• Who am I?

    I am Qrystal; or at least, that's my dot-name! Har har. (My name is really Crystal, but that's not as internet-searchable; hence, switching the C for the little-used letter Q.)

    I am here because I enjoy writing. I do this mostly for myself, but I also have a passion for helping others learn things from the things I write. Now that I am done my Ph.D. in Physics, I am stepping away from academic research so that I can indulge in some creative ways to share my knowledge and inspire the appreciation of scientific thinking in others. I am also working as a tutor, which is one of the jobs I've most enjoyed doing in my life so far.


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  • So what DO I want to do with my life?

    Posted by Qrystal on October 24, 2007 at 14:50.
    Category: Life. Tags: family, future, goals, mindmapping, time.

    I’ve been feeling the pressure of time lately, and I know I am certainly not the first to be concerned about what the future will hold. I’m also not the first to worry about how my choices now will affect that future, nor the first to ask, “How will I manage both a professional life and a home life, as a wife and mother?” But the worries themselves are a first for me, and I am glad to be able to ponder them all when each is still up to me to decide. When will I start a family? When will I finish school? Where will I work? What will I do? What is the meaning of MY life?

    It bothers me that this reeks of the cliché’d notion of the biological clock ticking, and it bothers me more that these concerns might be related to a birthday that’s just over a year and a month away –the big Three-Oh. Intellectually, I know it’s just a number, but it’s requiring a bit of conscious effort not to let it get me down. But it may be age (aka ‘maturity’) that has pushed my hormones to start preparing my mind for the eventuality of children, and thus these urges to stabilize my future. Or it may be the fact that I’m simply getting tired of being a student, and I really just want to figure out what I want to DO with my skills.

    The big question is, “To PhD, or not to PhD?” Interestingly enough, a search on that phrase brought up 57 million links, which is comforting. I found evidence of a lot of people deciding that it is the right thing for themselves, and a lot of others realizing that it isn’t, and not feeling like a failure for choosing to go a different route. The most striking comment was presented as the answer to “Why the hell am I doing this?”:

    If you do not have an acceptable answer to this question, then don’t get a Ph.D. I repeat: if you do not have a rock-solid reason for getting the Ph.D., then it is better that you leave with a Master’s.

    This started some very serious thought about why I am doing what I’m doing, and my only real reason was, “Why not?” I do like the idea of writing textbooks, and it’s quite possible that a Ph.D. would be important in that choice of career… but books aren’t profitable to base a career off of, apparently, and so I was worried that it wasn’t enough motivation. I just wasn’t “feeling” the draw to research, which really made my thesis advisor’s words poignant: the purpose of a Ph.D. is to prove that I can do independent (and, presumably, original) research.

    I came up with an interesting analogy for how I’ve been feeling about this: education is like a highway, and I’ve just kept on following it because hey, it’s the biggest road around, and it will surely get me somewhere, so I didn’t really worry too much about it. But lately, I’ve been wondering if perhaps I should’ve been looking more carefully for my exit. There’s no way to turn around and go backwards, so there’s no sense in thinking I missed my exit — but there was an exit a little while ago that I could’ve taken, and there’s another one coming up that goes to the same place: the Department of Education.

    I’ve always known that teaching is something I definitely see myself doing, and tried to convince myself that I would find the teaching most rewarding if I did it at the university level. But in most cases, a career in academia has more to do with the research than the teaching. As for teaching at a highschool level, I’ve always just considered it to be just a “backup plan”. I really don’t know why I discouraged myself from considering the idea more seriously; perhaps I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t chickening out from going “all the way” up to the Ph.D. level. I am still sure that I am capable of getting a Ph.D., but I am not sure I want or need one! So why spend the next two or three years on that track, when instead I could wrap up my Master’s degree, shoot over to the Department of Education, and get out and into teaching for a year in the same length of time? Besides, I can keep appraised on the developments in my field of interest on a recreational level!

