My mom looked concerned when I started pacing. “I thought you’d stopped doing research,” she quipped. From 2003 to 2007, I returned in December with either a personal research deadline (2003) or a conference deadline (2004–2007). I spent the winter break of 2008 in India. As it happened, this was the first time since 2002 that I hadn’t brought work here. Perhaps my mom’s concern was legitimate.
“Don’t worry,” I responded, “but I was thinking about research while pacing.” I was actually thinking about a lot more than research. The arc from 2003–2007 would have suggested a particular path for my career, but in the fall of 2007, I began a slow process that put me on a different path. By the end of 2008, I had decided not to go on the academic job market and instead, to explore options elsewhere.
It wasn’t what I expected. Most of the companies I applied to never responded. Others found my background unsuited to their needs. I interviewed at companies that asked me why I was applying for a job when my skills seemed better-suited elsewhere. I took an entrepreneurship class, pitched a business idea to venture capitalists, but was told quite plainly that the idea could be better executed by people who were not me. I applied for post-docs, too, but I rarely heard back. Things weren’t all bleak, though, and some offers came my way. I accepted one of them, filed my thesis, and started work. My professional life reset, and I became a novice again.
Things felt out of synch, but I had no great solutions to resynchronize. October came and went. November came and went. December came. Before flying back East, I decided not to bring any work home. I also made a New Year’s resolution. The combination of these two decisions gave me a peace of mind I hadn’t felt all year, and the place that I’ve called “my parent’s house” since starting graduate school felt familiar, comfortable again.
2009 was the culmination of a lot of tests– the final exam in one chapter of my life– and despite all the stress, the reward has been well worth it. After six-and-a-half years, I’ve come home again.