Friday, August 16, 2013

I've just had an apostrophe

I've been saying for years, years, ever since finishing my Masters (and probably before), that I don't know what I want to do with my life. I've been bumbling around from job to job with a general idea that I want to do research, preferably in infectious disease, preferably tuberculosis, and preferably focusing on the social and ethical aspects of the disease and it's control. But that's as specific as I've ever been able to get. I told myself I wasn't trying hard enough to Figure It Out, that I really needed to sit down somewhere for a few hours and Figure It Out. But every time I did that, I came up with a different answer.

"What I really want to do is medical anthropology. I should get a second Masters in that!"

"What I really enjoy is sharing information. I should do a training course in health promotion!"

I never did these things because they cost shitloads of money, and while some career development courses are worth the money to advance one's career, I already have $75,000 student loan debt for a Masters degree that hasn't starting paying off yet. So I waited, and thought some more, but ultimately didn't get anywhere.

And then yesterday, at the ripe old age if 31 and a half years old, I Figured It Out. It's not that I don't know what I want to do; it's that I want to do everything! Tuberculosis, yes, but let's not neglect the neglected tropical diseases! Leishmaniasis, African trypanosomiasis, Dengue, leprosy even! And let's measure rates of notifications, and rates of underestimation, as well as using qualitative methods to understand how the disease affects the quality of life of patients, and why patients delay in going to the doctor, and why they do or don't use condoms! Let's measure health literacy and see if it correlates to outcomes. Let's evaluate interventions that provide added emotional, nutritional, or financial support to patients. I want to do it all!!

When I look at the research areas of established researchers, when I search for articles written by a specific researcher, I see that they're all the same--they want to do everything, too. And they do! Universities don't want one-trick ponies teaching their courses. They want people with a range and breadth of expertise. And I want to be one of those people!

Of course, I have to start somewhere, but this realisation liberates me. I can start virtually anywhere, and I'll still get where I want to go, because I want to go everywhere! And it gives me confidence in the conviction that the industry I want and need to be in is academia. I'd love to contribute to government health agencies, but not as a government office worker, more as a resident consultant who also works elsewhere.

If right now isn't quite the right time for me to do a PhD, then I'll be ready to pounce when the timing (and visa status) are right.


  1. I think you mean an epiphany... ;)

  2. Do ALL the things!!!!! Yay Kusems! I am totally with you on this one. I wholeheartedly concur that we don't have to be organized to make a worthwhile contribution. Let's just bumble around and do stuff that's cool. Sometimes I think this approach is actually better than being organized, because we can learn things in one area and apply them in another, in ways that we never would have thought of if we had our whole career all mapped out and never strayed beyond narrow confines. Keep me updated with how it all goes!!!