From a young age, I've been one to strictly adhere to rules. From walking in a straight line, waiting my turn, obeying traffic laws and even not cutting tags off mattresses. Being the eldest child and grandchild didn't help, as it was firmly engrained in me that it was my job to set a good example for both my siblings and younger cousins. Hence I was the "good" child, excelling academically, obeying curfew, going to college and avoiding any situation that could potentially bring shame upon me and my family. I did what I was told and believed firmly that there was a natural order that should be followed.
That all changed when I found myself diagnosed with infertility and watching my family fawn over teenage cousins who found themselves pregnant. My world was rocked as I found myself shunned and discarded, with my mother emphasizing that attention needed to focused solely on them. As time has gone on, more examples have surfaced where breaking the "rules" or ignoring a beneficial order has hurt us while helping those who take advantage. From hanging onto our condo through the financial crisis (we learned recently that others who went through foreclosure have recovered financially and are now purchasing houses), to following advice of mentors (the fields I've been discouraged from are now very lucrative and hiring) to even advice on career transitions (don't get me started). The long and the short of it is that despite what others advise and attest to, there are many examples where cheating the system can actually be more rewarding.
This past week things came to a head. With She-Beat being sick, I've been home with her meaning I've been missing more work than I care for. Granted the bonding that has happened has been priceless, but considering I have a limited amount of time to do my postdoc, I've been feeling rushed. What doesn't help either is that I'm still not sure what the next step is after this. E and I have began this conversation (finally got brave) and she still believes there's a lot of opportunity in academia, particularly within our field. The thing is I'm still uncertain if this is even the right path. On top of this, Grey hasn't been happy at work. Though only 3 months in to this position, it's already clear that the environment he's in is not engaging enough and he's frustrated with the culture that values punching a clock and billable hour over quality and insightfulness.
Yesterday evening, we had a heart-to-heart. We talked about being tired of following the rules and doing what others suggest. About how those who admittedly insist on procedure do so without having to live with the consequences we face. And a decision was made to start breaking some rules. To start reaching out and looking for opportunities. So Grey is warming up his networking again and I've scheduled a meeting with one someone in upper management at one of the big 3. In addition, I've started leaning more on others about their viewpoints by asking "why." Why do you believe this? Why are you so opposed? And what is your motivation for advising us so?
Already I'm facing some pushback. It's truly amazing how angry some people will get when advice is not immediately followed or adhered to. As if somehow it's a direct affront to do otherwise. Still, staying where we are and following the rules is hurting us. It's time to break them.
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