Thursday, March 7, 2013

Trying to decide if I'm ambivalent

  A recent article by Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker magazine examined audio recordings and advances in high-fidelity listening experiences. It's behind a paywall, but don't worry - understanding today's theme doesn't depend on understanding 3D sound. In the article, Gopnik explains a hard life choice he had to make to an old mentor, Albert Bregman. Here's Bregman's reaction: 

"'Oh,' he said, springing back up cheerfully. 'In that case, it doesn’t matter. If it’s a hard decision, then there’s always lots to be said on both sides, so either choice is likely to be good in its way. Hard choices are always unimportant.'"

  That quote made me so happy. And it's particularly relevant to my thoughts on a trip I was supposed to take today. I was off to Southeast Asia for three weeks for Science, and I was looking forward to it. I like to travel, and I hadn't been out of the country in over 3 years, and it was for Science. But at the same time I was NOT looking forward to being away from significant others, the coming of spring, or the stress and inconvenience of rough travel. So when civil unrest erupted in the area we were traveling to, I had to decide whether to push for going (come what may) or canceling the trip. In the end, my input wasn't needed - the situation was obviously too dangerous.

  It's also relevant as I try to figure out what to do in the fall. My applications were not fruitful for a professorship, and postdoc funding runs out in August. I agonized over emailing a contact about a new postdoc, trying to decide if I would rather be 'part-time' on another grant and have time to continue some of my thesis projects. Since I was agonizing, I realized I'd probably be happy with either one.
  As disappointed as I am about the positions, I do know one thing I'm not ambivalent about. I'm not teaching this semester, and I don't miss it. I get to mentor students through science outreach programs and the graduate program here, so I don't have to miss that. But it reinforces my thoughts that if I can get a job that doesn't involve teaching, I'll have no problem choosing that. Now if only that job would open up.

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