Jul 28 2015 Published by under career plan, happiness, having it all, settling

Settling down. Settling in. Settling for less?

The academic lifestyle is nomadic. Start with a faraway college, proceed to graduate school across the country, hop over to a postdoc, hopefully land a job in big universityville. That might not be the end, as many academics change universities once or several times in a career. Even if one leaves the academic track, many of these steps are the same and cities with jobs are still limited.

I grew up with this kind of lifestyle and for a time I enjoyed moving around. I relished leaving for that faraway college. I got excited about going to graduate school across the country. And when all my friends were leaving graduate school it felt natural to move to a new town for a postdoc. But now something has changed. Or, rather, a lot of things have changed. I’m older. It is harder to make friends when you’re not in school. Not to mention I’m married with children.

And there is that feeling. That feeling of wanting to put down roots. Make friends for long-term that won’t soon be long-distance. To not feel temporary. Maybe this is not rational, but does it matter? I have one life to live, should I not enjoy it? And if for me that means putting down roots, is that so bad?

The problem is, I live in a city that does not have the most job options for a bio PhD. There are jobs, just fewer in number and variety than other locations. So in that sense it is not a good idea for me to stay here. But there are also reasons that it is a good idea to stay. It’s relatively affordable compared to those cities with more job options. My husband and I like it here for a variety of reasons and my husband is happy with his job.

However, for me it may mean settling for a less than ideal career. I may be giving up on opportunities that other locations have to offer. I may not be able to fulfill my potential.

Despite the implications for my career, I decided to stay. We bought a house. It feels good. It has been a hard decision to come to, but now that I’m here, it feels good. It feels really good. I like not having to think about where I might live next. I just hope that the direction my career takes doesn’t make me regret it.

6 responses so far

  • SweetScience says:

    Good for you! I hope you find or make a job that fits you well for your next career step!

  • NewPD says:

    Congratulations on making a decision. I hope it works out well for you. I'm having a similar mental conversation and your post has articulated many of my own thoughts better than I ever could.

    One thing to add. You mentioned that you might "not be able to fulfill [your] potential" because of setting down roots in a place that isn't Boston, SF, etc. Every day we make decisions that prevent us from fulfilling our potential in one particular area or another, and it's okay. By not playing sports in high school, I prevented the fulfillment of my athletic potential. However, I was able to spend time on other things, like music and science, that gave me a chance to fulfill my potential in those areas. Completely fulfilling your academic potential may mean, for many of us, sacrificing our emotional, mental, and social health. Deciding that these things have significant value and acting accordingly is something we scientists should be less ashamed of.

  • Socal dendrite says:

    I also recently "settled down", bought a house, had children, etc. And, yes, my career has taken a hit. But that's okay: my career is important, but is not the only thing I value, or the only potential I have (nice perspective NewPD!). I very much enjoy where we are living and being able to potter in the garden, amongst other things. It's been slow going making new friends since all my old postdoc friends left town (and since we had children), but we are gradually making progress on that front after a couple of years of effort. It would kill me to move now and have to start out from scratch all over again. So, all this is just to say that I think what you are feeling is very normal 🙂

    • peirama says:

      Thank you Social dendrite! It is nice to hear that you have gone through this transition and it has made you happy!

  • MorganPhD says:

    Nice post! I was thinking something similar recently, although from the angle of "who do we select out of the academic population" due to the generally-accepted nomadic lifestyle. I'm averaging a new city/state every 8 years of my life thus far, and feel like it's almost time to take the next real job I can find in my current city, where my wife has an excellent job.

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