Elisabeth

Lasting indecision

13 posts in this topic

Once more I'm in need of a third-person view and little nudge from forum people :)  Also, I'm just writing things out to process.

I'm facing lasting trouble deciding what to do with my career & life in general. I was thinking whether I should post in the life-purpose section, then I decided the problem is more general. 

I'm 31, female, studied theoretical physics, currently in the process of writing a phd thesis, a few more months to go. Not sure what to do next. I have a partner whom I'd consider kids with, but we may not be quite ready.

A few options come to mind as ... let's say simple, but not easy (or at least, socially approved of). 

1) Try applying for postdoc, go abroad.

Pros: Possibility to continue in science. Change. Cons: Pressure to perform all around & I don't feel like I have enough skill to offer. Job insecurity, high failure rate. My partner has commitments here and can't come with me. Overall feeling: Scary, insecure, unrealistic. Giving up everything for... work I don't love enough.

2) Leave science, go to the private sector. IT/data analysis is where people usually go to with my educational background.

Pros: Using my analytical skills. Money. Relative job security. Change, trying new stuff. An environment conducive to learning practical skills. Cons: I never really liked IT, in fact I tried to avoid it as much as I possibly could in physics. Overall feeling: Mildly interesting if I can overcome my learning blockages in IT.

3) Have kids asap.

Pros: I won't get too old to have kids. Cons: I'm not sure if I even want kids - I'm leaning "yes", but I have some emotional blockages which could play a huge toll on me when I take on the caregiver role. + It's putting off the career/life purpose problem. Overall feeling: Hard to even access feelings about this option. 60% potential to enrich my life, 30% to ruin it entirely. 

This is what I was considering, but I'm now aware, I don't feel excited about any of these options. Trouble is, if I want to pursue them, I have to take action now.

I was also thinking of switching fields entirely and go work with people, in a therapeutic setting or otherwise, but 1) it would take a lot of time to transition and 2) I feel like if I did that, the analytical part of myself would be unfulfilled. I've explored the "working with people" direction with doing self-actualization / sharing groups. The one I started with my friends is still running successfully. Our trial to make the same concept public failed miserably.

I did do the life-purpose course, but I never really figured out an impact statement that I'd be happy with. I do have a few pointers though (not just from the course, but also from my work experience): 

  • I want to use both my analytical skills & my empathetic people-focus skills 
  • connection (be it connecting people, or ideas) is important to me (https://www.actualized.org/forum/topic/28562-first-shot-at-life-purpose/)
  • discovery, pushing the limits of human knowledge, and also the beauty of abstract ideas is the part of science that I love
  • my biggest struggle in life (that I partially overcame) I call isolation (loneliness, feeling different, depression, inability to connect)
  • so far, I needed to interact with people who are interested in my work to get motivated
  • I want my days to be varied, part-time interacting with people, part-time quiet introverted analysis or writing

Overall (tl;dr): I'm being called to action by my life-circumstances, but I have no idea what action to take next. I've already introspected a lot, yet I struggle to see any direction in life which would get me excited & I'm unable to decide in favor of a direction. Also, I don't have enough info/experience, so analysis by paralysis is a thing. Most of all, everybody keeps telling me that it has to be my decision and that I can do "whatever I want" in life, but it's hard to even get in touch with the feeling that I want something as soon as it's one of these big life-changing decisions. 

What I'm asking about is not really what direction to go. What I need is to go meta to see and deal with whatever blockage there is in my decision-making. Help? 

Edited by Elisabeth

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I'll be happy for any insights, even if it's "I used to have that too"

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I have a kind of meta view, which may or may not be useful.

I don't have children but most of my close friends do, and know that at least the first few years will require full time attention from you. That will be limiting but not impossible to do other things with. Also, most of my friends had their children in their late thirties. There were complications in some cases and miscarriage, most probably due to age. Some have even required IVF. But the children that survived are all happy an healthy. Children can wait at least a few years. Having children is a huge lifelong commitment - start when you're ready, not before.

