Friday, 30 January 2015

Changing Direction

Last year was quite the whirlwind, full of major events, a substantial amount of stress, personal victories and some fairly proficient juggling. Now, as the dust has settled on the other side of New Year, and I sit here writing this, I almost can't believe I made it through. I keep looking around in wonder and pondering how I have been so fortunate to end up in this marvelously serene place in my life. 

Last year began with me having just handed in my PhD, starting a postdoctoral research fellowship and being employed as a part-time lecturer in the Language Development Group. The first half of the year was fraught with the anxiety of waiting to hear back from my examiners (would they rip my stats to shreds? Would they detest my unconventional structure?), the immense pressure of getting a new study off the ground and the disorientation of switching back and forth between 'researcher' and 'lecturer'. Lions and tigers and bears. Oh My. 

Then came the elation. They did not hate my thesis! Actually, they quite liked it in places. Oh the relief, to finally receive validation for five years of investment. I won't lie, I'm still riding high. No plans to come down anytime soon. 

But then the inevitable reality check. My postdoc research was not going well, I felt guilty all the time, neither job was getting my full attention and somewhere in the middle of it all I realised, for the first time, that I was not happy. I had always chalked my unhappiness up to the project - finding samples, trying to get good results, the challenge of writing, the agony of analysis, the stress of waiting. When my PhD is over, then everything will be better, then I'll be happy again. Except, I was never going to get away from those things, not ever. They are all integral the very nature of the scientific endeavour. Ouch. Fourteen years of my life moving me towards a destination I discovered that I don't actually want to live in. But what to do?

And then a job opportunity presented itself in the Language Development Group. A job where I could use all my writing centre, lecturing and science experience. Hurrah! Fourteen years of my life NOT wasted. So I put on my big-girl-pants and made the scary decision to pack my bags (metaphorically), change my direction and go find somewhere else to live. Somewhere I could be happy and fulfilled every day, not just once every five years or so. 

So here I sit. My office is big and airy, I have Bach playing softly in the background and I am happy. I'm thinking, writing, reading, learning, connecting and teaching. I feel challenged, but not in a way that makes me want to crawl under my desk and cry, but rather fuels my enthusiasm, excitement and passion. I'm bringing all my skills to this party and everyone is invited, because it's going to be a good one! 

And if anyone is struggling to connect this all up, or understand why I think what I do is so important, then read this article. I think it highlights the need for scientists to teach scientists how to write quite nicely. 

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