My first Scientiae Carnival post:
I've been working full-time and supporting a family since I was 17. It took me 6 years to make it through college and 4 additional years to get my masters' degree. I put a hiatus on graduate school for 3 semesters to have my son but still had to work full-time. I did all of this because I knew I wanted to get my PhD, even though I wasn't 100% sure what type of degree I wanted or what I would do with it once I got it.
I entered my doctoral program when my son started kindergarten and I finished when he was in middle school. It was hard working full time, raising a child and attending a competitive program but I managed it by working for a research institute that was related to my program of study. This helped immensely as I could conduct research, publish and write grants while I was very slowly finishing my coursework. I wrote a grant with my boss and my advisor that became my dissertation. Both of these mentors cut me slack or looked the other way when my work world and my school world collided. But I worked like a dog for many years.
I had two very strong mentors who were superstars in their respective fields. They worked at Ivy League institutions, were incredibly successful at securing NIH funding, published insanely and traveled a lot. They both had kids. They had completely different management and research styles. I tried to figure out which of the two approaches would work for me. I tried for a hybrid.
Five years ago I finally graduated. By this time my CV was already very healthy and I was given a tenure track position working for my boss. I was to continue doing my regular work but to also transition into my own research agenda. There was no teaching as my position was completely covered by NIH grants. I wrote grants for myself and did well. I was on the "right" path but it didn't fit well.
I started teaching as an adjunct at other institutions. This was not really seen as a worthwhile endeavor by the higher-ups, since it took away from research. I really liked it.
I started to question the ultimate impact of the research that I had been involved with for 17 years. It was no longer cutting edge and I started to feel that we were asking the wrong questions and using the wrong methods. At least we weren't asking the questions that were important to me. I started doing pilot work in a new area that was not valued by the other members of my research team. It was time to leave.
Throughout all of this, my husband, my son and I wanted a different lifestyle. I became convinced there was a way to work hard at teaching and research and still have an outside life. I wanted to work hard but I also wanted the chance to enjoy myself when I wasn't working.
So I searched and found my current position. It felt like a good fit. It felt like a place where I could at least attempt to have the lifestyle I wanted and where my new research agenda would be welcomed. It gave me the opportunity to teach what I consider to be a reasonable amount of classes. It's been almost 2 years and it's working for me, big time. I know there are many from my previous life that don't "get" my choice since I'm no longer on the superstar track but I no longer get their choice either.