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.
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.