I've been thinking about "the endgame" a lot these days.
(Style note: I swear not to begin anymore posts with "I've been thinking about..." anymore, it might be time for "It was a dark and stormy night...")
What is my endgame? With this postdoc and all that I am doing now, involving low-level politicking, writing etc. Let's say its an academic position in India, doing cutting edge research in infectious diseases. What then am I doing to go there? How specifically do I go about getting there, as opposed to just trying to do good research and sending up prayers to the gods of funding and publishing?
This is a novel way of thinking for me, and one that I think should have started a long time ago. I drifted into science because I was bright and academically-inclined. The drift wasn't aimless, it was influenced by the fact that I love talking to intelligent people about intelligent things, my mother is a scientist, and I thought science and scientists were so cool. I came to the US because it was kind of the done thing at my (competitive) college: my friends all wrote the GRE and sent out applications. Most of us did well, and nearly all of us went to good schools. I floated into biology because I liked both biology and chemistry, and biology incorporated elements of chemistry. I went where I did for grad school because they offered me a place, and it seemed really cool.
I don't mean to say that I just faffed through life and things happened to me. I think it was more that I hadn't found all the the dislikes and loves that I have now. I liked most things, I was interested in studying most things, and I looked on travelling as an adventure. I had no conception of the mind-bending cultural changes I was about to face, and I did not think for one second about how hard it would be to consider living and working in India after nearly ten years as an American scientist. I am pretty fortunate that things have turned out well, and I am very fortunate to have discovered both ambition and immunology. Fulfilling that ambition would be much easier if I had actually started thinking about my life and career choices more actively a long time ago. I didn't, though, and whether that was a function of culture, personality, upbringing, I can't say with certainty. But it is what it is, and I'm going to find out, soon enough.
Now I know better, its all about the endgame. Which includes immunology, India, a family, my large and extended family, writing, travelling and a faculty position.