What do I want to be when I grow up right now?
As I was reading perima’s post yesterday I kept thinking, “me too, me too!” My relationship with balancing impatience/planning vs. patience/contentment has been evolving recently, so I figured it might be a good topic for my first post.
I think I’ve always been type “A.” I love to set goals and then exceed them, the quicker the better. Wanting to “do well” I was impatient for everything. Heck, I was even born 2-days early. Growing up I got a sense of control/joy from making things happen, quickly, cue JayZ’s “on to the next one.”
When I got to college, I did fine, and when I realized I could graduate in 3-years I jumped at the opportunity to check that box early. Then I moved to a new city and met my husband, we were engaged within 2-months. I got my PhD in under-the-suggested-amount-of-time and completed 2 postdocs within 3-years. I’m now in my second industry position and I’m starting to feel like I’m not in quite so much of a rush to move “on to the next one”.
What precipitated this shift in my thinking? I’m not entirely sure, I think it started a few months after I chose to pursue a career in industry. I’m sure it helps that I had a good job, but it was not necessarily where I thought I would be. When I left academia, with 3-years of postdoc’ing, a bunch of awards and a solid publication record, I thought I was headed for the big time. I anticipated sitting in my office getting rich while thinking up amazing ways to save people and directing research projects. Turns out, that’s not how it works (at least, not for me). On one hand, I felt incredibly lucky that I got hired by a small startup in my field of interest (neurodegenerative diseases), in my desired city, and my coworkers and bosses were great people and mentors! On the other hand, I was sitting at the bench running experiments not leading a group, and I was not making much more than I had been as a postdoc. But, all told, I was happy with my situation. If funding had not started to look very iffy and if I hadn’t been offered great job in the same city I would probably still be there.
My current job, at a bigger/more established company, is a little closer to what I thought industry would be like, but there is still a lot of room for growth. There are opportunities for advancement, but I’m realizing that it will probably be another 5(ish?) years before I’m in a leadership role and more like 10-15 years before I can even think of being in a management role. Still, now, I look at my life and I feel like it fits better into something like the Martina McBride song “Blessed.” It’s not perfect, I actually had a pretty hard year in some ways, and looking back I see how amazing my life was even when I was stressing. I think what has changed is my ability to be thankful and appreciate what I do have, without always trying to come up with ways to make it better. There was a recent paper profiled in the Huffington post on how gratitude seems to impact patience. I’m still not Zen by any means, but I have been trying to acknowledge my gratitudes every morning and, like perima, be happy with what I have now, rather than spending so much time planning for future happiness.