I guess if you go for option 1 then how much time is the postdoc going to take? If a year or two, then it is probably worth doing even for its own sake and interest even if not for improving employment chances. Living abroad will also give you new experiences which is always beneficial to your own development.

For option 2 it seems as though you're not that invested in it, other than it may be lucrative and stable. I would say that you could find other jobs what give the same benefits and that you would find more interesting. It just requires more research and investigation on your part - take time to do it.

Of course there is absolutely nothing stopping you from doing all of 1, 2 and 3 - probably in that order.

And lastly, are these options real or just apparent? Do you have to do any of them? And if not, then what other choices could you make?

 


Don't eat soup with chopsticks. Pick up the bowl and drink.

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This can be a tough decision with many options to choose from. Your at a important time in your life with many crossroads. However, you are not bounded to these three options. You have infinite options. There is bound to be a near-perfect, excellent option. Now let's get into it. There seem to be two major considerations here, children and career / purpose. 

Let's start with children. A lot of this, would be more research and developing confidence, certainty (in whether to have children or not have children, and at what time)

First, an idea to consider. I would say

  • Learning, discovering and having a life purpose (even if it's a draft, just an idea), working toward it for a while, then after pausing (or really slowing down) for children (the early years) and coming back to life purpose afterwards

Is better than

  • Having/raising children then saying "alright now let's get started on this life purpose stuff"

There are some caveats. The older someone is, practically speaking, they may want to start having children sooner, so the second option might be more optimal (considering fertility and healthy childbirth). Another thing to consider is when would you not want to have children, when would be this whatever "limit" (considering fertility, healthy childbirth, energy, etc.) For my mom she had her first child at 27 and last child (as of right now haha) at 39 years old. This can be entirely different for different people. However the hard limit, at menopause, would be around 40s - 50s. With the average age in US being 51, according to the Mayo Clinic. 

It might be that during times of a child's early life, that life purpose will be slowed down for a while. This might even give you a break to think and contemplate on your life purpose. So another relevant thing to consider would be how many children do you want? (If you did end up having children, would it be just one?). The amount of children you would want to have, if you did have some would be crucial in this decision. If you would want to have multiple children, however many years apart (like maybe 9 months or 1 year or 2 year or 5 years or whatever amount of years) then having children earlier rather than later would be in your favor.

It also may be (or probably is) the case that as a mother (traditionally and, even naturally, the caregiver) you have it more difficult, therefore immense time management and prioritization (at different times or phases of life) would be essential. Consider how and how much the father would be in play, helping with the caregiving.

It would probably be best to research people (or to be frank, mothers) who have had children and life purpose aswell. Research, learn, contemplate, ponder this option, how and if balance can be achieved.

Although, likely no one is 100% certain that they want to have kids. I would say, at minimum, be around 70% certain for making this major life decision. This would mean researching, pondering, contemplating and learning to have greater certainty in what you want (just as if someone who was ending high school but uncertain to go to college should research to solidify their certainty rather than letting life just pass by). It does sound that you aren't within the certainty range (70%~, keep a mind this is a number I pulled this out of nowhere) of having kids. However, still research, ponder to increase your certainty, confidence in whatever decision you choose. 

Another very important factor, is one you will have children with, the father. Consider how will this family you are starting with him be, whether you want him as the father of your children, etc. Having children, seems almost certainly, most of the time, best under a longterm relationship. (Although, I haven't done research about alternatives, I  think it's safe to assume this is the case) Whether you want to have a long term commitment with the father is an important point. Also whether the father wants to have children is a factor to consider to, haha. Totally forgot about that.

Consider, from what I have touched, the factors of 

  • To have or not have children?
  • When to have children?
  • Who to have children with?
  • Do they want to have children?
  • How many children to have?

