I met Laura when I was twelve and she was eleven (ok, so this is more than ten years ago). We both wrote poetry, had siblings, and like to read. And a friendship was born. We'd whine and plead and beg our mother's to let us have sleep-overs and make brownies. Then, one weekend Laura's mother told her that she couldn't have anyone over that weekend because she was having treatment. Laura looked sad and asked if she promised to be quiet for the time of her treatment, could I still come over? Eventually, her mother caved and I came over armed with a “Sweet Valley High” book. That was when I found out that Laura had a chronic illness that required enzyme replacement therapy. Within a few weeks I decided to be a doctor and cure my friend's disease.
This kept up through high school where I read “Hot Zone” and told everyone I was going to be a doctor. Friends would joke that I'd cure cancer. I took every science class that I could take in high school (which I wouldn't have done without my parent's encouragement) and declared that one day I'd go to medical school.
Then, I went to college and got a job doing research. That was it. I loved doing research. I liked finding answers to questions. I even liked coming up with more questions. I also realized that if I wanted to discover the cure to any disease the way to do it wasn't through being a medical doctor, but a PhD. So, I shifted my goal of being a “doctor” slightly.
It never occurred to me to plan further than that. When pressed I told people that I'd probably be a professor after that. I wasn't too concerned about the hours it would take or the time or the uncertainty. After all, five years ago all I had to worry about was myself.
Then, Dr. Man and I (somewhat abruptly... we'd been good friends for about three or so years) started dating and decided to get married.
Now, I'm in the new position of being uncertain about what I want to do in the future. I like the idea of being a professor, but what if I can't do it? I've got to figure out a way for Dr. Man to be able to move with me to my post-doc, as I did my undergraduate degree at the same institution I'm doing my graduate degree (Dr. Man was going to medical school here before I went to grad school-- and we didn't want to do the long distance thing). Then there's the move to get a job somewhere. And then what happens if I don't get tenure? There's another move. And now I'm thinking I may want to have kids sometime in the near-ish future. Can I really do everything?
So, now I'm looking into alternate career paths and places other than the large research-intensive institutions I had planned on working at. I'm being very careful in deciding what I'm going to do next. I'm trying to honestly evaluate myself and figure out what I'm most likely to be successful at. And I'm angry at myself for not just deciding the heck with it, I'll give it my best and let the chips fall where they may. Then again I owe it the other person/hypothetical people in my life to be sure of what I want and what I can do.
I think this is what is bothering me the most about my position. Despite putting up with years of people telling me I can't do something because I'm a woman, or criticizing my job as inappropriate because I'm a woman, or discouraging me to have a career because I'm a woman, for the first time I'm doubting myself.