Saturday, February 03, 2007

Could this be the winds of change?

I let the deadlines slide. You may recall my new coach requested a laundry list of responses from me on short deadlines that I simply couldn't keep. I had hoped to get him something by last night, but as you might imagine from my last post, I was in no mood to do anything entailing thought at the point I arrived home. In fact, all I could muster was to grab a beer from the fridge and sit... That felt good enough after a while to join my family for dinner. My wife cooked.

I sent Paul a note this morning that I'd get him responses tonight... and I will. As you will see, I've got something to discuss.

On the drive to my language class yesterday, I pulled out one of my audio recorders set it for dictate and had a go at answering one of Paul's questions:
Send me a list of any type of paying work you are willing to pursue while you pursue your career in academia before we talk on Monday.
You know, a little question like that. Any type of work. What would I do? I started to speak. Must confess, the process of thinking out loud into a recorder seems so much more unnatural to me than sitting at the keyboard (or a notebook) and writing. Funny that, isn't it? Writing is rather not the earlier evolutionary development. But then, there is the question of thought. Do we think in speech? Surely not. But that's another point entirely.

What would I do? On the intake survey, he asked:
If you could wave a magic wand and create the perfect situation for yourself as a professional and as a person, what would it look like?
To which I replied:
I would have great freedom in my choice of direction, which projects to move ahead on. I would be involved in efforts to advance our understanding of human behavior, and toward making the world a better place. I would be surrounded by intelligent and engaged colleagues, who could be called up for their expertise, to answer my questions, or to collaborate with on projects. And I would likewise be called up to assist them with my own expertise. I would have sufficient funding and stability that I wouldn't fear to attempt longer term projects that might exhibit a degree of risk of failure, but nonetheless promised a great deal in terms of payoff to society.
As I sat in the car, assaulting my recorder with hesitating words um... uh.... I thought about some of the grants I had been so long ago thinking of applying for. There was also an NPR mention of a relatively new program of one of their major sponsoring foundations. When I recovered from the commute, I did a little web (and hard drive) searching.

In the midst of searching, I came across a brief article (a press release of sorts) on the website of a large, well-established corporate giant, dealing with an ongoing research program that meshed almost exactly with an idea I have for practical applications in the world of the research that most excites me.
There are roughly 100 [Corporation Name] [Field] researchers worldwide.
My best guess is there are somewhere between 300 and 3000 workers worldwide in this area of research inside and outside of said corporation, not likely more. Could I join their ranks? I want to make a difference. I want to do exciting, interesting work. I want to be able to sit at a dinner party and unabashedly discuss what I do for work, with a sparkle in my eye, and welcome their inevitable wows and that's fascinatings.

I think of my dear friend Tracy's recent reflections on being a college professor:
Perhaps it should worry me that none of the things I really love to do have anything to do with academia, but it honestly doesn't. The world of academia is the world of my job -- what I do to earn an honest living. My passion is not there. My passion is here. And I suppose that's OK.
Indeed, it is. I think my wife is a lot like Tracy. She's got an honest job, which she is good at, but about which she isn't passionate. It is also OK that I want to be passionate about my work. I don't want it to take away from my family (which I confess my current obsession with not having such work probably does), but as my wife recently reflected in response to a relayed inquiry from my coach:
Now, your ideas and dreams are extremely valuable. They are what make you the man I fell in love with, they are what make you Articulate. I love to share your ideas and dreams with you.
I am not one who compartmentalizes well. I am who I am; I wear my heart on my sleeves. And frankly, those who like me must like me that way.

So, I sat looking at this article/press release, and started dreaming about getting a job at their research site. Convergences. That's what I often seek in life, like signposts pointing me in a particular direction. The research campus for this work is in a region I have often considered ideal. There's good prospects for the Rocket Scientist to work about 20 or 30 miles away.

Okay, slow down. That's what I tell myself. Look before you leap, because I'm a leaper. We'll see. But I have discovered that, despite my ignorance, there is a name for the work, a field (more in corporate research than in academia), and a possible direction for me to head, one which seems to promise all those things I seek. The big fear I have now is that it might require more training for me to become marketable in the field. But we'll see. If I could get even a low-level job in the field with benefits for additional training...

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