Coke float drinking pocket rocket, planetary scientist, presenter, space comedienne

Inspire the uninspired…

Those famous words are such a great motto for life. Thank you Van Wilder.

So I turned down a job the other day.

It was the most scary choice I’d made in a long time but I feel like I made the right choice. Lets hope I don’t live to regret it.

(And I did it for the children.)

I posted a photo to Facebook recently from a photoshoot me and my best mate had. In the pic I was really grinning, proper cheesy.

Some of the kids I’ve taught at Space School started having a convo on that pic, about how I smile like that when I talk about science, how my face “lights up” and how great I am at teaching them.

Some of their comments were: ” trust me when ever you talk about your job or space or anything when your teaching us or whatever you always light up like this – you are an amazing person on the inside and out – time you realized that and went and changed the world” and ” its coz the way you explain things you should do like tv work like popularizing science even more, or something – do what you want to do then you will make us happy – for one i think you could be an ace science journo, because you’ve got that midas touch- you should just go for it i believe in you 100%” and “you could do more that Brian Cox, you could bring out science like it should be, he dumbs it down Sheila has a a way of bringing complex stuff to an understandable level – like when i was at junior space school i was like the youngest there and hadn’t done much of the maths that the others had but she helped me out no end” and finally “Plus she makes it fun too… because she’s fun, she knows what we like.

I was balling by the end of reading that! I was so touched by their lovely words, bless them.

Anyway, so yeah, I turned down a job.

I’m getting to the end of my PhD and trying to figure out what I want to do for the rest of my life. So I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut, and I still do and am pretty sure I’ll get there when I’m 92 aboard a Virgin Galactic plane. So what do I do career wise in the meantime?

I wasn’t sure until recently. I applied for a mix of things and after some interviews got one job.

A post-doc position to continue doing science.

Now I was rather lucky to get this job as there aren’t many out there at the mo, esp in space stuff. But when I was told I got it I just didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel proud or happy, and my gut instincts were going haywire.

Now the first code of being a vampire slayer is to always trust your instinct. But up until now I’ve not been very good at that. I’ve made some wrong choices in my life and those have made me scared of regret, of doing the wrong thing, of hindsight.

The thing is, as long as you make the right choice at the time, you should never ever regret your choices. Of course you have to make the right choice for the right reasons too but as a rule of thumb, right choice at the time is good enough.

I was so close to taking this post-doc because I felt like it was what I should do, it was what I’d trained for, I didnt want to let anyone down, make anyone hate me, I knew others who had wanted that job but didnt even get an interview, I was scared not to take it.

But then I remembered. Inspire the uninspired. And I realised that while I love love love space science, it isn’t the nitty gritty science bit of it that excites me. Its the bigger picture, the amazing picture, and the teaching that picture to future astronauts and scientists.

So I didnt take the job. When I wrote the email it sat on my desktop for a few hours til I had the courage to press send. And when I finally did it I felt relief and excitement. So I must have made the right choice!

People have told me I’ve been brave and mature. For the first time in my life I listened to my instinct and did what I thought was right, regardless of others. And now I’ve got no job lined up and no pay packet on the way, but I’m happy. So I guess being offered the job has taught me a really amazing lesson.

I just hope that soon I can get a job that I love in something that helps me inspire using the context of space. Any takers? 🙂


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