(I just vomited a little in my mouth.)

D-day is rapidly approaching. Decision day. And I am really, really, really conflicted.

So I’m not sure how much I can share with the internet. Most of this will probably have to be password-protected, because a lot of my debate is location-specific, and I just. don’t. know. Aagh.

But on the first pass, sans password…

If you have been reading my blog a little bit, you will probably have noticed (because for 3 months, it was all I could write about) that I took a few hard-science classes this summer: gen chem 2 (which was, frankly, the most hellacious class ever) and organic chem (the whole year). I managed to fit them both in roughly sequentially by taking them at different universities.

In general, there are very few reasons for an old person (me, and yes, 29 is old in this arena) to take these classes: either s/he is crazy, or s/he wants to become a vet/dentist/physician. Hopefully, I’d fall into this last category (not crazy) who wants to become a physician.

However, last fall, I finally started – after a three-year hiatus doing various types of clinical research, including research on autism (as you will see from some of my opinions previously – really, my whole resume is in the categories on the left <—-) a doctorate. A research doctorate. At a fairly prestigious university, although if you ask me IRL, I will do anything in my power to avoid identifying the school that I attend because I feel as though it’s not only prestigious, it’s pretentious. I realize if I stay there I need to get over myself, because I’m there, I’m getting a degree there, and I am spending a whole lot of time there. But that’s another discussion.

So with that background, here are my three options:

1) Stay with my program and pretend that the undergrads were all a really, really, really long, bad, dream inspired by my husband’s foray into a war zone;

2) Ditch my program (get a master’s degree), cling to the hope that is medical school, and complete the rest of my prereq requirements (bio and physics – no, seriously, I did not take a single science class in undergrad, unless you could “physics for athletes” (not what it’s called, but I certainly got to know the entire football team that way) or oceanography, aka the world’s second worst class (behind this gen chem class this summer)). Have a baby (by “have”, I mean either birth or adopt. The world of international adoption gets increasingly concerning, international governments are increasingly less excited about adopting to parents with chronic illness – no matter how minor – and although we are warming up to domestic adoption, we just….do not…know. But attempting to conceive is a source of stress all unto its own). Pursue medical school admission next fall, and attempt to matriculate at the ripe old age of 31.

(ouch.)

3) Ditch all higher education and – gasp – get a job. Actually, I will get a job this fall with either routes 2 or 3. The grants that fund my other jobs are drying up, which is probably good for my decision-making.

OK, so here are all the things I think about:

1) Kids. We want kids. We want kids bad. We are old (DB – mid-30s, I’ve mentioned my own far too many times at this point). We went to a pet store the other day, just because I haven’t seen a pet store that actually SELLS ANIMALS in the longest time (and I was appalled!) and there was a little mini schnauzer in there. He was SO CUTE! And I have never seen DB so smitten by a living thing before.

This, to highlight that we really. want. another. dependent. Preferably one with two legs, versus four (it can have four temporarily).

(We didn’t get the puppy. We would never do that. Pet stores = SO BAD!)

2) Kids, but I wanted a new bullet point.

Trying to conceive and staying in my program would be a major challenge with the impending written exam in May…given my health issues and the potential for things that would preclude my ability to sit for that exam on THOSE DATES (and if I miss THOSE DATES, I need to wait another year!) Adopting – well, I guess with adopting the biggest concern is the finances. We want to be able to afford adoption and with DB’s current salary and option 1 (staying in my program), it will be really, really tough. Plus, we would probably adopt a child with some special needs, which would increase the expected cost of caring for the child (plus, let’s face it – kids are crazy expensive).

Kids, part 3: caring for them.

We run the significant chance (I won’t say risk) of having a special needs child, either a biological child on the autism spectrum or a child with other needs by adoption (and as someone who strongly believes in attachment parenting, we expect even a “typical” child who joins our family through adoption have some adjustment.  Adoption is a loss, and we understand that…so while that seems not relevant, actually, it is).  I want us to be able to provide for our children’s needs, both financially (in terms of services and care) and emotionally – and if that requires me to stay home with them, so be it. I’ll be honest: I’d rather work at this point than stay home with our children – I’d rather have that balance – but if we have a child with special needs, I do not know that I’d trust another caregiver to deal with meltdowns and picky eating.  I am a little bit of a control freak.

