I have always made jokes about how I want to be a housewife after getting my PhD. A housewife with a PhD in Physics has a nice ring to it. I just recently celebrated my birthday (April baby) and I should admit that it wasn’t one of my happiest days. I woke up on my birthday last month and realized that I am 26. Everyone kept telling me how close I am to 30 after wishing me a happy birthday. Just the other day I was celebrating my 21st and thought to myself that I have all the time in the world. I was depressed half of the morning of my birthday and refused to leave the house. Finally, when I did leave the house, I tried to avoid as many people as possible who knew it was my birthday.
I always say that I have a fear of “adulting” but it never really occurred to me how serious this was until now. Everyone keeps asking me what I want to do with my life, sometimes I am honest enough and tell them I don’t know but they don’t believe me so instead I say I want to be an academic because that answer doesn’t have as many follow up questions.
I know I want to stay in academia and do a post-doc somewhere in Europe but I cannot seem to visualize myself in that situation. I am almost finished with my second year of PhD, this means that I am almost finished with this degree and will have to make serious life choices. Do I really want to stay in academia? Do I want to start a family? Do I want to get married? Do I even want to get a job? So many questions that I don’t have answers to.
I am at that point in my life where I cannot continue avoiding responsibilities by staying at school. I will definitely not start a completely new degree just to stay in school longer but at the same time, I don’t know if I want to leave school. I have repeatedly said that I want to stay in academia for the past 5 years that I can’t actually imagine myself anywhere else. At the same time, I can’t help question if this is really the right fit for me.
My friends and families around me are getting married, having babies, starting new jobs and building houses. I feel no pressure whatsoever to do the same which worries me a little, I feel like everyone has their lives planned out and then there is me. I’m just like “I wanna do a post-doc after my Phd”, I don’t know where, when or how but I am going to do it. People have detailed 10-year life plans, I don’t even have a detailed research plan for 3 years.
Growing up is difficult, especially since you realize along the way that not everything goes according to plan. Do we really know what we want to do with our lives or do we just go with the flow? Why can’t life come with a manual?
So my refusal to grow up is justified by all the unanswered questions I mentioned above but what are the reasons I feel like staying young is better? Well for starters, the responsibilities that come with growing up are too much. As a young person, the most you have to worry about is making sure you eat every day and remember to pay the rent. Even when it comes to the rent, if you find yourself without money that month, you can easily call home and cry your eyes out.
I have a rough idea of what is out there waiting for but at the same time, I feel like I don’t know enough to be out there. I know the best way to really know is to go out there and learn as you go but I don’t know if I’m ready to put myself out there. Every time I spend time with my mother/aunt and they tell me all the problems they have to deal with, I don’t know how they handle it all. I am scared that if I grow up “mentally”, I will have to start thinking about grown-up things. I will have to be more responsible for most aspects of my life. I am currently proud of the fact that I can walk into a grocery store and buy vegetables as part of the groceries. Am I ready to start worrying about utility bills and getting a payslip every month?
Honestly speaking, academia right now feels like the best option for young people like myself to be in. I know very few people in my life who actually want to stay in academia and for that reason, I keep them close because I need all the support I can get. Academia has flexible hours, allowing us to only work when we are most productive. As scared as I am about working, I am not scared about being an academic. I mean I hear academics complain about the admin that comes with the job and the endless frustrations of dealing with students but that doesn’t scare me as much as sitting in an office every day from 9-5pm writing reports.
I think I am ready to be open to the idea of “adulting”, after all, the clock is ticking (both biologically and approaching the submission deadline).