Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The leap, sort of

You know, if I was a good blogger I would have written about this whole decision business a little more regularly, oh I don't know, maybe AS IT WAS HAPPENING? It's some good stuff, right? The terror. The whining. The impossible choices. The realization that no one except me is going to say what I want and need. The mood swings. The sick feelings. The holy crap there's a recession on AND a stimulus package that would likely affect my work directly why would I quit my job? The amazing shows of support and empathy from coworkers, including my wonderful boss, who I thought had it figured out. The gradual, unceremonious calming of the winds that revealed the decision that was there all along.

But no, I just clam on up like an idiot. Well, there you have it. Sorry. I'm ready for my piles of gold coins now.

I quit my job. I did! I have some temporary part-time work lined up, but it is temporary, and by summer I will be looking for more. I traded some freedom, more trips to the park, more snuggles, more mornings in PJs, for some sanity and a medium-to-large amount of uncertainty about what the future holds. Eek.

Most exciting, and seriously, I'm excited about this, is that I have some intriguing editorial work lined up. Reminding me of why I came back to graduate school in the first place--because I was an EDITOR, and I LOVED it, and I mostly just wanted to be competitive for all the really cool science editor jobs. (That, and to slack off in the Northwest for five years.) And it's with medical things, which reminds me why I went into public health in the first place, a million years ago--because I wanted to influence how doctors are educated. So ha? Full circle? Maybe, yes. Maybe it is the start of something big. Or not that big, because I am a MOTHER after all, but you know, important. A seed.

And as my BFF Michelle Obama says--and I do not quote directly--different things work for different families at different times. There is no right answer. But for today, this much I know:

That my women mentors who are most at the top of their game a) had children, b)carved out time and space to be with them when they were small, and c)only took on demanding research jobs when they were good and ready.

That the ways I have seen people--men and women--make this research gig work are not things that will likely ever be a welcome part of my life. Frequent travel, working late at night from home, getting up at 4am, catching up on email on weekend mornings, and such. I am really kind of a slacker. Oh, and deep passion for the work. I envy that.

That I cannot imagine a time when I would not wish to be home when my child gets home from school.

That even if I made it through this two-year fellowship, at the end would only await more pressure to bring in more grants, to do more research, to travel to present findings, to hire people and then scramble to keep them employed.

That rushing my son most mornings to keep up with my schedule so I can get to work is not a message about the pace of life that I want to impart if I can avoid it. See above re: slacker.

That I might not have the choice to quit a job one day, that I might have to work full-time to support my family. Anything can happen. That I have this choice, today, and I am seizing it.

That every time I have stood up and said what I wanted and needed (and mind you, these times are few and far between) very, very good things have happened.

So more baby-gazing time! Yay! And I'm an editor again! Yippee! And now, forthwith (what does that mean, anyway?) I will return to your previously scheduled programming of funnies, soup, daily life, my silly marriage, my silly shady past, and conversations with cashiers and baristas. That feels a little more like it. Taking myself so seriously? Booooring.

But here, a little more deep just to ease you out of it gently, lest you be blinded by the return of my sparkling wit: My favorite quote of all time, ever. Thanks, Ms Anonymous.

When you come to the edge of all the light you know and are about to step into the darkness, faith means knowing two things: there will be something to stand on or you will learn how to fly."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dragging on

I have been waiting to update here until I had The Answer. I would quit! Leave it all behind! Ha ha, it would all be clear and I would impart some great wisdom.

What has instead happened is my boss has been traveling so I have had a lot of time to think, and--why do I always do this?--ask other people for advice. What a wild ride that is. I love hearing other people's stories, but entering all those worlds can be disorienting. I've been warned not to quit, risking the direst consequences for my career. If nothing else, the economy! I'm lucky to have anything, after all. I've been told to take control of my fellowship and only work the hours I can, reshape the discussion to one of productivity. Ha! Where would you all be without me here at WC, which is where I would not be if I was being productive by crunching out manuscripts at home?

I have also conjured up a couple offers for temporary, part-time work, maybe just maybe even at my current workplace. So I can leave and go TO something, thank heavens.

Not surprisingly, the extra time has added humanity and complexity to the whole thing. My coworkers have been surprisingly supportive. They have come forward with stories of their own lives and assured me there will be no hard feelings if I go.

The only time I ever quit a job so soon after starting was at Uncle Sam's roadside ice cream stand at age 15, when I discovered that I could not produce a soft-serve cone with any symmetry or skill, and the boss and I just sort of said, okay bye. So I've been sick about DISAPPOINTING them or somehow being a FAILURE--what a waste of energy that is, eh? I'm learning to let go of that. I have enough to do.

Holy crap, I can see why most people don't follow their hearts. It's excrutiating! A great leap of faith. I imagine, though, that in the end I will be one of them.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The choice

The big news is that I asked to cut back to part time at my job, and the answer is no. I'm a little shocked, despite all the evidence that this would be the answer. I am to make a decision in the next weeks here as to whether I will agree to stay on full-time or resign.

My usual pattern of trying not to let any door close under any circumstance has slammed up against the complete unsustainability of our current family situation. Something must give. It's not the kind of choice I really "do" very gracefully.

So. A big choice! Kind of exciting, in a panic-attack-inducing sort of scone-baking fantasy sort of way. Because what if I don't get something ELSE? There is a little problem with the economy, last I checked. What if I am just being a big COMPLAINER and I should just get over it?

The thing is--here's the thing--I would love to quit, I likely will, and I suspect my employer has done me a favor. The reasons I can think of to stay on given their expectation of full-time are purely financial. Purely. And it's a postdoc, so not even THAT financial. I do suspect that there may be a problem with "fit" and etc etc all those professional-type things people say in meetings in between bites of baby carrot. Whether the "fit" problem is between me and this particular job or this entire industry remains to be seen. Or between this industry, Jeff's, and family life as we value it. Maybe I will never know.

My son, oh, to be with him more would make my heart sing. To have time to shop and prepare good whole foods for my family? The hills are alive... to be able to take my PhD by the tail and make it work for me instead of the other way around? ...with the sound of music...

But actually leaving? It would still feel like a failure and scare me to pieces. It would be all stressful and self-doubt and second-guessing and social comparison and doors-slamming-shut wah wah feeling. Enough that I might actually try to stick it out for awhile longer. Am I an idiot? Don't answer that.

So there you have it. A big choice here in the next few weeks.