I'm also going through some kind of mid-life crisis about my career. I seem to do this to myself every couple of years, always to no productive end.
I applied for a job here at the University. It's a job as a coordinator for the graduate program for a totally non-science department here at the U. I'd be handling applications to the program, coordinating recruitment, fielding phone calls and questions from prospective applicants, managing the current grad students, and doing lots of odds and ends for the grad program. It's an administrative position, one I think I'd be rather good at. But it's not at all science-related, and that scares me.
Anyway, I had an interview earlier this week and they liked me enough to request my references and invite me back for a second interview. And since they wanted my references, I had to tell my bosses.
My bosses weren't entirely unsupportive, but they used lots of ominous phrases like "terminate your postdoc" and "closing a door firmly on your future" and "a decision you'll regret later". I can understand their point of view, but to some extent it's just the same kinds of threats that I've been hearing since I entered grad school. "If you leave, you can never come back."
It's so frustrating to feel like I don't have any freedom to explore my options for my career. I mean, this is my f%#!ing life we're talking about, and I'm so frustrated to feel like I can't even have a frank conversation with someone about my career.
The head of my lab, Dr. DNA, really felt like leaving the bench would be a huge mistake. "You're so early in your career" she said, "you're so young. You don't know what you want yet." She felt like it was motherhood that was simply distracting me from my work and making me feel like it wasn't any fun. "You just have to find a way to make it work," she said. "You and Husband can alternate responsibility for the Bean. Some nights he'll have her and you can stay till 7:00. Or you can plan your long experiments for a Saturday."
But what Dr. DNA didn't seem to understand is that I don't want to have to spend my Saturdays in the lab. I don't want to never see my husband because we're alternating late nights at lab. I just don't want that. I like science, but I don't like it more than my family. Why is that so hard to understand? And if that kind of schedule is what it takes to be at the bench, then I just don't want any part of it. Not at all.
I told Dr. DNA that I didn't want to spend 60 hours a week in the lab, that I wanted my job to be just that: my job. "Well is there any job you can think of where you'd want to work 60 hours a week?" she asked. "Not really," I said. She didn't seem pleased with that.
So I don't know what I'm going to do. I don't know that I want to take this grad coordinator job, knowing that Husband will probably be starting a TT position in another city in 15 months. I should probably just stick it out at the bench till then and look like I at least gave my post doc the ol' college try and figure out what I want to be when I grow up when I know where we'll be. But in the meantime, bench work is feeling pretty miserable, and I am sick of hearing the same old garbage about people who want to leave the bench.
In my lowest moments, I think about what the Bean would think of her mommy. What will she think about mama's career? Will she know that her mommy is a failure?
I'm conflicted, as usual, and I don't know where I'm going or what I'm doing. I hate my job, I'm scared to leave it. I don't like what I'm doing, but it's the only thing I've ever done, the only thing I'm trained to do. I don't know what I want to do with my career or my degree because I haven't had the opportunity to try anything else. How does one even choose a career? And why does everyone seem to think that it's better to be miserable in academia than to even think about doing something else?
ARGH!!! I hate the cult of academia.