I've had an epiphany recently. For the past 34 years (ok, really the past 20 or so) i've lived with the notion that there was something for me to do that would allow me to be content and that i just had to figure out what that was and then sort out a way to do it. It's pretty much been an undercurrent in my mind as i've gone through the many transitions in my life - from student to climbing bum to teacher and now back to student/scientist. I've dabbled in teaching yoga, directing races, writing articles about my adventures, and training people for endurance events. I've thought about photography, some sort of travel journalism, firefighting, government work, serious academic research, and trying to become an olympic fencer. In conjunction with trying to figure out what to do, i've also tried in vain to figure out where to do it - near the ocean, in the mountains, in the middle of nowhere; up north, down south, in another hemisphere. I even contemplated (seriously!) talking Tammy (my wife) into moving over to Tajikistan, a country i'd never even heard of before i visited there as a teaching ambassador back in 2005. I've struggled with these issues my whole adult life - and i finally realized why. My assumption is simply incorrect.
I like change.
I don't know why i didn't realize this earlier. I've LONG known about this quirk as it pertains to climbing and adventure. Unlike many people who enjoy repeating favorite hikes, returning to awesome vacation spots, or climbing a classic over and over again - i can't stand these things. I can probably count the number of climbs i've repeated (winter ascents of summer climbs don't count) on my fingers. Now that i've biked the arrowhead - i'll never consider biking it again (unless i was paid to....), and each new adventure i plan has to be remarkably different for me to get into it.
I like uncertainty.
Grad school, while less than thrilling, has been 'acceptable' because it's been a new and unique challenge. I was coming back to study high level physics after 10 years away from any sort of academics. It was the mental equivalent to doing the primal quest as my first expedition length adventure race. But now it's almost over and, well, the thrill is gone. Academics held appeal only in so far as it provided uncertainty. I don't think i'll really ever be settled - i'll teach again i'm sure - but will do so with the knowledge that it is temporary. Who knows what else i'll do as my life unfolds. The question is no longer 'what career can i find that will bring me contentment' as my awareness now accepts that such a career does not exist. The question, which will need to be answered again and again - every few years (give or take) for the rest of my life is - 'what challenge am i going to take on now?' The hard part will be finding an answer that will enable me to help provide for my family, support my kids' growth and Tammy's goals, while still giving me pause to think - "what have i got myself into now?!"