Friday, March 26, 2010

Searching high, searching low

The other thing that has been keeping me - and us - busy is the job search.

I am in the 2nd year of a post doctoral fellowship. This means that I am now on the market for tenure-track faculty positions. Which, to be honest, scares the living you-know-what out of me. Seriously. Me? On faculty? With responsibilities and expectations and all that sort of thing? Yikes!

I can't quite figure out sometimes how I got here - how I got from the nerdy freshman in college who (despite studying lots and lots and lots) didn't ace the mid-20s practitioner who finally found her the 30 year old who loves academia so much she doesn't want to now, when I stand on the edge of a whole new part of my professional life.

It's a little scary, to be honest.

I have spent the last month+ selling myself to four different schools in four different cities, in an effort to find the best match - for me and for them. It's been more enjoyable but also a lot harder than I ever imagined it would be.

Option 1 is my current home - the place where I earned my degree (albeit long-distance); the place where I am completing my fellowship. It's a comfortable and nurturing place. I don't doubt that I would do well here...and that we would have the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed (small town setting; university town; Midwestern; etc.). But - in the middle of all this good stuff - the thought comes creeping in that this might not be the *best* place for me to launch my career. Nurturing needs to be balanced with opportunities...and I'm not sure that the opportunities here are the best for me.

Option 2 is closest to most of our friends. It's a school in the Northeast, but it has a very different philosophy and make up than the other schools I am considering. I would be in the minority there - most people focus on things other than straight-up research (which is what I do). That, and the fact that the students were almost universally referred to as "challenging", make this option fall down a few spots on the list.

Option 3 is a vibrant urban school with lots of energy and possibilities. It's also my alma mater for my undergrad degree. Which means there is a lot of emotion and other "stuff" tied into this one, as well. I loved my interview day here - it was busy, but challenging, and I could see how I would fit. On the downside? Very very urban. Our way of life would likely change significantly. And I don't know how I would do back on the East coast, in a *city*. I know, wimpy. Also - while the school has some nurturing qualities (we want you to succeed!) it is also cutthroat and competitive. I could not be a shrinking violet here - I'd have to grab on and, well, lead the way. As cheesy as that sounds.

Option 4 is kind of a weird blend of options 1 and 3. It's in an urban area in a mostly rural state. It is in the Midwest. But it's not a typical big university - it's a small university, in an urban setting. The options there are intriguing...but again, I'm not sure the fit is right. This one is more similar to option 2 in terms of how I would *fit* there. And that is becoming increasingly important to me as I sort through these options.

So, what am I going to do? Oh, right! I'm married! I have to consider my husband's needs, concerns, and wishes, too. And the dog's. ;) I have no idea right now which option will come out on top. None. I want my husband to have options wherever we end up, as well, and that is one big drawback to option 1. But he loved option 2, which isn't the best choice for me. *sigh* So there will be lots of conversation and back and forth and thinking.

And, of course, I only have an offer from option 1 at this point! I might be putting the cart before the horse, as there are no guarantees that I will be offered positions at the other schools.

So, ponder ponder.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What, exactly, are we trying to prevent?

So, the other thing I have had on my plate the last few months is our decision to use more...long-term (I don't like the term "permanent") birth control.

Yes, that seems completely counterintuitive. We can't get pregnant (despite multiple attempts), so we probably don't *need* to use something. And why on earth wouldn't we welcome a child who results from an unplanned pregnancy?

Except that is one of my biggest fears right now - the unplanned pregnancy.

To be honest, about 50% of this is fear regarding my professional life. I am starting a new - and potentially very stressful - phase in my career. I will be getting on the tenure track. And, depending on where I choose to start my career, I will be going up for tenure in 6 short years. Six. Years.

Granted, most places are quite equitable now, in terms of granting time off the tenure clock, reducing teaching expectations for new parents, and that sort of thing. But. But. But. Given my personality - my perfectionist tendencies - and the possibility that we may be moving back to A Big City (depending on which jobs I am offered, and which one I choose)...well, it's just not the best time for us to have an unplanned pregnancy.

The other 50% of the fear is due to the fact that I am not exactly following recommendations for women who are trying to get pregnant. I like a glass of wine with dinner - or a beer with lunch on Saturdays. I am careful but not overly so about what products I use. I am not in the careful mindset of someone who is thinking about gestating a growing embryo/fetus/child. And I have seen too many things go wrong to risk an unplanned pregnancy *when I am making potentially unhealthful choices for a growing embryo*. Note that I didn't say they're not unhealthful choices for ME - there is always room in my life for a glass of wine. But I do not want to...what's the word...stick a kid with these choices. It's not fair. I'm more careful than that.

