Saturday, November 3, 2012

Postdoctoral purgatory

Like most academics, my life is usually summed up in a PHD comic.  Like the depression that came after passing my quals, or the roller-coaster of guilt and stress whenever I go on vacation, or when I found it difficult to write my dissertation.  

Lately, I identify with this one:

Being a postdoc can definitely feel like a gray area, a world between worlds of graduate school and whatever comes after that.

The best part about being a postdoc is my dissertation is DONE. This is HUGE. Many times I find myself paralyzed by anxiety and then realize I'm thinking like a grad student. I have to remind myself, "Relax, you already have your Ph.D." If I don't want to work on a Saturday, for example, I can easily justify staying home because I'm a doctor now and I'm allowed a day off, damnit.

There are other good parts about being a postdoc for sure: larger income, conference travel, having a say in the goings-on of our research center, and mentoring and training younger grad students. All these extra responsibilities, although I enjoy them, can become demanding of my time. To put it lightly. How do full-on profs handle all this stuff? 

Yet there are bad parts about being a postdoc besides being busy, like the pressure to assume all these new responsibilities AND still be productive in my research project. And to PUBLISH. OH MY GOD. YOU GUYS. WHY HAVEN'T I PUBLISHED YET?

Whenever it gets tough, of course I start asking myself other questions. Big questions, like: What life exists beyond academia? 

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