On New Year’s Eve, during a dinner party with a bunch of friends, we started discussing New Year Resolutions. One of our number offered his: to concentrate on making the most of this time of his life, not to worry too much about future plans and not allow this time to slip away without appreciating it.
We agreed that it was a fairly good one – something that we should all adopt.
Now, he works in a very different world to me, but it set me thinking. As a postdoc, I am on short-term contracts, I am dependent upon other peoples’ grants and, of course, my future in academia is far from certain. We all know the statistics. There aren’t many jobs, the competition is fierce and we have to work our fingers to the bone to get noticed. Whilst not an inaccurate portrayal, it’s a clichéd narrative.
If you speak to older academics, inevitably they tell you that the bit of their career that they enjoyed most was as an early-career researcher. It was a time when research was the focus; committees, reports for funding bodies and undergraduates were rare distraction.
And let’s be clear, research is pretty cool. We’re being paid to be curious, to investigate things that are fascinating, to push the envelop of human knowledge. This year, I have several embryonic projects that are very exciting. The first of these is taking over (for a few months) as research coordinator at the Living Links at Edinburgh Zoo. It’s a really exciting opportunity. How many other people get an office less than 10 metres away from a monkey enclosure in the middle of a zoo?
So, my resolution is that I am going to stop panicking (for a while at least) about my long-term plans are and enjoy myself. I shall try to grasp the opportunities that are offered to me and make the absolute most of them. I expect it to be hard work, but I also hope that it will be a lot of fun.