And, a teeny tiny part of me - maybe bigger than I'm giving it credit for - is due to the emotional impact of being infertile-yet-not-giving-up-hope. It's the part of me that thinks, yes! I *could* be one of the lucky ones! And to be honest? Having that hope every.single.month, and then losing that hope every.single.month (or, to be honest, again - every 21-25 days) was wearing on me. I know people deal with that for longer than I did. But to have my hopes dashed every think that THIS TIME, it might have worked? I couldn't deal with that any more. Particularly given the potential for the time on the tenure track (wow, that was alliterative) to be emotionally difficult in other ways. It's not fair to me - or to my husband - to add hope (and despair) over failed conception to the mix.

We decided that an IUD would be the best move. I'm not yet ready to jump into something permanent - who knows what could change in a few years??? But this is the next best thing. It's relatively mindless. I don't have to take something every day. The hormonal effects are local, not systemic. So, good choice all around.

I spent the insertion talking about our infertility and the choices we had made with the attending and the nurse, while the resident placed the IUD. That was interesting...I've become much more adept at talking about it, even when I don't want to.

But the aftermath...good grief. The same part of me that thought "maybe we'll be one of the lucky ones!" also thought "maybe I'll be one of the people who has no bleeding, no cramping, and no periods!" Um, yeah. No. Cramping for a week+. Bleeding now for a week+. Feeling like my insides were being twisted like a towel is wrung. Laughing at their suggestion of back up contraception for two weeks because, a) remember, I can't get pregnant? and b) why on earth would I want to have sex feeling like THIS????

My husband is overseas for a week or so, then working (as per usual) in the Big City until coming home for Easter weekend. We'll go to my in-laws' (sigh). So we'll probably be abstinent for most of a month after the insertion. Which is good. It''s a little icky right now. Here's hoping it gets better. The cramping has improved remarkably...I am hopeful that the bleeding is next.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Goodness, it is a small world out there. Particularly in my line of work. This has been really evident during the FOUR job interviews that I have been on in the last month+. I'm not complaining - no, really, I'm not. But it's kind of hilarious to realize that I have only really been in this part of my profession for...not quite 9 years? Actually - not even that. Let's go with 7 ish years. And I knew someone at every single one of these Universities. Now, that may be partly because I chose these places knowing that someone I know (and, generally, like) is already working there. Who better to give me the lowdown on what is actually happening there? But it was still kind of funny.

Also - people tend to know other people in my line of work (e.g., "Oh, I know [your advisor]! Please say hi when you get back home!). This should not surprise me - but it also serves as a reminder to a) never act like a jerk (not too difficult, I hope...) and b) never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, if I can help it, should I burn a professional bridge. And I do mean Never. Ever.

So, now I am juggling all of these options and trying to make a decision and making spreadsheets and pro/con lists and even lists of the intangibles, which, my God, who does that? I already have the gut feeling it will come down to choice A or choice B...but I need to get there in a couple ways - by going through the data, and by exploring how I felt when I interviewed at each place.

The problem is this - I know I could do great work both places. I know I would work with wonderful people. I know I would advance in my field. But choice B (which happens to be my alma mater) is just a little bit more than choice A. Choice A (which happens to be my current location) is a great school - but it's just a smidgen 'below' choice B on the ladder of most-influential-and-scary-places-to-do-good work. Also? Choice B - I would be one of the only people in my specialty. Choice A? I'd be (at least for the time being) with a group focused on that topic, and I would be one member of a team.

I've been likening choice A to a pair of yoga pants. They may not be perfect, but boy, are they comfortable. And they fit. And they flatter nearly everyone. And did I say that they're comfortable?

Choice B is like make up and high heels. Every day. Have I mentioned that I am *not* a makeup person in my personal life? My husband would laugh his head off if I characterized myself as such. But in my professional life? With all the weight that carries? Do I want to be at the place that forces me to be a little better than what I would be on my own? Do I (as an adviser said) go to the place where I can do the best science? or do I go to the place where I feel comfortable and happy?

AUGH...the choices. And this is just my opinion! Imagine how much fun this will be when my husband finally returns from overseas (work trip) and we sit down to work through this together.

I suspect lots of wine will be consumed.


The other aspect of all of this that I haven't really thought about is - that we don't have a really integrated network of friends here. So even if we went with choice A - the comfortable choice - I'm not sure how our lives here would play out in the long term.

I feel like I am constantly on the outside looking in with the people I have met since we moved here almost 2 years ago. The people I knew from before are now each other's best friends - they talk multiple times a day. I don't have the time or the patience for that -so I don't really begrudge them that. But how nice would it be to have a local best friend? Someone to meet for lunch, or shopping, or just getting out of the house? (I just typed "hose"....maybe I'm secretly Canadian?)

And I don't fit in with the neighborhood women - all married (well, I am, too) and with at least one child. Most have multiple children. And many stay home. So I don't really fit in with them, either. I mean, they're polite to me, but we have nothing in common that I can tell.

I'm not really connecting with many people on the Internets, either. In part because I am just naturally an introvert (comment on blog posts!?!?!? Why would I do that??) and in part because...well, it's more comfortable not to put myself out there.

So, I wonder. Would our lives change substantially if we stayed here? Probably not. Am I happy with that? I think I am.

