Man, three months ago I was so convinced that I knew my life path. Hubs would be a PI at a Research I, and I would be an inspiring and beautifully dressed biology professor at a small liberal arts college. It would be easy to find two such jobs in geographic proximity, and to each put in the amount of time and emotional/intellectual energy necessary to each achieve tenure. Also, we would lovingly and equally parent one or more adorable progeny, keep our house clean, and eat local veggies as a family every night.
Enter this semester of teaching that really felt like a burden, and the realization that I maybe am not a more-than-40-hour-a-week worker (if that!!). I was so sure that the life of a professor was the life for me that to realize that I’m not actually that happy grading and mentoring all day long was a bit of a blow. Couple this blow to the fact that the only way that I imagined myself fitting into the science world was as an educator, and you can see why I’ve been feeling a little drifty.
This unmoored feeling has set me on a path of finding my true calling. We hear a lot about how awesome our lives will be, if we can only find work that we’re passionate about. Really though, do we need our work to be what fulfills us? Maybe our work is something that we do, something that we might really enjoy and take pride in, but it’s not necessarily the thing that defines us. Maybe our work is something we do to pay the bills, and we find a way to do it that still lets us pursue our passion, our calling. Maybe we get really lucky and our passion and our work are the same, but that doesn’t mean it goes that way for everyone or that it’s wrong if things don’t go that way for me.
There are so many things that I love, that I feel passionate about, that I feel called to do, but I can’t ever imagine defining myself in only one way. I am not only ANYTHING. Not a scientist, a yogi, a therapy dog owner, an artist, a backyard farmer, a duckherd, a writer, a teacher, a wife, a friend, a daughter, or a mother. I hope I will at some point [or many points] be ALL of these, but, in all that I dream for my life, I don’t know that there’s room to ever be just one.
That lack of room means that I probably won’t be a scientist the way that academic science [as it currently operates] demands I be. It also means that sometimes it’s hard for me to be immersed in who I am because I am so wrapped up in how to be a “passionate” scientist or wife or artist. So for now, what do I do? Keep beating myself up about not being super-passionate about one thing that can make us rich or fulfill someone else’s idea of what my a good life looks like? Or maybe realize that who I am called to be is ALL these things and trust that the money will come, and the life path may not be what I envisioned (or what anyone envisioned), but that it’s going to be pretty darn great? I try every day to choose the trust option, but it’s all kinds of hard to do.