As I mentioned previously, this post has been in the ‘draft’ pile for quite a while. I’ve been tackling this entry sporadically, distracted by more and more things I want to say — and I know, I know, if I just could control the urge to say everything in one post, I’d have more posts, and less rambling. I’m working on it! :)
So I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the future, and it’s evolving from just wondering to more like … planning. But I also feel like I’m really just paying good attention to the things I’m doing, the things I want to do, and the things I’ve done and really enjoyed, and the future really does seem to come naturally from that. And with a premise like this, is it any wonder that this post has been taking me so long to say? I mean, it’s a fairly big deal, to finally start understanding my Purpose… yeah, I spelled that with a capital P on purpose. Heh!
My Reeling Mind
I’m totally convinced that my mind works in mysterious ways… it seems to put ideas together while I’m sleeping, working, relaxing, and sometimes I find things in my meandering around the internet that startle me, as if they read my mind and answered the questions I wasn’t yet ready to ask. One example of the latter is an essay by Steve Pavlina, who has a lot of really fascinating stuff on his site. He discusses what to do with your life, encouraging the decision to be aligned with your purpose. This and many other articles really got my mind spinning, spinning, spinning… but without the nasty dizziness that comes with spinning.
I used to love spinning, as a child less than six years of age. (I don’t remember doing it much after that, oddly enough!) I loved twirling around, arms out to the sides, until my field of vision felt like it was what was whirling around. Then I would lay on the ground and feel my senses spin, while gravity’s pull held me stuck to the ground. I hadn’t thought of this in a long time, but then recently I was contemplating the mindset I use to really relax into the yoga pose known as Shavasana: I surrender my weight to gravity, and picture myself stuck to the side of the Earth looking outwards, disregarding the notion of “up” or “down”. I’ve been doing this for quite some time, maybe over a year even, but it wasn’t until recently that I associated it with the spinning I used to do as a kid.
(I’m interrupting this train of thought because WordPress just automatically saved this entry at 3:37:37. I haven’t yet explained my Thing with 37 in this blog, but I promise, I will, and I hope I remember to come back and edit this line to add in a link to where I describe this! For now, note that I consider a 37-sighting as a lucky thing, and so seeing two in a single random event must be even more lucky.)
Anyways, what made me think of spinning and stopping to lay against the earth looking out, was the fact that I said my mind was spinning with ideas and more ideas for my future, and yet I don’t feel disoriented. In fact, all the ideas that have come to mind work really well together and help me achieve my purpose. The purpose is quite simple, although I may perhaps spend some time refining the wording of it someday, but here it is for now: I want to inspire others to see the beauty that I see in physics. I am moved to tears at some of the beautiful concepts that I have learned about, and I’ve felt at times that my adoration is almost religious in its potency. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that all of my career considerations have involved this purpose in one way or another!
Career Choices Contemplated
For my career choice, I’ve kept coming back to the idea of writing, and first I thought my best bet would be to write textbooks, because I really have a great respect for well-designed, well-written textbooks. I figured that would be a great start to build up my reputation, and then I could move forward (forward? as in, closer to my goal? Hmm, interesting choice of words, now that I’m thinking about it!) into writing books geared towards the layperson … but there are so many, many books in that field, that when I first thought about it I felt discouraged from even aiming for that, at least not yet. But there’s also the fact that book royalties are not very significant at all, difficult to base a career on. So, my mind went back to considering teaching, which I have to admit has always been a major contender as “backup plan” in every career choice I’ve contemplated (even from back before I started my Physics degree!)
As a graduate student, I’ve been on the path to becoming a university professor, which would mean I’d get to teach and write textbooks and all that good stuff. Yay, right? Unfortunately, universities are all about research, and the field is incredibly competetive… someone horrible at teaching but having lots of research grants would get hired WAY before an excellent teacher with a mediocre research history. I don’t really have a specific reason that I don’t think I’d be good at research, except that I’ve spent the past four years trying to motivate myself to work on my research but found myself preferring to do just about anything else. I love learning and teaching physics, reading and speaking physics, but I’m just not so sure about why I feel so uncomfortable with the idea of finding new physics. I’m wondering if it’s fear or lack of confidence that’s holding me back, but one way or another I’ve decided that I’m not ready for that life. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be ready for the competetiveness of obtaining research grants, or the race to publish information first… there are some aspects of community, sure, and maybe I will be ready for it someday. But first, I am going to be taking a path that really seems more of a fit for who and where I am now.
So what is this plan, you wonder? Well, I’ve decided that one of the most important steps in becoming a writer is to start actually writing. I’ve decided I’m going to write about physics and post it on the internet in blog format because there is so much power in the WordPress interface. I’ve already booked the domain, started setting it up, and am slowly learning about what’s involved in maintenance and monetization. I am trying to restrain myself, and only make slow progress in this, because I have to proceed very carefully… I can’t let myself get anti-productive at this crucial time!
