Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Don't be afraid to ask questions

Fear of asking questions/fear of knowing the answer is probably my biggest fault, but it's a victimless crime.  If you don't ask, no one can say no-- this cowardly philosophy has been at the center of some of the worst stories in my life.  I get upset sometimes when I see how many years I've put my life on hold for my spouse, like it was some great secret that a PhD is a drawn-out process.  I never would just straight-out ask, "How many years do you think this will take?" "Have you actually applied for any jobs yet?"

Sometimes I'm afraid to ask a question because someone may have already told me the answer, but I've forgotten.

But today, after fruitless searching for blogs to reassure or guide me, I was still finding nada.  It's still all academic couples and moms.  No offense to either group, but that's not the voice I need-- at least not right now.  I started following a few blogs that are written by post-doc scientists, mostly women, to see if I could glean anything from that perspective.  For science, feminism, and ladies round-about my age who are kicking ass in real careers, and role models, this list has been great:

Academic Jungle
The Adventures of Notorious PhD, Girl Scholar
Canadian GirlPostdoc in America
Female Science Professor
Liberal Arts  Lady
The Two Body Problem

I emailed the Notorious PhD and asked a question: have you heard of anyone out there like me, and do they have a blog?  I felt a little forward doing that, but it's not like I was going to run into her at a party and be embarrassed.  Later in the day, I saw a new post from that blog show up in my RSS, and it was my letter!

Notorious herself didn't have any ideas, but she posed the question for her readers, and there was a good response.  People wanted to know where my blog was!  I got my question answered, and I won't lie and say I wasn't excited that someone besides me could be reading my posts.

I haven't had a chance yet to look through the suggestions, but I'll post about them once I do.  This was a good day.  One said that maybe I couldn't find the right stuff because I wasn't technically a trailing spouse yet.  (An issue of not having the right vocabulary-- or maybe it doesn't exist?)

p.s. A well-known librarian, who I work with, let me know he would give me his full support if I wanted to go to library school, and he would write me a rec letter.  That made me feel genuinely good, and I tried to take the comment without effacing myself.  I just wish that people believing in me equalled me believing in myself.  I'm getting there.


  1. Glad to be of help. And I think that Historiann's comment over at my space is a good one: right now, you're willing to trail for a while because you haven't got a career you're committed to yourself. But finding a path for yourself, regardless of location, is going to be essential to your long-term happiness.

    (And by "finding a path," I don't mean you should give up the plan of following your partner. But you need to have a place and a path, metaphysically speaking. If your partner is a good one, you should expect that s/he will support your goals as much as you support hi(r)s.)

  2. I wandered over here from Notorious Ph.D.'s post. I was around your age I started getting frantic to do more with my life. I had a job I enjoyed but it paid like crap and prospects for advancement were limited. Ten years later I'm still in grad school. But it took me several years to gain the confidence to go for it. Librarians are awesome. (Just saying, since you mentioned library school.) I think the important thing is to find your own path, not feel pressured to "keep up" with anyone. Two academics as a couple is actually a big problem. Most jobs outside academia or even non-TT jobs in academia are more flexible than two people both going for the TT. An advanced degree isn't what makes you smart and talented. Academia or not, you should find the path that works for you. I'm speaking from my own experience and those of my friends who have non-academics as spouses. My husband is a much better writer than I am and often edits my work. Sometimes I think he feels pressure, like they way to prove he is smart is to go to grad school.

  3. Through this blog and my other new distraction/pursuits, I'm figuring this out. I'm pretty sure now that I don't need to go to grad school, but that I might want to get a differnet undergraduate degree someday.

    I've always known it would be a huge drag to have a dual-academic relationship (job/location-wise) but sometimes I wonder if I use that excuse as a reason I didn't try to pursue a graduate degree, maybe because I didn't *want* to go back, and needed an excuse? I find it hard sometimes to trust my decisions. There's always some other reason I can find.


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