Sunday, May 15, 2011

What I'm doing.

This is the plan: I'm spending the next couple of months in State College, working on a bit of research (when I can get my mentor to support it, but that's a different story), training the next lab management team, and taking a few breaks for conferences and vacations. Then, in mid-August, I'll move to Amherst to start graduate school. Amherst is not near Boston, by the way.

My perception of this event is that it will mark the beginning of my career in earnest, and that any block of time spent away from research will result in my being seen as something other than a serious academic. Summers, Dr. L often says, are the best time to crank out publications.

I'm questioning my emotional commitment to this plan.

I entered this field because it provided a venue for investigating concepts that interest me (consciousness, normal versus abnormal behavior, personality, change processes) using the epistemology to which I'm committed (science), and it had an earning potential in the range I thought could provide me with the opportunity to travel. But now I've been exposed to at least a portion of the environment I'm entering, and it's becoming increasingly clear that I might not get a chance to live the lifestyle I want. When will I have time to explore far-out, "impractical" ideas (e.g., the psychology of aesthetics)? How can I get away with spontaneous road trips? Will I lose my job if I attend Burning Man wearing only body paint? Who would attend my conference presentations if I got my tongue split and wore men's cologne?

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Sometimes I'm uncomfortable about having such privileged, first-world problems. But if I didn't have first-world problems, I wouldn't have any! I'm suitably grateful for my wonderful circumstances, but one must strive for something. Right? Right? Can I be forgiven? Aren't these your problems too, dear Reader?

It's not as though there aren't other options for my degree. I could probably get away with more eccentricity in the gaming industry, researching the therapeutic and educational applications of games.

This man is the CEO of a gaming company. And yes, he dresses like this all the time.

I'm optimistic. Academia could work out. I might be able to get away with quite a bit. I'll seek out role models who are leading the kinds of careers I'd like to have. But if it doesn't work out, will you remind me not to get sucked into believing that once I've invested time in an academic career, I'm stuck there? If you see my inner fabulousness being quashed, will you give me a shake and tell me to get the hell out? And would you like me to do the same for you?

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