Sometimes I try to imagine what I'd be doing if I hadn't decided to become a neuroscientist, and I come up completely blank. It feels like I've only ever wanted to do this, although I do distinctly recall my 13-year old self telling my mom I wanted to be either a professional tennis player or an actress when I grew up, and her telling me flat out I wasn't good enough at either tennis or acting to do so. Thanks, mom!
I also remember the day it occurred to me that an academic career was it. I was walking through the psychology department at the Classy Institution where I got my undergrad degree when I passed an open office door; inside, I could see and hear two faculty members talking animatedly. Though I couldn't pick up the context, it was clear that they were Figuring Something Out, and they were really excited. Almost immediately, that little snippet of conversation moved something in me, and much like the day I saw my amazing red peep-toe pumps in the window of a Brooklyn boutique, my brain spoke to me with the utmost conviction: I want that.
I want thinking, and problem solving, and exciting chats with my colleagues (I think we can all agree this is the best part of being a scientist, no? Or would you say it's the expense account? Box seats at Yankee Stadium? Oh wait). I was told that in order to have that, I needed to go to grad school, so I did, and after that I took a post-doc position, which is the next thing you need to do. All along the way, I've gotten to be those professors I saw back in college--I've thought, I've solved problems, I've had exciting chats--and I have to say, it never gets old.
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