As many scientists within our group look back over their training paths, they see a straight, hard-packed trail, with a few stumbling rocks, that led from graduate school, to a postdoc, to a bench-based, classroom-based or combination faculty position. This relatively scripted path is one which many have traveled before us and many more will traverse in the future. Without this path, science as we know it would cease to exist. We require scientists in the laboratory and in the classroom, educating, influencing, inspiring and guiding the next generation; but what happens when some of those newly-minted scientists want to educate and train and motivate others in new ways? Meet the proverbial fork in the road…
Over the past year, my road forked and I took the other path…twice. So, what happens to a bench-trained educator who leaves the classroom for life in the society lane? Semi-adventure takes over and they drive on the shoulder and decide to direct a medical society while staying in the same comfortable location. Being an executive director for a small society forces you to see education from a whole new perspective. Questions arise, what are the hot topics, what is interesting, what is required…and who will teach it? In this paradigm, the teacher becomes the student again, but also shifts into a motivational role, instilling an enthusiasm for teaching, fulfilling that ever-present need to educate.
The phone rings and it’s my dream job calling. This job is perfect and halfway across the country, where housing and new schools must be found, in space-limited high-priced high-rises. Cue the Indiana Jones theme music. Giddy with the prospect of yet another fork, I swerve back onto the road; ducks in a row I apply, interview, accept the offer and then panic! The onslaught of changes has thrown me into the ditch, wheels spinning without gaining traction. Late sleepless nights looking for apartments, reading about schools and worrying about downsizing by half. This is feeling less like an adventure and more like a nightmare. And then it happened, my junior adventure junkie said, “I’m ready for this adventure, it’s going to be fun.” That’s when I re-committed to my belief that adventures are scary, but without them we don’t challenge ourselves, we don’t grow and we don’t change. So, I said yes we will move and downsize and take on this adventure. The adventure starts this summer, but the prelude has been fantastic. So, what is the lesson here? Challenge yourself, jump out of the airplane, take the unpaved path or the unnumbered exit and be confident that you will land in the best possible place.
|Jessica C. Taylor is a physiologist, medical educator and adventure seeker. Previously, a classroom educator, she spent a brief stint as the executive director of the Mississippi Osteopathic Medical Association and is now the Sr. Manager of Higher Education Programs for APS.|