“You can do it. You CAN have it all.”
You can do it. You CAN have it all. That's all I really want to say, but I gotta tell you how. You just have to define the variable “It”. And “It” is truly a variable. “It” might change right in the middle of getting “It”. For me: “It” was a successful career in science and a lovely home life with my daughter and husband.
Before I had my daughter, I really wanted to be a professor. I loved the lab camaraderie, and I had an exceptional grad school experience. I was loving life! I had “It”. After becoming a mom and starting my postdoc, I was having a hard time understanding what I loved about science. I struggled with whom I was if I wasn’t “doing science”. I worried that I might spend 7 years as a postdoc and leave academia anyway. I tried changing labs. It didn’t help.
Most people I interacted with were jaded, and nothing felt good anymore. The clock was ticking, and I was losing my ‘religion’. I started to realize there was no rational reason to define success solely as being academic. One hot summer Friday, I overheard a couple older male professors talking about how one gave his wife $20 and told her to see a movie. He was spending the weekend in the lab. The other echoed his sentiments, describing how he would coerce his grad students to stay in lab all weekend “Hey, we have AC here!”.
Everyone told me to just get through “It” and that was when I realized this life no longer matched my idea of what it looks like to have “It” all. I wanted to see a movie with my family, so I left early that day and did just that. It felt good.
I ripped the academic band-aid off suddenly, getting a job in industry and leaving within 6 months of starting my post-doc. My advisors were not happy with me. I’m pretty sure they still aren’t, but I had to do what was right for me. I struggled for a couple years with my decision. I had to re-learn who I was.
I learned how much I needed a warm, fun, collaborative environment. I learned that I AM a “people person”. I read 12 books the first year I was out of the lab, FOR FUN. I joined a cover band. I started a volunteer organization. I spent more quality time with my daughter in 6 months than I had in 2 years. I took my family on vacation. I did shit FOR ME.
I also learned an incredible amount of clinical science and application of the science I was working on. I helped amazing, life-saving drugs come to market. I helped patients and physicians understand the treatments and trials they available.
I communicate about incredible science every single day and am valued by my colleagues and leaders in the fields I served. I now have time for projects that satisfy my creativity and need for supporting positive social change. I have non-science friends again. I redefined “It”. I continue to define “It” every day. And yeah. I have “It” all. So can you.