Changing Course

I just got word this morning: UCSD has rejected my application for the Cognitive Science Ph.D. program. Am I disappointed? You bet. Is it devastating? Hardly.

When I left Semantic Research, I had quite a variety of options to explore. The only one that had a hard deadline was applying to UCSD. So I focused my energies there and backburnered everything else. As I got more and more immersed in the cognitive science path, I let it blossom as a core interest within me. It was very natural. It’s the crossroads of cognition, computing, language and philosophy of mind, all of which interest me greatly. It was all of a piece: mind, all the way. It even brought my book-in-progress into context; I realized I was really writing a book about the mind and how it relates to the world via technology. At last, I had a coherent focus for all my energies. I had a real, substantial dream I could commit to fully, rather than a grab bag of seemingly unrelated academic interests and professional skills. And I was willing to commit my life to it.

A new journey beckons.

But me-as-cognitive-scientist is not the only me worth being. Our life choices are always shaped by external factors; I never felt as if I had any one “calling” that I was “born to do.” If I had lived a century ago, I would have had a completely different life and been a very different person; almost nothing I’ve done over the years would have been possible or even imaginable. I have different aspects of my abilities and interests I can bring to the fore or blend into a different realization. It’s more like a kaleidoscope that’s been rotated unexpectedly, creating a new beautiful pattern. Now I’ll figure out what that new pattern should be.

I will always love the core topics and investigations of cognitive science. I seriously doubt I’m walking away from that altogether; I’ve got a book to finish! But the truth is, the path of cognitive science carried a huge opportunity cost. I’d have to stop making anything like decent money for four or five years. At this point in my career, that’s quite a bit to give up. Now I don’t have to pay that price, which takes a lot of pressure off Heather. Another price to pay was that I wouldn’t get to do much world travel. There would be no money or time. Now that’s back on the table too. And another thing I might now explore is my love of nature. I love green tech and botany. I’d have to put that aside for cognitive science, but now it’s back in play. And I can foster my entrepreneurial nature, which would have withered as a research scientist. I am totally eager for new ventures and opportunities.

Bottom line: It’s all good. I’m tacking, changing course and exploring new ways to best leverage and develop my talents, to head to a new kind of flourishing. I’m just as optimistic as ever about the future. I have a some very appealing options right in front of me and a lot of other prospects to develop as I put out feelers to friends and former work colleagues.

PS: If you have something you think might be a good fit, contact me! I’m on the prowl for new challenges and my world is wide, wide open right now. 

4 thoughts on “Changing Course

  1. This post really caught my eye. Was UCSD the only program you applied to? I’ve only skimmed a few of your entries so I don’t know what your undergraduate background was, research experience, or any gaps btw undergrad and now (it looks like you’ve traveled the world! I would like to but I’ve always been in some sort of school…ech…).

    I’m currently in a PhD program and I was in another one a couple years ago (but quit after 3 years, and took some time off…) Right now I’m in medical research but was in Biomedical Engineering before (we had neuro-engineering specialties but I was on the biotech track). I helped with recruitment and interviews… just from a cursory skim from your blog – it definitely appears that you have a “phD” sort of mind! As in, you have a natural predilection to learn, experience, and deeply know science or the world, etc. PhD has relatively little to do with “smartness” and more to do with a thirst for more. I’d say – keep trying! I’ve always applied to ~5-8 programs. Don’t let it get you down!! I dunno… you are right that it prohibits world travel … but for some reason, I feel you might be well-suited! A lot of people who get into PhD programs really have no idea what they even enjoy studying, and just do it for the endpoint, ie obtaining the degree. Then they switch to marketing or sales as a career, lol, what a waste!

    Anyway, as a new acquaintance, I don’t want to impose too much of my opinion! Esp when I’ve only started reading a few of your entries and have no idea who you are! But I am definitely a commenter & the type who just says whatever is on my mind. :) When I get the time, I’d like to check out some of your other entries. I’ve read a couple of the same articles (ie sex & retrograde amnesia) and enjoyed your screenshots on Cleverbot! Haha, I think Cleverbot was more clever with you! I didn’t ask it hard questions but it just couldn’t respond to me very well.

    This comment is getting long. Keep up the great work. I just wanted to introduce.

  2. Okay, just wanted to clarify a sentence – “PhD has relatively little to do with smartness” – that wasn’t directed at you lol! Your mind seems very scientific-rational, also creative and open – PERFECT for research and development. But I don’t know what your grades/GREs were – which unfortunately determines a lot of cut-offs for grad schools – there isn’t a good correlation btw grades and how well a person proceeds through the qualifying exam and program. Haha, I’d say, completing the program takes perseverance, creativity, risk-taking, and not taking failed experiments personally. :)

  3. I applied only to UCSD… it was a total gamble, but I really like the UCSD cogsci program and already live in San Diego. Thanks for your kind words, people do seem to think I’m a “ph.D” kind of person, sometimes even being surprised when I tell them I don’t have one. I may apply again someday, but for now I’m focusing my life on making new things over discovering new things.

    Anyway thanks for imposing your opinions. :)

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