Today, Tuesday the 26th of July 2011, marks the beginning of my final month as a post-doc.
I say that with some pride but also a little sadness. My new job will be the beginning of a new era and one that I look forward to with excitement, but it will also mark the end of something. The end of a phase when I have had, at least in theory, the most freedom. Freedom to do research, to make decisions without the constraints of needing my work to fit together within the narrative of a thesis and yet also freedom from academic responsibilities. I’ve taught quite a few students over the last six years but it’s always been my choice to do that, I was always free to say no.
As my very wonderful mum taught me as a child, what shines the brightest light also casts the darkest shadow, and the flip side of that freedom is that it’s easy for post-docs to feel ignored or unsupported. Somehow not quite fitting in to the academic structure, no longer students but not really staff either. I’ve been very fortunate in having a great mentor who has given me some space to explore and enjoy the freedom but who was still there to support and encourage me when I needed it.
Whilst it’s good to focus on the positive and remember the good things, it’s not good to let the rose tinted glasses cloud our vision too much. I’d be lying if I said the whole six years were wonderful and I never felt ignored or frustrated. There have been good days and bad, frustrations and anger, despair and even a few tears along the way, just as I am sure there will be in my new job.
I started this post saying I look forward to my new role with excitement and I do, but I also look forward with some trepidation, am I really up to the job, juggling so many balls and having so much responsibility. Not to mention becoming the principal investigator, I’ll have to make the decisions about my research and I will succeed or fail by them. This is unknown territory for me but it’s not unchartered water I’m sailing into, others have been there before me and I won’t be alone.