Need to know

You may have noticed something about me from my last post – I am very impatient when it comes to my career. I actually have near unending patience when teaching someone else, pulling fresh-baked cookies out of the oven at just the right time, or finding the perfect gift. But I absolutely can’t wait to have an actual long-term ‘real’ job.

This is, in large part, about the desire to settle down, as well as ending the uncertainty, as peírama has described. Beyond that desire though, there’s also the feeling that I can’t really progress until I’m in that long-term position. As a postdoc, I feel like I’m just treading water, waiting for the next thing to come along which is when I’ll really be able to establish myself independently and move forward. With the present uncertainty, I can’t put roots down, either in my life or my research, which makes me feel less productive than I imagine I would be in a stable position.

This phenomenon has been present for me in all aspects of my life: I am incapable of just relaxing on the couch (one of my favorite things to do) if I don’t know when ‘relaxing time’ is over and what’s happening next. After much introspection and analysis of my obsessive planning and scheduling (you should see my packed and color-coded Google calendar!), I’ve concluded that this all is due to my need to know.

As anyone who’s met me, especially childhood frenemies and teachers, would probably tell you, I’ve always been a know-it-all. I want to have all the information – sometimes so I can make an educated decision, sometimes so I can educate others, but sometimes just because I want to know! So it seems that research science is a good career choice for me in that respect, where I can continuously discover new information and be the true know-it-all, but with a better name: the expert in my field.

Despite this need for knowing (and controlling) all, I am not extremely ambitious, and not competitive; in other words, not really ‘Type A’. Many people, including close family members, are surprised to find out that I am impatient and not a perfectionist. It does make sense that someone who chooses a career path with 26+ years of education and training is happy playing the long game, and of course this path includes many ‘Type A’ personalities, as great care and order is needed for much of the work we do. But that’s not me.

I do have high quality standards, so when I admit what I’m about to say, don’t think that I produce shoddy work, but… I want the easiest way to the goal, which is not always the best way. I prefer not to think of this as being lazy or careless, but efficient. If I plan things well enough, I can make every minute productive and reach my short- and long-term goals quickly. And this does work for me a lot of the time – but of course there are so many things beyond my control.

So I am learning to be patient, to let things go that I can’t control: right now I can’t find a new home until I know where my new job will be, and so it will be okay if I don’t search apartment listings today – I remind myself that I will not be missing any opportunities I could have taken advantage of anyway, and I will definitely not end up homeless. I will never not be a planner – even if it’s not on my Google calendar and I am playing it by ear, you can bet the wheels in my head are turning and scheduling! And I will always be dreaming of the next great thing – the job, the family milestones, the retirement (yes, I already long for this most days) – but I am trying to do the best I can today, be patient, and I do truly know that it will all come in one form or another, even without neurotic planning on my part. With a little more effort and luck, I hope I will start to feel as content and blessed as Curiouser&Curiouser describes, even without knowing what will happen next.

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