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Life update: reconnecting with my love for research

Life works in mysterious ways - it's a cliché as big as the sea is wide, but it's the truth. It's been three months since my last blog post, where I told you about my experiences of pursuing a PhD - the good, the bad and the ugly. I shared a bit about how my self esteem has faltered over the past few years, also linked to working in academia. In that article, as in an earlier piece, I wrote about the impact that getting laid off at my first job after finishing my PhD had on me. I clearly had a lot to unburden. And looking back, I feel like that blog post was actually part of a pivotal moment for me. 

At the time I had spent the last two years working as a senior communications manager at a PR firm. A job where I got to work with amazing people and inspiring clients, but somewhere in the back of my mind there was always the nagging thought that I had given up too easily on my first love: research. A little while after writing that blog post, I got word from an old friend from my days a the university. She told me about a job opening at the Antwerp Management School, for position as a senior researcher and valorization manager.


Another career jump, another risk to take after building something worthwhile at the company where I was at. Switching jobs in the middle of the covid recession doesn't seem like the smartest decision, does it? But that blog post proves that the change had already been brewing inside my mind before the offer even came to me. Finally I was aware of how often I had let my insecurities hold me back. And here we are: tomorrow I'm starting at my new job.

It has taken me until this weekend to work through my latent anxiety about the change and fully realize how happy I am to get another chance at research. Thinking of myself five years ago, I would have pinched myself if I had gotten the chance to become part of a research team. I let go of that dream little by little - first after my PhD made me realize that doing research at a university was often too far removed from real life application for me, and second after I was let go from my job at a market research agency. But underlying all of that was the fear of choosing an uncertain road. Growing up poor meant that I felt obligated to always choose the safer option - job security and a good wage over a leap of faith into the post doc trajectory, which can be a bumpy road at the best of times.



But I'm done with taking decisions based on my anxieties. I'll be starting on a 12 month contract tomorrow - a move away from fear and security, and towards trusting that I will be fine, and that I can take care of myself like I have been doing for the past fifteen years. That I am allowed to follow my dreams.

This has been a bit of a rambling post, but sometimes getting everything that's going on in my mind out in writing is just what I need to structure my thoughts, take a step back and appreciate where I'm at.

And I'm pretty happy with where I'm at right now. Talk soon!

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