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Didem Gurdur

Once, I have been in Ephesus. That time I thought about Heraclitus and his famous saying “no man ever steps in the same river twice”. I am sure, though, I took it differently then than today. Not that I understand his philoposhy on the concept of “becoming” or impermanence perfectly but Heraclitus was the first one who came to my mind when I realized that the change is calling.

During the last few months, I had interviews and examinations to secure an academic position which will contribute to my career goals to become an established researcher in the future. I should perhaps say that even taking a decision about my career goal was not an easy job. I had to do some self-questioning, ask tough questions to myself. It takes a lot to be able to do that. Do I like what I do, can I do it better, is it anyhow helping anything really, do I want to earn more, do I want to leave Sweden, am I ready to leave Sweden while I love my home and just started to call it my country, what do I care about, why do I care about it anyways, what is easier, what is safer, does it matter and so on. I am not sure if I was sincere enough (obviously I am biased) but I tried my best.

Firstly, I decided that I like doing research. I love reading and learning new things, moreover, I get very excited when I do this. I am not very talkative if there is nothing interesting to talk about, but did you ever see me when I am excited about something? I can talk about it for hours. I know how to put my ass down and do the work needed to do research. I can get fixated about a thing and read, listen, watch about it for days. I can concentrate on a question and forget about eating or drinking while I am working on it. I am very grateful for my wife who puts her foot down and takes the laptop from me. I am not sure if everyone is having the same passion for their jobs. My mostly used excuse to work on weekends is “it is not work, I am just reading about drones, robots, future, etc.”. I do not have any doubts anymore that I like doing research. I asked myself the difficult questions and am now convinced that I like it more than anything I have tried before (and I tried a lot of things). The question was more about me doing what it takes to stay in academia or not. Let’s be honest, I do not even know how much more it will take.

After the disputation, I was confident that I did a good job. Then, I was part of this new club where everyone thinks they did a decent job. Obviously, they do not grant you a Ph.D. degree if you didn’t do enough (I hope). I mean, this is kinda predictable now, we are never as unique as we really think, but this is a topic for another post.

My decision to have an academic career has nothing to do with taking it easy. It is not easy to find a position, it is not easy to live with this kind of insecurity and salary, it is not easy to leave my comfort zone (again). Change is not easy. But yeah, as I said once again; I like challenge and easy is too easy for me. I accepted that reality.

At some point during the last few months, I found the idea of change not only difficult but also scary. Today, I feel a little anxious maybe nervous but also quite excited. All the practical things aside, I am unbelievably enthusiastic to grow by experiencing another type of academic life in another institution with a completely different environment. Maybe, I finally understood the idea of mobility.

I wanted to write this article because I know that somewhere another researcher is thinking about what to do next and perhaps is feeling that they are the only one who is struggling. The truth is, everyone is feeling anxious and we all deal with it differently. But the whole process is more or less the same. We deny, we resist, we explore and then we adjust. I first didn’t like the idea of changing, I felt I did enough and I did good. Why would I change, really? Then, I accepted it and started to look for a place to fit in. It is not easy to find your place. Moreover, it is scary to put yourself there and listen to what people think about your skills, experiences, overall career decisions that you have made. Uncertainty is difficult. New is difficult. It is difficult to do not know what will happen next, it is difficult to accept the rules that you have not set. It becomes a little personal, a little intimidating, really uncomfortable. Today, I have said to my very close friend, certainly as a joke, for a totally different subject, “oh please do not cry, it feels very uncomfortable”. He answered, “your comfort is not my concern” and we laughed at our conversation. That is exactly how the academia felt about me being uncomfortable and uneasy during this process.

Since now I can call myself a sailor (I need to write about this also!), I can quote veteran sailor Christian Williams. He says “something is out there that doesn’t have a name.” This is how I feel now. I am sure you will also feel the same after you complete the full cycle of the changing process. One way or the other we change, we become something else. When there is a chance to do it knowingly for the purpose of growing, we should leave the anxiety behind and take it as an opportunity!