What’s next??? (Part 1)

I have had several ideas rolling around in my head about this next post. I have several titles about topics I want to write about, but cannot seem to come up with the right words. Instead I am going to try to share my current state of mind (fair warning it is not great).

WARNING: This is a dark rant, but I actively work to take care of myself, so there is no need for concern.

I wake before dawn daily, long before an alarm has the chance to startle me awake, with trembling hands, a tightness in my chest, and sick to my stomach. Another anxiety attack or a long, continuous one that is only numbed at night by a cocktail of prescribed pharmaceuticals that one day I hope to not need?

I wake with questions swirling around in my head…what am I going to do when my contract ends? Am I making a mistake by walking away from everything I have ever wanted for something completely unknown (if that is what I end up doing)? Where am I going to live, because I know I can’t (or don’t want to) stay here? Should I sell all my things or put them in storage for a short time? How am I going to make money?

As this contract ends, without a “what’s next?” plan, I have never felt so lost. I have sat through workshop and seminars that explain the breadth at which our skill set can be applied. However, I have only had one offer in 5+ years since graduate school. Maybe I should have accept it, and I wouldn’t be here now, but the reality is the job did not feel like the right fit.

I feel like part of me is dying. The scientist that I have worked so hard to be, no longer exists in the same capacity as it once did. For the last 12+ years, that is what I call myself, it is a large piece of my identity. I gave up a lot (including my sanity) to follow my dreams. But let’s be honest, academics has become like an abusive relationship. That may be an bit extremely, but honestly I don’t think it is that much of a stretch. I can’t take it anymore.

There is a more pleasant way to look at the time ahead – the simply act of in not having a plan, to have a chance to hit (a partial) reset. This is oddly calming and supporting my flight response to stressful situations. I don’t seem to have the fight response. However, the anxiety disorder makes it so difficult to (1) NOT play every permutation of what could or is going to happen; (2) manage the stress of letting this life go, the scientist life; and (3) determine what is the right thing to do. I no longer trust my own judgement. It all makes me physically ill.

Again, I apologize for the darkness of this post. I had so many other intentions, but this is what has been consuming me lately. So I thought in effort to document not only the good of academics, I would share this. For others who feel similarly, you are not alone. I know I am not alone, even if it feels like it sometimes.


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