I have a few days left in my current contract with no idea as to what comes next. This will be the first time I do not have a job or have not been in school since I was 15. I am not even sure what to do with myself when I am not doing either one.
A few things that I do have planned:
- I will be visiting Colorado State University for a brown bag lunch to speak with grad students and postdocs about mental health awareness.
- I will be a panelist at Seismological Society of America annual meeting for a discussion titled: That Poster Is Just Fine And So Are You: Maintaining Self-Confidence and Balance in the Uncertain World of Early Career Science. Chris Rollins played an critical role in the planning of this event. I am excited and nervous to be involved in this event that is a first of its kind – we will be discussing the less glamorous aspects of graduate students and postdocs.
- Becoming a SCUBA dive master and soon after an Instructor.
- A road-trip around the country my pups.
As for the last part…to prepare for this adventure I have reduced my life to what fits in a 5 x 5 storage unit. This means selling, donating, or trashing almost everything I own. I will be traveling with my two pups, camping and hiking gear, and some clothes…and my computer. It is quite liberating, I have never really thrown caution to the wind in such a manner – I am a planner after all (enters anxiety). I have a loose travel plan, which includes lots of hiking (my goal is 30 miles a week if someone wants to keep me accountable), national parks (very happy to have my annual parks pass on hand), state parks, history, and, most importantly, friends. It is moments like this that it makes me incredibly sad to leave my scientific career behind…indefinitely. Maybe I will decide to still be involved in science in some manner, but I really don’t know. It feels a little bit like part of me is dying, that I am grieving the loss of the life I lived for the last 12-13 years in academics, the only thing I have ever wanted to do. I also feel fortunate to have made friends, some of my best, and definitely some of the greatest, friends along the way, who have been supportive during some of the toughest times, have had so much fun with at Foley’s and The Bank every AGU, students I mentored become so successful, and to have helped me make it out alive.
A few colleagues asked or offered to have me talk a bit about mental health in academics – this is something I have done a fair amount of research on in the last year trying to understand how pervasive mental health is in academia and how it is being handled, if at all. . I also can draw upon (and share) personal experiences that many students/postdocs feel but may not feel comfortable talking about. Hell, I am not sure I feel comfortable talking about, but I also know we need to start talking about the tough stuff, the real stuff that we (grad students, postdocs, and other academics) go through – it doesn’t matter if it is with each other, a partner, a close friend, an advisor, or a counselor. If you are reading this and would like me to do something similar at your university, email email@example.com.