At the age of 16 or 17, I realized that I wanted to “me” and not to follow a crowd or to be what people expected or wanted me to be if it was not what I was. It is a really odd story as this self-revelation happened after an all night party when I was jumping off a gate in the local park. We went there to see sunrise or something; probably just for the thrill of being in the park when we shouldn’t have been there. When I jumped off that gate, my best friend asked if I was all right. Something about her question, or the way she asked, triggered the idea that I would be myself and not what anyone else thought I should be.
I have written before about how I fell into my PhD program and landed on my feet. I cannot possibly explain the joy that lab research* gives me. The lab was one of the places that I feel at home and do not worry about people judging me and probably find me wanting. There were only a few of those when I was in my mid-twenties. As I remember, another one was when I was dancing to folk-rock bands, such as the Barely Works or Davy Spillane.
Just over thirteen years ago, I moved to the US. I originally came for a two year postdoc. I did not realize what a big step I was taking. Luckily, probably, otherwise I would not have come. While my first postdoc was frustrating, it was at this same time I started voice lessons. I had the thought that since I was away from home I could do anything I wanted for about six months, at which time I would have caught up with myself**. I can still remember the amazement and pleasure of knowing that I was singing in tune for the first time. My creative side also grew when I roomed with Karen Searle in St Paul, MN. Nothing like a fiber artist to teach you how to take your creative knitting to a new, higher, level.
Fortunately, in Minnesota, my professional life found a new leash of life and I grew as scientist there too. That lead to my first tenure track position at a research university that was very supportive of undergraduate education. I was delighted to find out that teaching did not have to me standing in the front of a big lecture hall and talking at my students. This way, using student centered learning and group work, I discovered that I had a natural ability to help, teach, and inspire students.
Not getting tenure at the aforementioned research university was another kind of life event! One that I am still dealing with today. I found that I had an inner strength. Even at the beginning, I picture a room where even though one door was shut there were other doors and windows to try. Shortly after my tenure fiasco, I was diagnosed with a growth on my colon. Since, health is far more important than any career, I decided having both a research and teaching career was too much for me. So I changed my career emphasis to teaching.
*After writing the above post, I wondered when did science come into my life? Has it always been there or was my PhD the real trigger? I don’t know the answer.
** I also took up beer drinking – in England I drank [hard] cider. This did not turn out so well.