    There is one other consideration that I’ve only briefly mentioned, and it has to do with the time commitment of the two choices. The question is about when I am going to have the chance to be a mother. I feel that this is important enough to plan my career around it, instead of planning my motherhood around my career. I may in fact be in a position where I can take a few years off to raise the young ‘uns, letting my husband bring home the bacon (a figure of speech I giggle about, since I personally don’t eat bacon, or any other meat for that matter). See, I really am quite bothered by the fact that most maternity leaves are only a year long. A one-year old is still a baby! I am sure that when that baby is in my arms, I will have a terrible time agreeing to send it to daycare. But then again, that’s just because I didn’t go to daycare myself. My husband did, and he has no problem with the idea, so we’re still discussing.

    He’s behind me in my decisions for my future, though, and says that I will be a very good teacher OR professor and that he will support me in anything I do. Hmm, now I’m smiling to myself, and thinking I’m about done here and would rather be somewhere… warm. :)

    Here’s the mindmap that really helped me get a grip on what was going on in my head.

    3 Comments »

    • http://notyet... Josee Hartrick

      Hi Qrystal :) I’m really glad I stumbled upon this entry of yours, it’s resonating a lot of things going on in my head as well…only without the PH.D aspect of it! I really want to be a fine artist and do only that, but of course the odds of making $ that way are slim to none. I keep thinking that having children would give me some time to paint while at home, but I know now that that’s a very foolish idea for the wrong reasons. After getting a puppy and almost reaching the big 3-0 myself I’m finding that I’m less ready for kids than I was years ago. I’m not sure what changed in my mind, but I want to be selfish for once, if that makes any sense…in any case, I’m glad to see that the confusion is not mine alone.
      I hope you’re doing well, and working on your thesis :)
      Cheers!
      Josee

    • http://qrystal.name Qrystal

      Well, as far as my whole “plan” thing, I’m honestly still confused. I have too many ideas of what I want to do, and no real solid idea of how to do it, except that there’s lots and lots of information online about working from home as a freelancer… and it all sounds awesome. Most of the info I’ve read has to do with writing, but there’s also web design and other more traditional art styles too. Most importantly, I’ve read a lot about creating your dream job, and not “settling” for something just because the dream sounds too crazy to anyone who isn’t dreaming it.

      The writing I want to do and the painting you want to do are much more similar than you’d think. I am going to start by showing off the passionate writing I can do about physics, and also start looking around for places that might hire me as a science journalist, and also collect material to eventually publish into books. A lot of the job is about getting out there and selling myself, and turning the dream into something to aim for, not just to think about.

      And of course, there’s obstacles… I had two different profs take the time today to try to convince me to stay in the Ph.D. program, when I really just want to get out and call my thesis a Master’s thesis. A lot of people think I’ll regret leaving — mostly people with Ph.D.’s of course, but one prof spoke of how his wife wishes she stayed for her Ph.D. in Math, instead of leaving with a Master’s. But nobody else is me, and only I know what really stirs me. Others may see potential, but only I can supply the drive to succeed.

    • http://qrystal.name Qrystal

      Well, as far as my whole “plan” thing, I’m honestly still confused. I have too many ideas of what I want to do, and no real solid idea of how to do it, except that there’s lots and lots of information online about working from home as a freelancer… and it all sounds awesome. Most of the info I’ve read has to do with writing, but there’s also web design and other more traditional art styles too. Most importantly, I’ve read a lot about creating your dream job, and not “settling” for something just because the dream sounds too crazy to anyone who isn’t dreaming it.

      The writing I want to do and the painting you want to do are much more similar than you’d think. I am going to start by showing off the passionate writing I can do about physics, and also start looking around for places that might hire me as a science journalist, and also collect material to eventually publish into books. A lot of the job is about getting out there and selling myself, and turning the dream into something to aim for, not just to think about.

      And of course, there’s obstacles… I had two different profs take the time today to try to convince me to stay in the Ph.D. program, when I really just want to get out and call my thesis a Master’s thesis. A lot of people think I’ll regret leaving — mostly people with Ph.D.’s of course, but one prof spoke of how his wife wishes she stayed for her Ph.D. in Math, instead of leaving with a Master’s. But nobody else is me, and only I know what really stirs me. Others may see potential, but only I can supply the drive to succeed.