Finding the right path… but which?

I think I will get a bit out of track in this post since this is not completely “scientific career-oriented”, but it definitely has to do with the whole picture of how and why we ended up where we are now, and more importantly how we’re going to look at the future with optimism, wisdom and commitment.

I will be giving my own personal view, feelings and experience so far in my life about every aspect covered in this discussion/description. This is my own story, which may -and for the most part must- be different from so many others. However, I know I still might share a sense of belonging with people who struggle to define what their right path in life is.

To be honest I wish I had been born one of those gifted guys with some outstanding talent no one could ever miss just by looking at me and set that as the driver of my career, success and economic prosperity. Unfortunately, that has never been the case. I was born pretty regular, the usual-type of person with certain abilities -often more limited that what I would have enjoyed- but nothing too extraordinary. Regardless of this, life has had no mercy on me, and still threw tons of challenges in my way that I had to dodge the best I could, on the run. While this sounds like a bit childish and oversimplified it portrays the cornerstones of what it has truly happened. Having life urging you to take decisions on what path to choose for your future is not the problem… problem is: what is the path? Pretty simply answer I have heard so far: I, you, we, they don’t know! Pretty predictable answer as well, eh? But if no one knows, how is it that everyone looks so settled and successful? Am I being denied access to some information I can’t see by myself? Let’s talk about this.

I am positive that most of us have plans and projects for the years to come. I am certain that more than half the people I know and work along daily would simply die if they didn’t know what they’d do the day after tomorrow. It’s a human act, almost a habit to plan what comes next. It makes us feel we are in control of the situation -even when we are talking about giving direction to the course of our own existence- and know exactly what our next move will be. True enough though, when having to make an election of a career path things can turn a bit thicker -and stickier?- for some. I am among this “some” group.

For someone who sees my professional career -from an educational point of view- probably won’t have many doubts about what my expectations for a career are: scientific research, laboratories, papers, conferences, symposiums, grant applications, etc etc… understandable after all, for someone who has spent the last 9 years of his life studying science. Here’s the inflection point though: I am not totally convinced that research -for the sake of it- will make me happy and content the rest of my life. I have already said this in a previous post so moving on: finding a job and putting myself into the working force looks like the next big option. Well, let me tell you that for a recent grad student with the “deadly” specialization so carefully developed at university for years is simply NOT that easy. And as if this wasn’t enough, I have one more “detail” to add to the drama, I am not sure if working in this field is either what I want. I am getting tired of myself already writing all this. Why do you have to be such a complicated person buddy? -my inner self asks, frustrated-.

So this is me, a profusely curious person who has been fascinated by nature above all else, the complexity of life and the way science allowed us to understand some of that. However, in my passion for discovering and unveiling, I have found that I don’t seem to fit into any of the already existing systems: academic -from my own desire- or the biotechnological/pharmaceutical private fields -for lack of experience, lack of merit, incompetence, ignorance, lack of opportunity, fierce competition, you name it-. So question still remains and stalks me: what is my path? what am I gonna do with my life?

As I have been discussing with a wise friend lately, I define myself as someone who is all over the place. I love science and discovering, finding the answers to so many questions. It’s a driving force in my life, seen as a career path or not. That same curiosity though, has taken me to always be interested in other venues such as journalism and languages. My eager for knowing is so strong that I feel the need to learn a different language just to understand how others express their needs and how they see the world from their own perspective. To the same extent my passion for travelling fits the purpose here. If I were to choose something to do with limitless amounts of money, that would undoubtedly be travelling. Be a connoisseur of people and their customs, learning from their cultures, I find just as much passion in that as I do when I do cloning and expression of recombinant plant acid phosphatases in E. coli. My passion for communication and writing also fuses in this whole picture. I have developed a strong interest in social networks and social media communication in the past few years. I possess an account in almost every single social networking platform that exists. Complex combo, isn’t it?

To this point it all looks mixed up and hard to separate. However, something that I am sure about is that my main drive in life and what has taken me to pursue the majority of things I’ve done so far is: the need for knowledge, the hunger for getting to know more things better, the necessity of understanding systems and people deeper. So although I haven’t decided yet what the direction of my future will be like, I am sure that it will once more be led by some more exploring of the unknown to make it known.

Bottom line: a dilemma at the moment. Should I insist in pursuing a careers in science beyond the consistent rejection I have been facing from companies and organizations for landing a humble position within their teams? Or should I abandon my stubborn determination and explore these new corners?
What is your opinion? What are your stories? Have you ever met a scientist with interest in becoming a journalist with passion for travelling and social media communication? Do I stand any chance in pursuing such a transition move? I would appreciate hearing about your own experiences.

As I recently read in the famous Richard Nelson Bolles’s “What color is your parachute?”, in this convulsive world we live nowadays people are expected to change their career paths on average once every 10 years. This sounds kind of scary at the beginning, since a conservative side of our minds thinks of the stability and seniority. What about freedom though? Knowing that we count on the chance of reinventing our own reality once every decade tells us of the so many chances we have to get to know our likings so much better and finally decide what really interests and excites us. After all, this whole conundrum relies on the same old mistakenly-cliched “pursue of happiness”.


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