Job hunting is the most frustrating job I’ve ever had.
There’s really very little good to be said about it, at all. Perhaps a few weeks of it can be said to “build character,” but endless months (bleeding into years) of it can rapidly murder your dreams and destroy your very soul. It is a thankless, repetitive, Sisyphean task with no rewards. If you are lucky, your prize is that a prospective employer will grant you the privilege of talking to them before they dismissing your application out of hand.
But unpleasant though it might be, idleness has one major advantage, and that is that you have a lot of free time. Time enough to read interesting books, if you are lucky enough, as I am, to have a roof over your head. Time enough to think about where you’re going in life. Time enough, even, to catch a glimpse of the forest through so many broken trees.
And, perhaps, once your head is out of the rat race, and you have a few months of forced inactivity, you might even be forced to consider the possibility that this goal for which you have spent your life training may not, necessarily, be what you really want to do anyways, even should you actually manage to eventually score a job in your field.
When I first discovered physics, it gave me the impression of flying. But then, as I was studying, semester after semester, project after project, it gradually became about the work, rather than the science, or even the passion. Somewhere along the line, I lost sight of the big picture, and found myself buried in minutiae. Each assignment and individual task became its own justification–something to be completed and put aside before moving on to the next task, with no real chance to think in between. My unemployment following my return to Canada has been my first prolonged break from doing physics in six years. And it has given me a chance, once again, to look at the big picture.
The fact of the matter is that I still love physics. But when I ask myself whether I’m interested in doing it for the rest of my life…I find it impossible to say yes. Certainly not fundamental physics, anyhow. My editing of papers has granted me a whole new appreciation for more practical fields, but I can’t definitively say whether I want to do that either. And then, of course, I am haunted by the thought that I really rather like reading (and reading about) fiction.
In some ways then, perhaps I should be grateful for the opportunity for introspection that I have been granted. Perhaps, I should take advantage of my unfamiliar lack of commitments to start experimenting with new concepts; trying things on and seeing what fits.
Of course, it would be really nice if I could have some money for doing so.