Right Attitude

Radhika Nagpal's recent essay "The Awesomest 7-Year Postdoc or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Tenure-Track Faculty Life" is an optimistic musing about an intelligent approach to a high-stress job. (Full disclosure up front: the author is now a professor at Harvard, so some may feel that the positivism in her essay has not been properly tested. OK, but that doesn't make it wrong!) Nagpal, a mother and computer scientist, describes her work ethic and observes:

Most people I talked to seemed surprised. Several of my close friends challenged me to write this down, saying that that I owed it to them. They told me that such things were not done and were not standard. That may be true. But what is definitely true, is that we rarely talk about what we actually do behind the scenes to cope with life. Revealing that is the scariest thing of all.

I've enjoyed my seven years as junior faculty tremendously, quietly playing the game the only way I knew how to. But recently I've seen several of my very talented friends become miserable in this job, and many more talented friends opt out. I feel that one of the culprits is our reluctance to openly acknowledge how we find balance. Or openly confront how we create a system that admires and rewards extreme imbalance. I've decided that I do not want to participate in encouraging such a world. In fact, I have to openly oppose it.

So with some humor to balance my fear, here goes my confession:

And yes, "Revealing that is the scariest thing of all" is spot-on. So is striving to achieve balance in one's life. Nagpal's seven rules, in brief:

All good, but note especially I try to be the best "whole" person I can and I have fun "now" — great wisdom!

^z - 2013-08-03