22 July 2010

Figuring things out

As many of you know, the end of my whirlwind ride as student will end in 2 years. I've been in education for a while now, but in 2012, I will reach the end of the road. So I will have to do something else.

I should back up: this week I have been on holiday, enjoying the fabulous 'staycation' which has involved little actual relaxing and a lot of catching up on things around the house that I have been meaning to catch up. The hard disk on my computer died too, taking up a whole day of work. Yoko had to go to the dentist. There is no end to the things to do around here.

Anyway, we have also been looking at furniture. And that can only mean one thing: we are thinking about buying permanent housing. I did a little investigating this weekend and it turns out that in the near, or very near future, we could get permanent accommodation, provided we knew we were going to be here for three to five more years. After I finish, basically.

Well, where we are going to be in two years is anyone's guess, but as I was running yesterday, I figured a couple of things out. First, that I want to settle somewhere for five to ten years and not worry about accommodation or my job. Moreover, I want to settle in the country that we will ultimately settle in. The reason I'm feeling this way, I think, is that I need to reduce some of the basic level concerns about food and shelter so I can focus on my research. 30 to 45 are important years for an academic: this is the fundamental work you do and build on and ensures your 45-60 time period is spent in a tenured post, doing what you want to. But doing good research requires stability.

I'm not sure what that means practically for me except that I am very unlikely to take a post on the mainland of Europe unless it has a clear advantage for my research or I'm offered the possibility of indefinite work. That is to say, we are unlikely to go to France for two years just to go to France. I can do that if I want to, but I don't think I want to.

This way of thinking likely narrows what kind of work I will be looking for and where. Most likely the UK or Japan. Japan, I was thinking during my run, offers the best option: I could likely get the kind of work I want and settle very easily. House, furniture, the whole nine yards. Wife could work, probably not best for the kids, but they wouldn't know anything else, so that would be fine. In Japan, I see a very clear path for my career: taking a good, possibly tenured post, straight out of school, and in ten to fifteen years, be in a place to move to one of the best universities in Japan. This seems like the easiest thing for me. Plus, we could have onsen in the mountains, great food, low taxes, family close by, great healthcare, safety, security, and (if we live in Kansai, which would probably would) a big, international city with everything to keep a foreigner happy.

After talking this over with Yoko and expecting her to be excited to go back to Japan, she seems to want to  stay here. Staying here is, in a lot of ways, the best (though not easiest) option: very good for the kids (multiracial, multiethnic schools; English higher education; etc.), best for me (if I get a lectureship), and best for interesting travel (as England is in the middle of everything). Harder for Yoko, I think, of all of us, but if she likes it, then it can't be that disagreeable. The key problem being finding work, I suppose, but now that I know what I'm looking for, I think it might be easier. It's just not clear how I would get from here to professorship in 20 years, or how we would organise our lives in a way that accommodates our families in both the States and Japan.

I guess the plan for now is to look for work mostly in England, and Europe more broadly. I'm going to try my damndest not to take a post-doc position unless it doesn't require a move, but looking heavily for a 3 to 5 year contract somewhere that would allow us to buy an apartment. This means I need to spend some serious energy publishing articles and shaking hands and kissing babies as conferences.

So, let's see where this takes us. I'm happy, however, to realise that I'm ready to settle down.
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