the brass ring; prestigious professorship at a research university.

Yesterday I met with a friend at old university. She is doing really well, an assistant professor with lots of grant money, many pubs, and a new lab she is really enjoying. I find myself envious. She helps by saying all the right things (the career is not for everyone, there are a lot of bad aspects to it...). Some how I still end up envious. I feel like she has the life I was supposed to have. Right down to being married to another successful academic and research in exotic places.

I so desperately want these feelings to go away. These emotions threaten to send me back into science, ditching any attempts to leave for another career. So why do I want to stay? I still enjoy the research. But not enough to stay. I want a defined career that doesn't define me. Science for so long defined me. And as I have said in earlier posts, I lost much to this career. I sacrificed it on the alter of science, an alter that I created. I think I was running from myself. I didn't want to be a nobody. I didn't want to be me. So instead, I shuttled everyone and everything that was associated with the me that wasn't a scientist. And in that, I tried to become a martyr thinking I would find that fulfillment that I found was missing within me. Yet that is the problem. It was missing within me. But fulfillment, in my opinion, has to come from within. It's like trying to shop, drink, or do drugs for love. It's why I turned from science to food. I eat for love. Food provides constant companionship and no judgement. I have plenty of judgement for a lifetime.

But my friend doesn't have the life I was supposed to have. There are enough moments in between the waves of jealousy that I can see that. I am happy. I have had a good life, full of numerous opportunities that have allowed me to explore so much of life.

One time, someone asked me why I changed my environment (job, apartment, town, etc) so often (often for them meant every 5 years). I said, and believed, that I felt the need to reinvent myself every 5-10 years to refresh my mind and spirit. Law will refresh me, I know that. But at this age, I am starting to become afraid. Afraid that I won't fit in at school, afraid that I won't be able to handle the coursework, and afraid that I won't find a job as a lawyer. But the one thing that I want more than any thing is to be afraid. Facing fear is the only way I know how to kick myself out of my comfort zone.

So what happened? I found out that science had feet of clay, that I couldn't be happy simply defining myself by a career, I was too burned out to keep going in this field, and I wanted a new way to look at science.


Butterflyfish said...

>>>Afraid that I won't fit in at school,

With some people -- the just out of college ones who still think its all high school and who go to law school to avoid the real world -- you won't. (Note: not all recent grads fall into this category, it just takes a few weeks to tell the "adults" from the "high schoolers")

>>>afraid that I won't be able to handle the coursework,

I was petrified of that too -- you're intellectually curious... therefore you will be fine. I promise.

>>>and afraid that I won't find a job as a lawyer.

Hmmm. Yeah. That still scares me. No words of comfort there. Sorry.

>>>But the one thing that I want more than any thing is to be afraid.

Hell yeah, that's why I know you're going to be fine.

Eliza said...

Thanks, butterflyfish. I needed to hear that today. I keep thinking how easy it would be to stay in science. It would solve so many problems that have cropped up recently. But in the end, I want something like law, a career that will fit me by changing everyday.