3) Money. Oh, money. So here are the facts with money:

a) Until I take that written exam, I cannot get more money for my degree. So delaying it by a year has incredible impact, beyond what it would be in any other doctoral degree program.
b) DB cannot take a second job because the FBI prohibits him from working a second job. I will not get started on this particular rant here, but let’s suffice it to say that the federal government does not pay that well BUT the burden of making enough to do things like adopt (which is admittedly expensive) lies with me, his intrepid and hardworking spouse with two part-time jobs and full-time school. (Just saying.)
c) Med school is a LOT CHEAPER than this degree.
d) Oh how nice it would be to have a salary for the next two years! (Option 2 and 3)
e) (In little font) I would make more money as a physician than a researcher. (Emphasize little font!)

4) Jobs:

a) I have been doing research for the last 5 years in three different topics and with 3 different functions. I have designed studies, created protocols, written assessments, administered assessments, and analyzed data. Oh, yeah, and I’ve written grants.

I would rather eat worms than commit to research for my entire life.

I have a clinical degree! It is not one that inspires a lot of confidence in my abilities, but I have one! And I never pictured myself doing research for my life’s work. Yet – somehow – I am getting a research degree. (Does that make you think? It makes me think to write that.

b) I COULD use my Ph.D. to do consulting or policy work. However, my policy professor told me that I should leave the program and pursue a degree that is more likely to make change in the world – law or medicine. I respect this professor immensely and I don’t think that she would want to know that this is how I’m interpreting her thoughts – but at the same time, it gives me pause for thought.

c) I love clinical work. If I had to commit to one or another – analysis or clinical work – it would be clinical work, hands down. But I could do clinical stuff now without another degree at all.

d) I would like a job that allows me to do clinical work AND research if I choose (that would be medicine, or option 3, and probably less so option 1, because once you have this degree you are pretty much pigeon-holed).

5) The Bureau: Yes, it gets its own bullet. Because it has its own effects on my (yes, my) career choices.

We are required to move anywhere they want us to. Which could really be an issue for, oh, say, RESIDENCY.

DB and I want to live together for our marriage.

I cannot pursue a tenure-track position because what’s the point? -if we move. Plus, um, I just vomited a little in my mouth again. So now we know what I think about that.

I need to make enough money to support our needs in conjunction with what they pay DB. This means I would like a career where I can move anywhere and become instantly useful. There aren’t many of those careers around. (FWIW, I always tell DB that the best job for me would be a preschool teacher or a nurse. If only I liked preschoolers more…but nursing has not been eliminated yet.)

We want to live overseas. We can do this with the Bureau but requires some strategic moves by us (now).

6) What I really want: A job that contributes to the greater good of society, pays well, allows me to take time off to parent, expects a lot of me (has high expectations of me), allows me to grow as a person, lets me continue to learn. A job that (ok, nonChristians, avert your eyes) glorifies God. (A few years ago Wheaten College – which is a fairly conservative Christian college – was looking for coaches for the sport I used to do, and stated, “looking for those who ______ for the glory of God.” I thought that was the most hokey thing I’d ever seen.)

That’s all. So now that I’ve written all of that out, I am not one bit closer to making a decision. I wish I had more time, but somehow I do not think that more time would help me much.

Thoughts? I know a lot of you have significant others in medicine, or are in medicine yourselves…or do research…anyone? Or want to recommend a really inspiring movie that will help me get motivated to make a decision?

The other thing is….I read my musings from oh, say, May, when I was finishing up the second semester of the doctorate, and realize what I need to do. I just need to have the stomach to do it. So hopefully this long, boring post will serve the same function when I flunk physics and start wondering, “what, oh what, did I DO?!?”

Blech, that vomit taste. Going to wash the dog now. Woot!

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