Not long ago, I was a depressed grad student, unlucky in love (still smarting after a few years even, from an engagement gone horribly wrong, and rebounding like a fool since then). I was working on a project which, due to my advisor’s rather cavalier misdirection, I had gotten thoroughly scooped on despite the insanely brutal amount of time and work I put into it. I was broke, and tired of that, and really a bit disenchanted with academia, which I had come to recognize was far from the pristine meritocracy I once thought it was. I also was facing the fat that I, though not entirely mediocre, was far from the highest echelon, and my chances of landing a good position in the Boston area that would last more than a few years at best (during which I would scrape by trying to pay skyrocketing Boston rents while earning under $35K a year) were not good enough to feel confident about it.
I talked to a friend, who invited me to come over to the dark side: Biotech. Ugh, I thought; repetative QC/QA assays you could train a monkey to do for the rest of my life, never to publish, never to speak, all my education (which I regretted bothering with more than a few times, since I figured it had cost me personally) an utter waste of time while I plod brainlessly through batch preps of restriction enzymes, or whatever those morons in industry do.
Boy was I wrong. I got a job at a great place that values basic research and discovery, working beside excellent scientists (some of them quite literally world-renowned in their field and many of them more than peers of my dreaded advisor), who are almost absurdly supportive of me and my career. I do interesting, original research, much of which has gotten published in high-impact journals with me as first or second author, and I have a lot of autonomy, plus the freedom to investigate some things just because they’re interesting (freedom I never expected, due to the denigrating comments of my erstwhile academic peers about industry science). I get to publish, travel, and present my work at good biomed meetings. I make a decent living for a change, and own my own place, despite the absolutely obscene housing market in Boston (which has made me house-poor, but happy not to be renting). I have weekends, real vacations, and was actually able to pay for a month-long trip to New Zealand with my own money. Oh, and I went to NZ on my honeymoon with a wonderful woman who is fun, lovely, smart, artistic, and nothing like any of the other women I ever was with, thank the luv gods.
If you asked me six or seven years ago if I would be OK, I’m not sure how I would answer. I’d probably say “I honestly don’t know; I’m afraid maybe not.” One good thing about having your life suck for a while: You really appreciate when it doesn’t. Mine doesn’t, and, if I’m fortunate, I don’t think it will change dramatically in the future, so long as I keep working hard and playing fair. Well, one change, maybe: My wife and I want a kid or two, so we’ll see how that goes. All in all, things are quite OK, and only getting OK’er. I hope to be able to continue saying that as long as I have breath to do so. We’ll see.