I remember being in my early teens, finishing up middle school, beginning high school, and thinking I needed to have it all figured out. That I knew what I wanted to be (in 9th grade I was going to be a meteorologist, math classes informed me otherwise). However, I was super stressed. I HAD to know. I remember my mom saying “I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.” I thought she was ridiculous. As I write this, recalling my mother’s statement, I know that she wasn’t that much older than I am at this moment – still figuring it out. Normal.
About a year ago, I read The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert. It was amazing, in content, form, and readability. A few months later I read Bonk by Mary Roach. Then it dawned on me, these women were WRITERS. They wrote books. Readable, informative, well-researched, awesome books – about science. I liked their books because I like science (I just don’t like math, yes I KNOW actual scientists need to be good at both, I read science writing. I don’t translate science into something readable. I am a consumer of science.)
What was interesting here is that these women are experts in their fields. They research, they write, they are awesome. Why can’t I do that – in my field? Well, I didn’t think this was a “for real” career path. Until I read Katie Guest Pryal’s article on The Chronicle about “freelance academics.” Uh, all the Yes in the world.
This is what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be an academic – but I won’t be let down if, after my PhD, I am unable to secure a tenure track position. I will still be an expert, I will still research, I will still write. And now, thanks to Pryal, I will still be able to get my research out there and be a part of the conversation.
Let’s keep it going! Reach further, grow farther, write more. Be who you are.