This year my autumn term has been a bit different from those of the last six years. At the end of September my postdoc grant ran out, and we moved to Durham, where my husband has started his training to become a vicar and I became a part-time visiting fellow at the University. A time of change and transition, and a time to reflect on my calling as an academic.
From a very young age I have wanted to be a scholar. I think I was about 8 years old when I started to answer the question ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ with ‘a researcher at a university’. Over the years, this desire grew into something I recognised as a calling to use my God-given talents to learn more about His creation and to teach and enthuse others about it. When I finished my masters’ degree, I started looking for opportunities to do my PhD in my own country, The Netherlands. After two ‘wilderness years’ of waiting and doing jobs that didn’t require me to use all of my brain, I decided to apply for PhD positions in the UK, and soon found a post in York. In contrast to many PhD students, I enjoyed my PhD years from start to finish (OK maybe not that summer month when everyone was on holiday and I was digging though statistics books, but pretty much everything else).
My experience post-PhD has been more mixed. After finishing my PhD, I applied for several postdoctoral grants, since there are not many postdoc positions advertised in my field. After about a year, I was awarded a three-year part-time postdoctoral grant, which I supplemented with teaching. Three years later, I got another grant and I moved to the other side of the country to take it up. Now, having just finished this last grant, I am more or less unemployed again…
I have felt confirmed in my calling by getting the PhD done and receiving several grants. I still love doing research and teaching, and find it hard to think of any other job which would use my talents to the same degree and would give me the same amount of satisfaction. But I have found it difficult to deal with the uncertainty of short-term contracts and the stress of moving over large distances. And the fact that I may well end up being a vicar’s wife also complicates things! Having a bit of thinking space, whilst still pursuing my research (and writing up those articles that I didn’t get round to in my full-time job!), is therefore welcome. You probably know others who are in a similar situation. Please pray for us that we will be able to discern God’s calling on our lives, whether He has something new for us or whether we should continue to pursue the academic life.
How have you experienced God’s calling to be a scholar? Have you received confirmation of your calling, whether through events or through people’s comments? Are you open to the fact that your calling may change over time or be different in different seasons of life?