Sometimes responsibility is the only thing that keeps me going.
I was a good kid, a reasonable teenager, and a successful college student. I wasn't particularly virtuous or hard-working, I was just really responsible. I always felt responsibility weigh heavily.
Now I am a postdoc, and not too thrilled with the state of my professional life. I feel like I am pushed to work on something that just doesn't interest me, I do not enjoy the nitty gritty daily grind of the lab work I do, I fell that my abilities are not adequately appreciated let alone compensated, and I feel that I am not being given enough other opportunities, such as reviews and writing. Yet I keep going. Sometimes it is the small part of my project I enjoy, sometimes it is the thrill of research, of finding out something new, sometimes it is just ambition, visa status or inertia, but mostly what keeps me trudging onwards (and upwards? outwards?) is an over-developed sense of responsibility.
I feel a responsibility to my employer, despite what I think I do not get in return. I feel a responsibility to my Ph.D. boss and lab because my success reflects on them (and terrible guilt on behalf of all the mice that were sacrificed along the way). I feel responsible to my future husband because I rooted him out of a place he loved to move here. I don't want to let my family or my country (really) down. Most of all though, I feel this immense responsibility to myself. I have spent so much time working towards this, so much effort. I have heard to many times that I have potential, and dammit, I want to fulfill it. I owe myself that. I am responsible to myself for the person I am and the person I will become, and giving up is not a part of that person.
So I go responsibly on, and if it wasn't for that aggravating rational-state-that-shall-not-be named, I would have quit a while ago. At least I think so, who knows, maybe ambition and inertia are sufficient. In any case, my responsibilities are here to stay, and I am made that way. And maybe that's enough. After all research requires persistence and luck above all, and who cares what motivates the persistence. Does it matter that it is responsibility? In my case it appears to be enough, so why not. Its as good a way as any to keep going.