All these factors doesn't mean "oh I'm uncertain let me not do anything" but "I'm uncertain, let me figure out, with a certain level of certainty, what I want and let me pursue that". Reseach, ponder, contemplate, learn and figure out, discover what you want in terms of children. This is arguably as essential, or possibly even more important then life purpose (If you are having children). Kids are huge commitment but, it seems, they can also provide massive value to your life. 

Now for career / purpose (+ finances).  It's important to note finances, career and passion/purpose don't have to be the same thing. Someone can be earning money through stock dividends and a part-time job while working toward a career in school, while figuring out and developing their purpose and passion on the side. While, this may not always be the case, it seems important to note. However, I would say, ideally someone's career would be the same as their passion/purpose. For finances, this could be a different story. Someone could be financially free or developing other forms of income while working in a less profitable purpose/passion. 

With that in mind, I would say continue to discover. Don't compartmentalize finances as a part of your career/employment. While career/employement can be a major part of your finances (and cashflow) it doesn't have to be. Although, as someone with (a soon to be) doctorate in theoretical physics you likely have an interest (or even passion) in the field and with the skills/value you can provide - you will have no trouble with finances. 

I would say, ideally it doesn't so you can 100% focus on purpose/passion and to hell with anything that isn't align with it. (This may be my own preference/opinion though). This would also mean financial freedom, which is something you might want to pursue.

Furthermore, note that you aren't limited to those 2 options. Unlike children, where it's fewer options, with career and employement there are atleast hundreds, if not thousands of jobs and options out there. And considering all the paths, subpaths, combinations, nuances and unconsidereds options, it's like there are "infinite" options. I would make an extensive list of all the jobs, fields, locations, passions, purposes you can go into. Consider all the places you could go. Consider all the fields you can go into. Consider all the jobs you can pursue, whether it's private, government, academia, non-profit, etc. You may not find "infinite" practical options but it's way more than 2 options. If you haven't found an atleast decent option, you haven't considered enough options. 

  • What are all the potential jobs, careers, positions, fields, domains locations, passions, purposes, options?
  • What are the motivations, the why for each option? Why would I, what would be the benefits of each option?
  • Do you have to do post doc abroad? Where could you go? What locations could you do postdoc (or other jobs/positions for that matter)?
  • What other careers/fields (other than IT/Data Analyst) can you go into? What skills do you have? (Theoritcal physics is a extremely reputable major especially as a doctorate, you probably have access to an abundance of fields)

Possibly feel into, intuit but also examine, consider more "logically" how you would feel, what you would experience. Use both the emotion and the logical for a wise approach (And whatever else)

Ask and figure out why you would do each decision. What are the motivations 

Exploration/ Self-Experimentation are key to discovering what you want to do. And as you mentioned you do have an idea of what you want, from previous experience. I would say take this further and actively experiment (or continue on, if you were already consciously experimenting before). Treat the next career/job you go into as active experimentation while also using prediction and what you currently know. A process utilizing your current knowledge to predict but also seeking further experimentation to clarify what you want. While likely less revealing, experimentation on the children option is possible aswell. In addition to talking to others (and researching and contemplation), you can hang around kids, work with kids. You can also psuedo-experiment by imagining, visualizing and contemplating deeply what it would be like, what all the implications, delights and ramifications of having children. But I digress

In terms of career/purpose, for the options you have given,

If you have a significant relationship with your partner, it may be challenging to go abroad. Consider, that unless this is known to be temporary and shortterm, this may put you on entirely different life paths and the relationship may not survive. This really depends, like on how long the relationship has been, if you have been long distance before, your partner, etc. (I don't know shit about your relationship so to be honest I can't even say shit but consider the ideas above.) You might want to heavily consider other options (like for the postdoc option,  a postdoc where you are, nearer where you are, or somewhere he can go, etc.). Or, if this resonates at all, going along different paths  if you know your path forward is abroad and he cannot come.

Notice you can switch paths at any time (well practically, not at anytime but you know what I mean). If you don't like postdoc, you can go into industry. If you don't like industry you can go into postdoc. (However this doesnt apply to children haha). I consider this option of career/purpose to be extremely flexible, and uncommitting as opposed to the children option. That may be something that eases the decision.

