Saturday, November 3, 2007

Decisions under uncertainty

The commenter Tingel and some people that I know in real life have a good point: I have really good choices. I am grateful for them, and regard them as almost magical especially since I was at one point on academic probation and then dismissed from graduate school (literally). I do want to acknowledge how grateful I am.

Less than two weeks ago, I was almost certain I was going abroad. I even found a visiting scholar who is willing to sublet my apartment if I am going. Then I had a date which went really well. We've now gone out three times, and I feel cautiously optimistic. It's not some grand feeling of connectedness --- after all, you hardly know someone after 3 dates. The fantastic relief is simply that I have no doubts.

I truly like almost everyone that I've ever gone on a date with, and feel like I could be friends with them, and sometimes even feel attracted to them, but after a few dates little sarcastic comments go off in the back of my mind when I'm with them. Otherwise, they're fantastic, so it seems strange that I could turn someone down because of niggling thoughts in the back of my head; I feel conflicted for awhile, and then stop dating them. (Assuming, of course, that they haven't stopped dating me first! I've had my share of inexplicably painful rejections after one or two dates, the most painful and funniest of which I can't tell because I would be instantly recognizable to anyone I've ever told the story to.)

So it's great to spend time with someone and simply enjoy it. I have to make some decisions about going abroad in the near future, and it feels strange to let someone who I've had only three dates with influence the process since I hardly know him.

I thought of a good way to make the decision, however: Due to our travel schedules, I'm not going to get to see him much before I have to make the decision, so I'm just going on the three dates. Thinking back to everyone that I've gone on at least three dates with in the past few years, I remember five. I feel better about him than the ones who didn't work out, and as good about him as the ones who turned into good relationships. I have no idea whether this will turn into a good relationship too, but it's reassuring that in the past I knew which would be good relationships after just a few dates.

Going abroad after dating him for just 1-2 more months would really put a lot of pressure on the relationship. Since going abroad isn't a clearly superior career move for me, if I care about the potential relationship, staying here makes more sense than going.

Plus, despite all the ways in which my postdoc is difficult and feels unfair, I've not coincidentally felt more optimistic about it lately. I've mentally disengaged from it a bit, so I will have to reengage and just commit to doing the job of an undergraduate RA and my own research at the same time.

I will undoubtably think about the decision a few more times in the next few days, but I feel pretty solid about it. As much as I hem and haw when things are so-so, when things are good, I do know they're good. I felt that way about a paper that I finished yesterday. I was working at home, without the benefit of a printer, so I edited entirely on the screen, but when I finished the paper was solidly there. I feel good about its chances with a journal, and am thinking of submitting it to an audaciously better journal than originally planned.

1 comment:

Robert said...

I stumbled upon your blog a while ago, but have never really had the urge to leave a comment. Something about this post, however, resonated with me. I am applying to Ph.D. programs right now and am in a similar place as you. The only difference is that I have known the girl, as a friend, longer and there is also the added confusion resulting from the fact that she is applying for jobs in locations with schools not up my ally. Plus, there is the added fact that you are further in your career than I am (I’ll only be done with my MA in May).

But I do just want to say that I completely understand what you are saying about making decisions under uncertainty in this regard. One cannot help but constantly wonder if one is making the right decisions until the uncertaintiy is not so uncertain. But the uncertainity does not become more certain until one begins to make some decisions. It is a vicious circle that can be just depressing. To contribute to this, relastionships always bring along their own confusions. It is not just up to the decisions of you, but also to the other person involved. And most of the time one cannot guess what the hell is going through their mind.

In short, I just wanted to let you know that I enjoyed reading your own reflections on such issues. Take care, and I hope that it all works out.