Never be afraid to get dirty, but be sufficiently sure-footed to avoid the abyss of contamination.


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.

One response

  1. Rich

    May the new decade be full of happiness and prosperity. And may you always find your way home again whenever the need arises.

    December 31, 2009 at 1:36 am

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