When the time is right…
A part of me has been a bit afraid of using this blog to discuss my writing career idea pre-emptively… I wanted to talk to my husband and other significant family members about it first, and I also was a bit worried at first that I would just flip-flop around without sticking to any one plan. But it turns out I’m actually quite decisive, once I put my mind to it. The decisiveness reminded me of the one other time I was so sure of a decision I was making: the time I told my then-friend and now-husband that I very seriously wanted to date him. (To show him how seriously, I said that I wanted to watch Star Wars with him, “right here, right now!” And we did.)
My husband has said several times that he supports me, but also that he is playing the devil’s advocate with me on this. He wants to be sure the idea is well-developed, and I think he is finding out that it is. I am grateful to him for his honest concern and for not just blithely agreeing with me. He’s making sure that I’ve considered whether I am just afraid of moving forward… and I have acknowledged that, yes, I am afraid, but what I’m most afraid of is regret. I don’t want to regret anything I do, and I especially don’t want to regret not doing something. I am worried that if I don’t follow what my heart is telling me right now, I will regret it forever. The moment is right, and I am seizing it.
There is also the fact that I know of several other people who could use my expertise in setting up a website, and I could do all the necessary maintenance and whatnot for their stuff while maintaining my own. I’d manage it all within the same account, and the place I’ve started with seems to have a good deal — and I can associate a bunch of domains with my account without concern, too. I expect it will all be fairly straightforward to manage, and I have already started mentioning the idea to the people I’d be willing to do this for. Interestingly, I started university as a Computer Science major, and now this blog management idea makes use of the stuff I wasn’t sure I’d ever really get back into using!
I would also like to get my Teaching Certification someday, and get myself a “real job”, but I feel it is important to do some other things first. I really feel that starting a family is a priority — this year or next, I want to go for it! But I also really want to be able to stay home with the kids before they go to kindergarten. Combine this with the fact that I really strongly feel that my writing career is best started now, leaping into the “information blogosphere”, and it really seems that all my incentives are aligning and reinforcing each other.
For now, though, it is crucial that I finish my master’s degree as soon as possible, by means of finishing my thesis and defending it. I’m no longer considering going for my Ph.D. right now, although if I decide I want it later, it will be for the right reason: a desire to do original research in my field. The other reason to defer until later is that it seems that the path to professorship would be much easier if the Ph.D. step is taken immediately before all the other steps, so I can get re-acquainted with the university environment and research world. If there is any “best time” to take a break from academia, I am suspecting that it would be between the master’s and doctoral degrees.
So, my overall plan is this:
- early-mid 2008:
- finish thesis, and
- increase the amount of writing I’m doing “for fun”, adding content to this blog and my physics blog :) The more I write, the better it will get! And it will help me write my thesis better, as long as I don’t let it take away from my thesis time!
- after thesis (mid 2008):
- finish another writing project that I volunteered to be paid to do at the university, a lab manual that I felt really needed some updating, retouching, and interest
- determine what I need to do for handling the “freelancing” style I will take with my career… especially how income taxes will work, and whether I need a business license or something
- after lab manual project (late 2008):
- intensely ramp up my writing for the blog, do some social networking to gather readers, and implement the monetization efforts that I’ve been holding off on doing until this time
- begin preparing the house for babies (that still sounds so weird! but so much needs to be done… I feel like we aren’t even moved in yet, despite living here for three years!)
- investigate tutoring options (an idea I haven’t mentioned in this blog yet, but would love to do, in addition to the other things! I’ll be setting my hours, so I can vary them too!)
- raising the baby/babies (2009-2014):
- keep working with multiple income streams, testing and tweaking and improving the system as I go
- keep maintaining the peaceful home and calm lifestyle
- once the kids are school-aged:
- get myself back to school for teaching (because it is quite possible that I will want to try something different by this time! Although it’s also possible the blogging will get me connections to be speaking about physics to people, local or online presentations or tutoring, and more, so I like the idea that I can keep my options open!)
- go back to university for my Ph.D. and get doing original research and mentoring and teaching and textbooks and getting a tenured position and earn the rank of professor and then emeritus! ;) OR
- I will confirm that I don’t need my Ph.D. if I have already found my calling elsewhere, and I will thank my lucky stars that I decided to GO FOR IT way back in 2007 when I first conceived of the idea. WOOT!
Can’t Help but Congratulate Myself
I am so amazed that I can actually visualize my plans for about about the next five years. Five years! I’ve never before planned anything much more than a month in advance without second-guessing myself, and here I am now with a five year plan! And just a few months ago, I was writing about having a hard time even digesting the fact that I get to decide what to do with my life. When I started giving some attention to selecting goals for myself, the ideas just kept coming to me, and everything just kept connecting really well with the things I’ve done in the past and the things I want to do in the future. I feel very lucky, and frankly quite proud of myself for doing this. (“Go me!” as FlyLady encourages us to say!)
By the way, my finishing this post on New Year’s Day is really just a coincidence. I’m not intending to make any resolutions out of this, except my usual “Be the Best Me I Can Be” one, and I know I’ll always be able to find ways to improve myself. I’ve never felt quite as much progress as I’ve felt this past year, though, and I can’t help but hope that the new year is bound to continue that trend. Cheers to 2008!!!