As for the paths you mentioned, if those are your main options, you can go for a postdoc (either abroad or not) or industry (whichever one you lean more toward) experiment with that, and if after a month it isn't the option you like, it seems, you can just as easily turn around and do the other. It seems, that you can do this for most any career/job option.

From what I understand, my very limited knowledge, the therotical physics options are primarily research, government, academia and private sector. Consider which at of all these you would want to go in most. Also discover, further what exactly you want out of your life purpose. Research, study, experiment what you want your life purpose to be. With this limited time, you must make a decision, or the decision to put the decision on hold (like take the option with most flexibility). 

A lot of the factors you mentioned like caring/analytical balance (both empathy, people-focused skills and analytical skills), connection, interaction with passionate people and variety are factors that can be in a plethora of domains and fields. This can be considered a good thing, as that means you have alot of freedom in what you choose. This can also mean, you should narrow down the fields/domains you would be most interested in (which it seems would be physics / therotical physics but it may not be this, and doesn't have to be). You mentioned some more specific pointers like whether you would want to go into science, whether you would want to go into people-focused / therapeutic type field. Furthermore, your biggest struggle of isolation (depression, inability to connect, loneliness, etc.), consider whether you want to work surrounding that. Also realize you don't have to do work surrounding or associated with that. You also mentioned something that interests you, pushing the limits of human knowledge, the beauty of abstract of ideas. From my very limited knowledge of you, here is some random purpose ideas to consider

  • Expanding the collective minds and science to the next level, opening up people's perspectives to consciousness or different ideas, from within the framework of science, dismantling the flaws of science and science itself from the inside, evolving science to the next level, supercharging, super-evolving science to have centuries of evolution in the next decades, ideas, pursuits similar to Nikola Tesla, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Max Planck, bringing the full implications of quantum mechanics and different  theoretical physics to light, bringing practical applications to the ideas of theoretical physics, increasing human knowledge, advancements in theoretical physics, physics, science, knowledge to improve society, the world, everything,

Those are just random ideas to consider. Your purpose doesn't have to have anything to do with that (as I likely don't have to tell you)

Try to truly discover what you would want to go into (or experiment with). That life purpose, or idea/draft of your purpose, would inform your next step in terms of career/purpose.

With children, you can really only predict/assess and develop confidence/certainty in whatever you want. With career/purpose, in addition to prediction/assessment, you can experiment, consistently tailor and fine tweak your purpose and path until you find what is best, excellent and optimal. Therefore, it may be best to focus on and highly consider the children option before career/purpose.  

However, everything I said are just ideas and speculation as I barely know anything about you. I do think it may be possible to find a sort of "objectively" best decision but this would be based on impersonal knowledge (what most humans desire, what is best for most people, what certain truths are, what happiness is, what the good life is, all in general) and personal knowledge (knowing your preferences, desires, experiences, thoughts, insights, self-understanding). It seems, most of the time people can't have enough of the personal knowledge that it would be unwise to claim a best decision. That is why everything I said is suggestions but based on what I would say, from my imperfect knowledge, are impersonal truths. Consider them as ideas, potentialities and suggestions. 

However, there is a path forward. It consist of research and learning, intuition and contemplation and (sometimes) exploration and experimentation into what is best.

Edited by AlphaAbundance
Clarification

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7 hours ago, LastThursday said:

I would say that you could find other jobs what give the same benefits and that you would find more interesting. It just requires more research and investigation on your part - take time to do it.

And lastly, are these options real or just apparent? Do you have to do any of them? And if not, then what other choices could you make?

@LastThursday "Are these options real", yeah, that's a good question :) The postdoc option, I'm not even sure if it's real, I'd have to try and apply and see if I can get one. The IT/data analysis option is probably real, it will only be easier or harder to find a junior position depending on how deep of a dive the economy/job market takes with covid crisis, but I don't see a reason why the IT sector should drop too much. Kids are an option where it's hard to say the timeline. 

