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Exhaustion and Resilience.

29 August 2012

I have been working really hard lately. I feel fortunate that I essentially finished off the work for my funded study a month and a half early, so I am able to do other things while I wait for my papers to be reviewed. I am on tenterhooks in a bunch of ways right now. I have the first paper from my first funded study about to have a decision rendered (reviews are back, editor is processing). My grant, on which I’m co-PI, is being scored today, right now, as I write this. I assume I’ll hear about the scores in a few days or a week. I don’t know about my job situation, and I’m looking for a bunch of different ways to move forward.

I put together a huge package, including references, teaching and research statements, revised CV, writing samples, etc., for a couple of tenure track posts. I’m doing the tenure track job search without even really knowing if that’s what I want. I mean, of course, I want to be an academic. I want to do interesting and valuable research. But I am not necessarily jazzed about taking on teaching requirements in addition to research requirements. I like mentoring, but I really fear being able to provide enough work for post-docs and grad students to do, or biostatisticians. I’m totally unschooled in running a research program. I like to do everything myself. I’m not sure how to delegate. I’m afraid of hiring people, and ending up with nothing for them to do, and leaving them out in the cold.

Once again, I have to praise the academic community on twitter. People there have been unbelievably supportive in giving advice, reading my teaching and research statements, and providing feedback. They have done this despite starting new jobs and new semesters themselves, having huge amounts of work to do, and precious little time to do it. Despite facing challenges that always feel like they’ll break me. I have been shown the kind of enormous magnanimity that people have to offer, even to strangers, in this incredible community, once again. I am humbled, and I am challenged to do the same.

This work is exhausting, yes. It’s difficult and confusing to apply to these positions. And I don’t even know how serious I am. I have put in about 8 applications so far. Only one or two of which are legitimately reasonable applications, I now realize, after getting serious about accomplishing these tasks well. But I have found a couple of opportunities that feel very real, including one in Canada that looks perfect. Sometimes it is daunting to look at the world of science and realize that I have to be a nomad to fit in, willing to go anywhere for a position. But that is the competitiveness that this industry demands.

Often, when I work at something long hours and with great mental and emotional investment, I feel drained and exsanguinated at the end of it. Before the end of it. But I feel ok today. Tomorrow, I don’t know. But today, I feel like I can step forward and do the task. It is in no small way because of the support and example I have found in the community. It is inexpressibly powerful. So very like AA, where we stand beneath each other to reach the great heights. And then those who have summited reach back, to lift up those below.

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