Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Intermissions in Life

Break between Undergrad and Graduate School.
Break between PhD and Postdoc.
Break between Postdoc and Job.
Breaks between Jobs.
Breaks between Jobs and Parenthood.

For some reason, most straight A students feel this need to jump into the next step. I have heard stories where students give themselves a week between thesis defense and postdoc, start the postdoc even before the defense, straight from one job to the next. Scientist-types feel a need to keep moving to the next search of that "final" destination.

Which is?

There is never a final destination, especially in this era. Even if you do achieve the tenure-track academic position, some may think this is the "final" career destination. However, many professors are continually supplementing their careers with side businesses, participating in start-ups, task forces, new initiatives, politics. The "career development" never ends.

So why do we feel this burning desire to just keep on moving?

Take a vacation!
Travel the world!
Take a break.
Become a musician at a local cafe.
Dabble in the arts. Photography.
Learn a new language.
Try something you have never done before. Scuba? Sailing? Grab a hammer and help Habitat for Humanity. Volunteer.

Nobody will grant you these extra times during a take them during your intermissions in life. Pat yourself on the back and take a break! It's all about the process, not the end result. And the end result? You may never know you are already there.

The job title does not define you.
Try to think of a word that describes yourself. Not an occupation, just a word. That, is real life. That is your legacy you will leave behind. It's not just the science, the publications, the long hours in the lab. Those are given.

What is the extra something you bring to life? Remember, just one word. That description should explain you wherever you are, during all the times you are at a "job" and when you are on an intermission.

Some examples:

Try it. And the next time you have a rare intermission in life, take an extra week or two or three or four (depending on other circumstances) and enjoy just being here.

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