Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Scientiae Carnival: The Road Not Taken

The roads taken and not taken become a circuitous Bostonian labyrinth when your spouse follows the same tenure-track career path. Career and life become intertwined, and decisions on who works where, and whose job is more important become family ordeals. I am happy right now, and I like our life. I fear what changes lay ahead simply because the results are unknown.

Let us examine the past. Mr.JP was looking for a TT job just as we were beginning to date. He was a post-doc and I was a 3rd year grad student. He received a job offer at a place very far away, and he turned it down because our relationship was becoming more serious. We became engaged. Later he secured a TT job at a closer place, we married, and lived apart for two years. I finished my PhD while he began his career. What if... he had taken the first job offer? What if... we didn't manage our two year separation? But we did manage. I found a post-doc and TT job in the same geographic area, we moved in together, and had a baby.

And the current. I am in my second year at the TT job, and I like it here very much. He is up for tenure at his own place, and he can't stand his University. Mr. JP is a star and is considering a change of environment.

And let us examine the future. There are so many roads that I try not to think about any of them. But here are the possibilities. 1. Mr. JP stays at his University, after being promoted and negotiating for better compensation - my life would not change. 2. Mr. JP comes to my university - my life would change, but we wouldn't have to move. 3. Mr. JP secures a tenured job elsewhere, and I tag along - this would cause the greatest upheaval. 4. This option is unacceptable - Mr. JP secures tenured job elsewhere and I stay here at my University.

Roads 1 and 2 would be fine. We wouldn't have to move, and Sparky would continue as is at his day care. Our set of friends would remain constant. Road 3 could be the best for our careers, but it would have many issues alongside: i) I would switch Universities half way to tenure, ii) We would have to move with a young child, iii) We would have to make new friends. Long term, Mr. JP would likely be happy elsewhere, which would make our family happy, so options 2 and 3 are nice. The last big decisions in our lives were based on me, so it is his turn to shine. Because these processes are slow, I don’t expect to have any real answers for a long time.