@AlphaAbundance Whoa, that's one hell of a long text. Thank you a lot for the effort! I've read through it. 

You are right there are many more career options to choose from. Trouble is spotting a good one :)

How would you guys go about researching other choices/options which might not have crossed my mind as real? 

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@Elisabeth I'd be super pragmatic. Careerwise, I'd make a list of what you want in a career. I see you already have:

On 19/10/2020 at 7:07 PM, Elisabeth said:
  • I want to use both my analytical skills & my empathetic people-focus skills 
  • connection (be it connecting people, or ideas) is important to me (https://www.actualized.org/forum/topic/28562-first-shot-at-life-purpose/)
  • discovery, pushing the limits of human knowledge, and also the beauty of abstract ideas is the part of science that I love
  • my biggest struggle in life (that I partially overcame) I call isolation (loneliness, feeling different, depression, inability to connect)
  • so far, I needed to interact with people who are interested in my work to get motivated
  • I want my days to be varied, part-time interacting with people, part-time quiet introverted analysis or writing

Make a bigger list! And put a bit more specific detail in. Then rank the points in the list according to how important they are to you. Which of the points in the list are non-negotiable, which are you flexible on? Use the list as a kind of compass to guide you when researching jobs.

Whilst researching I would be completely free about what sort of jobs to go for, anything goes: herbal medicine salesperson, airline pilot, zookeeper - the sky's the limit. You will soon get a good feel about what would match you and excite you and what wouldn't.

Obviously the internet is your friend. I would spend a month researching until you get sick and tired of it. Once ready start approaching companies directly through their HR departments, by then you'll have a very good idea about what you what from them and what you can give them. They will love the confidence.

It could also be that you do all that research and find that working for someone else is not for you. In which case work for yourself. This is the ideal as you can tailor your work exactly to what's important to you - and you can fit it around your lifestyle.

And lastly, I'll say that when you work for someone else it's never going to be perfect, don't expect that. You will have to compromise.

 

 

Edited by LastThursday

Don't eat soup with chopsticks. Pick up the bowl and drink.

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@Elisabeth

Just one person’s opinion, don’t give it any weight beyond that, but just weighing in as someone who has experienced jobs, a ‘career’, and self employment too...the most fulfilling of all experience - in my experience and opinion - is family. 

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Another perspective to consider:

What about enlightenment work? Are you woke? It might be harder to awaken when you have a bunch of kids screaming and jumping around you

Edited by Hello from Russia

Design your life, design your future

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4 hours ago, Hello from Russia said:

Another perspective to consider:

What about enlightenment work? Are you woke? It might be harder to awaken when you have a bunch of kids screaming and jumping around you

Yeah, I think we can safely forget that line, no discipline here to pursue enlightenment seriously. I just have an irregular meditation practice, trying this and that in short bursts. 

I'm doing the more relative (emotional awareness and maturity) line of PD though and I don't think there's a problem with that - in fact, having a kid often boosts that line, both through necessity and reflection on how the parent-child relationship works. Although sure, it would be harder to take a weekend off for a seminar or something. 

Edited by Elisabeth

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@Elisabeth I used to have a struggle with indecision. It's hard to know which way to go when it's brand new territory. I personally make a pros and cons list based on whatever experience and research I've done. From there I make a decision and hope for the best. Truth is we learn from out mistakes and get clearer on our direction as we wander into new territory and try new things. That said, chronic indecisiveness has roots that trace deep into the psyche. Insight into the mechanics can help put it to rest. You can read more about that here.

 

 

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I had a bit of an emotional turmoil (I think I'll tell you in a next post). 

On 21. 10. 2020 at 1:57 PM, LastThursday said:

Make a bigger list! ...

Very well spoken! I'll make a bigger list. 

@ivory Thanks, amazing resource! Haven't finished reading yet, but seems like excellent food for thought. 

Edited by Elisabeth

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