Being so utterly disappointed in Facebook’s interpretation of my 2016, I decided to think seriously about how my year actually has gone. As far as things go, it’s been a pretty big one. Over the next 10 days, I’ll be reviewing my year by alternating between the worst and best bits of the year. I hope that the introspection and discussion can set us up for a better year next year.
Since I want to try to finish the year on a high, we’re now going to cover the real low point.
Not for me.
Let me spell this one out clearly. I’ve spent almost my entire life in “education”, and the past seven years studying Physics to the exclusion of almost all else. By doing a PhD, I knowingly gave up the chance to start some sort of basic level in a well-paying career. I accepted that opportunity cost gladly, because I knew that I wanted to be a “real Physicist”, which to me honestly meant Professor. I wanted this because… well… I liked research, right? I genuinely love Physics. I think it’s a creative outlet for me, as well as a sincere challenge and an endless source of new and fascinating things. I have intuition for Physics, which makes it essentially unique as a thing I could do.
I knew that it’s not the best career. In fact, I pursued it because I thought the contribution to human knowledge was a worthy goal and that some opportunity costs were worth it. I still do.
As you might have been able to tell from my last few posts, I have not had a good time through my PhD. I have come to realize that while I strongly value creativity, challenge, and interest in my work, I also value stability. I really really value being able to be confident that if I need to I can remain in my job as long as I want or need to – even if I’m planning on moving onwards (or upwards) very soon. I want to be sure of my income. I want a mortgage which I can rely on paying back. I believe that the basic stability of a permanent job, a reasonable wage, and a healthy balance between work and other are essential for both my happiness and productivity.
In short: I value most the one thing that Academia is explicitly designed to minimize. My other values are fundamentally incompatible with my career path. I am a morally broken man. If I ever considered my PhD to be for academia’s sake, I have failed myself.
This realization, which I have revisited again and again, hurts. I am not who I thought I was, and this is why we’re up here at the top of the tree with it. I’m not sad. I’m not upset or angry. It goes deeper than that, and it will color my entire year.