Friday, January 18, 2013

Where do I go from here?

I’m suffering with an existential crisis. I don’t want to be chained down to a predictable life. I’ve got wheels in my feet. I can’t stay in one place doing the same thing and knowing the same people. I can’t accept a life that is largely a routine. I can’t accept that on my deathbed I may run into the possibility of saying, “I’m M and I’m an academic.”

I’ve always been the kind of person who did not accept the beaten path, but neither am I the kind of person who Columbus-like is ballsy to go the uncharted way. Now you may ask me what’s so un-trodden about being an academic. For starters, it’s the way I approached it. I had a lofty dream at age 7 of getting a PhD. I had a then wild desire to do it in psychology, I followed that up with dropping out of one Master’s program and joined a 10 times more expensive but 20 times more worthwhile program a year later in the UK, during the interim I did all sorts of counseling courses that led me to the field of psycho-oncology, post-Master’s I was convinced that I will get a PhD scholarship so I didn’t work for a year and simply focused on grant applications, I hit the jackpot and moved back to the UK, got back to India post-PhD and landed a coveted job. I jam-packed my years in the UK with as much travel and experience as possible as I am now. My ‘academia’ story isn’t usual, but neither is unusual. I like that.

I’m now done with my 20 odd year dream. I’m twiddling my fingers at work wondering what’s next.

Often, when at these existential cross-roads I ask myself, “What do you want?” I am currently at my career cross-roads, asking if this is all I want to be. So after months of thinking about what I want and searching my heart, I have my answer. I want to:

Waitress: It just sounds so exciting. Taking orders from people, going through the Sunday brunch rush, cramming all the confusing details of the order in my head, being polite when I’m tired or pissed off, having colleagues who actually have to talk to each other every day, a boss who yells at me every day. I might not enjoy it for long, but I’d like to enjoy it for 6 months at least. Also, I know I don’t want to be a waitress just anywhere. I want to be a waitress in a cute little café where people who want quality food, quiet cuppa tea come and just gaze at the flowers outside.

Work in a corporate: All my friends do! I like how they live out of a suitcase. I like how corporates speak in a strange language I do not understand. I like how they have coffee machines in every corner. I like how they have ‘working lunches’, ‘corporate dinners’ and ‘grab quick coffees’. I like how they dress so smartly. I like how they have hectic, unpredictable days. And I just love how the company pampers you coz they ride your arse so bad. Although I may not ever get the opportunity to work in hardcore corporate spheres, I would love to make my next career move towards being part of their research teams.

Own a business: Everyone’s doing it! My husband’s a businessman. What good is he if he can’t help me figure this one out? I still don’t know what business this would be. It could be something as simple as having a cute bed and breakfast, café or even setting up a paid app. Or it could be something complicated like having a full blown restaurant, hotel or even clinic. I know that I would lean more towards something that harnesses my experiences as a health researcher.

Work in a volunteer organization: I want to do my bit. I watch all these heartrending and/or inspiring videos by NGOs. I know that one day, maybe when I’m much older, I want to spend part of my time helping one of these NGOs. Pretty straightforward.

But what about my current job? I still have some goals. Also, the perks are too good to give up on just yet! Some of the milestones I wanna get to before I move onto the next adventure are:

Publish a book: Or even a book chapter. There’s something cool about having your name in or on a book. It looks like you have so many important things to say that people were like “Let’s immortalize it with a book.”

Get an award: I’m aiming for this new investigator award. I’d quite like to be rewarded for my years of dedication to the same line of work!!

Get a big grant: I want that rush of knowing your research idea was clever enough to get major funding. I’ve come about one-fourths the way, in that I’ve at least applied in vain to some grants which gives me an idea of what not to do and how to even get to this point. I’m quite certain that with the right team and timing, I will bag one of these as a lead investigator.

Make professor: This is really the difficult one. It really hinges on so many external factors that I am uncertain if I can ever make it in the next decade. But I come from a legacy of professors. I owe it to my bloodline to at least try.

Hmm. So I guess it’s: onwards and upwards for me. I’ve pretty much figured out my career script for the 30’s!

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