Thursday, May 31, 2007


I have been conspicuously absent from the blogging world lately, doing the obligatory weekly check in and picking a few e-friends to visit every couple of days. There have even been a couple wanderers over here from other blogs and under normal circumstances I would happily explore their space as well and see how much this stranger may have in common with me. If you are new and visiting again, have patience. I’ll seek you out eventually. But alas, these aren’t normal circumstances. There are a few good reasons I’ve been scarce, like:

  1. My schedule is jam-packed. I work full days and when I get home I usually go for a walk to get some fresh air and exercise. I’m used to being very active in the lab and this desk job is driving me stir-crazy. Then I have a late dinner and if I’m lucky I watch/listen to a bit of the Twins game before washing up, reading about ten pages of my book and then passing out at the premature hour of 10:30 or so.
  2. If I were to use the little free time during the week that I have for blogging, I would never complete a post to my satisfaction. Weekends are spent with family and friends (sort of like when I come up for the holidays).
  3. In Tampa I’d post a lot and read blogs while in the lab because the work pace is “hurry up and wait” rather than this work which is more like a slow draining of my sanity stretched out continuously over nine hours. Today my two superiors are away and I’m determined to sneak some blog time in.
  4. There is so much swimming through my head right now that I’m overwhelmed with where to begin. Since writing these posts is like my own form of therapy, I’m going to try and lay it all for you. Let’s see what advice you may have to offer.

I started off this job knowing that having done it would look very good on my resume. I was also hoping and somewhat anticipating the fit would be so good that I could expect a full time position waiting for me when I graduated. I had allowed myself to fantasize about a life where Dean and I would move back up to Minneapolis, where I’d have a great job with kick ass pay, we’d buy a cute house in the city, and start a family soon after. We’d have all of our friends and family just short car rides away and we’d all get together much more often than twice a year. Everything just perfect and wonderful. Well I’ve been working here now for close to three weeks and I can see a couple of different situations emerging from this experience. I know it’s still early, but I’m getting nervous because it’s really not that early.

Situation A. Things could turn around, and the fantasy life I had envisioned would be possible. Dealing with this situation is a no-brainer.

Situation B. I could end the summer with a clear idea that the group I’m working for doesn’t think this is a good fit. I’ve heard rumors from a couple of new full time hires that this group is difficult to get hired into. One new Ph.D. told me that his dissertation was based exactly on this group’s work but he couldn’t join after graduation because the group wasn’t hiring. He had to settle for doing something completely different but he was willing to do that because he liked the company and the Twin Cities area. Dealing with this situation would be difficult because I would be faced with the decision to start over someplace else or go for a job at this facility like the new Ph.D. did. That would be hard to do because this group is the only group at this facility that does more physics-based research rather than straight engineering. Starting over someplace else could involve starting with a fresh company or national lab or else checking out the same company at a different campus (they have facilities all over the world). I’ve heard that interning at one facility gives you an edge for full time positions at any other. In summary, this situation would force me to choose between materials physics, or stay in Minneapolis. Seeing as though I’m not qualified for much else at this point, it’s likely I’d go someplace else.

Situation C. Things could not turn around and I could feel exactly the same way about this job as I do now, but they could want to hire me. And quite honestly, I don’t love what I’m doing right now. But they are paying me a butt load just for an internship. That situation would make me choose between living near family and friends, making good money, doing some sort of magnetic physics or else just walking away because it isn’t like what I’m doing in the lab. And I love what I’m doing in the lab.

Situation B worries me a little, but I’ve talked to Dean about it, and he has the type of easygoing attitude that I need for him to have. Some days he’d like to live here again, some days the adventurer in him comes out and he goes on the internet to learn about different cities and ask me if there are jobs for me in them. It’s situation C that really has me concerned. What do I “settle” for? And is it settling if it’s a job everyone covets but me? Would things be different if I were in the quiet cubicle across the aisle with a permanent nameplate? The good news is I ask myself these questions every day, and the feelings get a little better. But the scientific culture shock is still very much there.

I knew going into this that there would be lot riding on this summer. I knew that my career, and thus our future could take shape without even having my husband here for every en-or-discouraging sign no matter how small. But anticipating it and living it are two very different things. So there. Now I’ve opened the floodgates of my mind. Any suggestions?


e.b. said...

I have to think we all struggle with a variation on this. Especially those with advanced degrees where years were spent prepping for that one job. From my experience - you have to do what you want and not just what feels like good pay. Scenario C scares me for you. I don't know if your feelings about the job are ever going to get any better - from my perspective they won't. Which is why you have to do what you actually want. And those dreams of houses and families will come true also.

sylvia said...

You need to live and work wherever you are happy. Life is too short to "settle". It is nice to have freinds and family close but we will visit and be there for you wherever you are.

fermicat said...

You will ultimately have to decide what is most important to you. We could all give an opinion of what we would do in your shoes, but none of us would have exactly the same perspective or circumstances as you. I don't envy your decision-making process. But I think e.b. is right - we all have to go through it at some point.

minnesotablue said...

AS all have said, it is a difficult situation. Let me just share my own perspective. I know that had I not been content in mine, it would have affected all other areas of my life. Happiness in a job tends to spill over into all other areas of your life. Imagine getting up in the morning and finding no joy in the prospect of another day. Job fullfillment for me has always been the key to my happiness in all areas of my life

magnetbabe said...

Thanks to all of you who shared your thoughts "on" and "off" the record. All of you make good points, and some I think I need to clarify.

What's emerging from this situation which I didn't articulate in the best of ways, is that we'll likely have to make a huge choice. And that essentially means "settling" in one form or another. Yes, I may not have the job I always dreamed of if I end up coming back to this company. However, I'm not at all guaranteed that such a job exists (unless of course I decide to simply not graduate and give Dr. Hari an ulcer :P).

I know that money isn't everything, but let me be frank. If I can't do exactly what I want to do, doesn't it make sense to take money into account when choosing between jobs that aren't "dream jobs"? Won't it be easier to work at a job I just tolerate if I know we can still take Spring Training trips and do Spay Days, and see family whenever we want? The alternative is work at a job I just tolerate and struggle to live the life I want.

The other point I want to make, and one that I didn't bring up before, is that doing magnetism was just settling to me when I started out. I don't have time to go into details, but my first love (and one of my bachelor's degrees) was astronomy. I see didn't a whole lot of opportunities there for someone who wanted a family and a "normal" life and I gave those up because I wanted an easier life for Dean and I as a couple (as well as taking heavily into account the economic climate immediately following the 9/11 attacks). So I tried applied physics, got into magnetism and I think I love it more than I ever loved astronomy. So you never know.

Lastly, I tend to agree with you, minnesotablue. But I think the converse can also be true- a happy home life can make work better too. I can't tell you how much I wish Dean was here for me to see everyday after work. That could make a world of difference.

So in summary, thanks for all your thoughts. I'm feeling more optimistic this week than last. It hasn't changed much in the way I feel at my cubicle of dreariness and despair, but it gives me hope for the future.