When I was a kid, I didn't want to be a fireman, or a policeman, or a soldier- I wanted to be a scientist. I worked hard in high school to get into a good college, worked hard in college to get into a good graduate school, and then worked hard in graduate school to get a good postdoc. I had my share of difficulties through out that period- problems with mental illness (I'm bipolar, I have generalized anxiety disorder, and to complete the trifecta, tourette's syndrome which was loads of fun in high school, let me tell you), but I made it through. In fact, I made it through without any debt, because I always managed to get scholarships. I met my wife while I was in graduate school- I'm crazy about her! We met, fell in love, and got married. Now we have a baby on the day (due April 7th), and we're both very excited about that. But over the last few years a lot of my anxiety and depression have started to get the better of me, and really started to take a significant toll on the limited self confidence I started with. A couple of my PhD projects didn't work out as nicely as I would've liked them to, and as a result I only managed to get five publications from it, instead of 7. And my postdoc project has turned into a bit of a gong show- and not worked out nearly as easily as either myself, or my postdoc advisor had expected.
Regardless, I had a second postdoc position lined up to start this summer, and I was really excited about it. It's at an amazing University, dream department, even better lab. In fact, the position is nearly perfect in every way. For what I want to do, this place is objectively better (for me) than Cambridge, Oxford, or Harvard. And not only that, they are really excited to have me come there. That University spent time and money trying to convince ME that I was a good fit for them. I'd never experienced that before, it was pretty nice. The major downside was the location- I felt pretty certain my wife would be very unhappy there because of the climate, and that we'd have a hard time finding a place to live that my wife would be comfortable with on my salary (she wants to stay home for a year with the baby, and that's something I agreed to a while ago, because if we had been in Canada, she would've been afforded that luxury by the liberal maternal benefits laws). I love her to bits, and she really has a fantastic heart, but sometimes she can be a bit of a class snob.
The lab I'm currently in has started to have serious funding problems. A few months ago, my current supervisor (unfairly, and unreasonably) blew a gasket at me- essentially blaming me for a lot of things that were not my responsibility. When that happened, with my already diminished self confidence- I sort of completely deflated. At that point, I realized (whether or not it was true, I felt it was true) that if I couldn't make the current postdoc a success (and it seemed like it was about to explode, not because of the project, but because the supervisor seemed like he was going to create an extremely toxic and hostile work environment), then I'd need to do three postdocs, instead of two- to get a faculty position. That, combined with the fact that the US economy is in a hole and the macroeconomic indicators for the future are still pretty mixed, that the amount of faculty hiring being done has reached a new low- really made me feel like, trying to continue to pursue this dream was folly. It made me feel like I was peter pan, being unwilling to grow up, and make the hard choices and personal sacrifices for the sake of my family.
I knew of another position that was opening up, doing something I'm perfectly qualified for, but not particularly interested in- but it was going to pay better than the dream postdoc I mentioned earlier, it was going to be close my my wife's family, and it had long term prospects. I think the work is really important- probably much more important in the short term than the aforementioned job. It's just not doing what I want to do. I can do it, I just don't find it particularly interesting or intellectually challenging. EDIT: I should point out, I applied for, and got this job too.
Anyway, I'm really struggling with this. I don't know what to do- take the job that'll make my family happy, that'll give me the time to spend with my wife and my future children- or take the job that excites me, that I've dreamed about since I was a boy- but pays less, promises less, and demands more.
I don't know.