Would our lives change substantially if we moved elsewhere? Probably not. We're introverts. We love each other's company. We don't mind not going out with people every 3rd weeknight and every weekend...But sometimes it gets lonely. I'm just not sure how to break out of my shell, whether it's here or elsewhere.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


So, a month or so ago, we had another one of our talks about birth control. I know this seems like an odd topic for a couple that can't get pregnant, no matter how much they try, but it's an important topic for us. We actually don't want an unplanned pregnancy. To be honest, I am not abstaining from all things that I should when pregnant (*cough* wine *cough*), and we are not at a point in our lives where an unplanned pregnancy would be a good thing (lots of time apart, busy work lives, extensive travel for the next 6 months, a likely job change for me, possible move...etc.). So. We decided that we should do something more than haul out a condom whenever we were enjoying each other's company, so to speak.

We were both tired of the condoms, and the fact that as a monogamous married couple, they seemed kind of...adolescent. I had been on the Pill for years and years and years. Loved what it did for my face...not so sure about the potential side effects of systemic hormones. Not to mention, I'm nearing the age barrier of 35, and I wasn't sure what the doc would say about that choice.

After consultation with my family doc (side note: I looove having a family doc, where I can discuss my father's new diagnosis of arrhythmia, my toenails with the possible fungal infection, and my long-term birth control choices all in the same visit), we decided that the IUD was going to be the best choice for us. Hormonal, yes, but long-term, reliable birth control, with localized hormones as opposed to systemic.

I scheduled the insertion and didn't think anything more of it.

Until I started scheduling my interviews. And realized that insertion came 3 days before interview #4 - the final interview. Gah.

I thought this would probably be no big deal. I'd had an HSG and other diagnostics for the infertility work up. This would be nothing.

Um, yeah. Well, it wasn't so bad the day of. I loaded up on Advil, took myself off to my appointment - after a stop at the office, because, you know, I was *there* - and made it through as a "rock star", per the attending's opinion.

And even over the next two days, it wasn't so bad. But, unfortunately, insertion coincided with the onset of (duh duh duh...) my period. And the cramps have - off and on - been almost incapacitating. I *never* get cramps this bad. And the bleeding has lasted almost a week this time. I knew that I would likely bleed more than usual. I was even prepared for weeks and weeks of off and on bleeding. But the cramps. My goodness. I don't think of myself as a wimp, but I really hope they are on the way out.


In other news, I'm trying to make peace with my face. Good grief. It's been *awful*. Philosophy products do NOT work for me. This I now know. My face has never been this bad.

So I woke up the other day, and thought, hm. Throwing all of these products at my face every day - benzoyl peroxide, retinol, salicylic acid - seems to make no difference. So, I decided to give it all up - except for washing my face, using retinol every night, and moisturizer. So far, actually, not so bad. It's certainly not *worse*. I started this on Friday - we'll see how it is in a week and a half.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


How is this even possible? That I haven't written here in more than a month? Argh...

So much to catch up many thoughts rattling around in my many decisions to make over the next few weeks. Not small ones, BIG, hard, difficult decisions.

We have already made some decisions regarding our reproductive future. Perhaps it wasn't the wisest decision I've ever made to make those decisions at the same time I am going through the job search and interview process. That might not have been the best thing for me - but the decisions were made, and we followed through on them, and now it is (almost) over. Except, of course, when the universe decided to laugh at me today, by having a friend (several years older, with a one-year-old conceived after 6 months and "lots of worry") tell me about her current pregnancy. She is due in August. I, personally, am not convinced that this is fair, but there isn't really anyone with whom I could lodge a complaint.

Who knows what decision I will make regarding where to work, and with whom, and whether we will have to move after settling so nicely into this community a few years ago. I could do desperately with some counsel regarding that decision - neutral, wise, helpful counsel - but I have managed to apply for jobs at the very places where my (within-specialty) mentors work. Which kind of precludes me contacting them for help in making the decision. So, argh to that, as well.

We are both so stressed and so anxious about where we will be living, what we will be doing, and how all of this will play out, that we are having some difficulty - not for the first time - being kind to each other, and supportive of what the other needs and wants at any particular time. Perhaps this is being exacerbated by distance? I knew the long-distance relationship thing (even for 3.5 days/week) was going to be difficult...but I didn't realize that it would alter our interaction patterns, and make it more difficult to get through these rough patches. There is something to be said for being in the same physical space to help get through difficult times.

And now it is springlike the 50s...with sunshine and warm breezes. We are, of course, supposed to get a rain/snow mix on Saturday, so it will not last forever. But for now, the dog is happily ensconced on his porch. The sun is shining. The kids are on spring break and are outside playing. And it is almost happy hour here in the land of difficult decisions. A glass of wine may not make everything better, but it is very nice to look forward to at the end of a long day....long week....long month.

I'll write about all these things in the next days. I just need to...gather...myself before I do. So many emotions, and hard choices, and indecision rattling around in my brain.