This is a atypical question for the forum. I'd like to get some advice on whether I should keep pursuing Math in the traditional route, i.e. get a PhD, do research & teach, etc.
Due to financial constraints, I worked almost full time and did not really explore much during my undergrad years. I got my BS in Finance in 2.5 years from one of the top schools in the country. Then I worked for a couple years in the investment industry, and decided it is not what I wanted - very flat learning curve and to be a leader in the industry, it's really not how much you know, but how well you can sell. So after I saved enough money to live frugally for a few years, I quit this industry and see if I can find another career path.
I then went to take various classes at community college to explore, while working part-time on and off. In about a year or so, I decided to do math. I liked the subject very much, and seemed capable in it. Later, I did almost two more years of Math at a state university, all the way to advanced real analysis and advanced linear algebra. I also participated in some research with professors. I struggled in some classes, but overall I got As and Bs. Everyone expects me to pursue a PhD.
This is my struggle: although I like the subject and mostly enjoy the thought-process, I hate the lifestyle. I was either studying or in the lab, because in order to do well, I have to do it all the time, including almost all weekends. I feel very very lonely. A few years ago, I had a very busy undergraduate schedule, but I could predict how long a homework/project would take and schedule time to make and keep friends accordingly. Now, I don't know if I can be done with a proof in 3 hours or 3 days! I feel bad if I abandon my unfinished work and just go out. I do try to talk to my current peers and professors, but they are mostly about the coursework or the projects we or they are working on. I look at my professors, they are almost always there to do research, day and night, weekday and weekends, even the ones with family. The more leisurely ones are the ones who either got their professorship or published some great papers a while ago. Otherwise, everyone else is very busy. I start to doubt that if everyone else is okay with it, it's me who don't love Math enough to infiltrate it into most parts of my life. After all, they are satisfied with seeing their friends once in a while, have a little chit-chat here and there, but I am very unhappy. I also realize that while I have to spend hours on a proof, some people get it very quickly. Maybe I am just incapable. People also work on a very irregular schedule - sometimes they come in at 2am and leave at noon, sometimes vice-versa. I don't mind when they work, but somehow the social activity, if any, is held very late at night, out of a spontaneous mode... "oh, my brain can't function, let's watch a movie/play frisbee/poker!" at midnight! And sadly, I don't want to be out at midnight. Again, other people seem to be fine with it as well.
Should I continue this path? If I do it, I don't want to do it in a rush way; so it'll take me another 2 years to do a master; and another 4 years to do a PhD, plus many more years in this research environment. (I also would like to learn how you cope with the financial challenges to support a family if you are pursuing the research route. I am afraid that my research is not good enough to get good funding; and positions at universities are very very competitive.)
Should I somehow engage it part-time only? I think my professors will welcome me to continue doing research for them, even just on the weekend. However, without formerly enrolling in school, my work will be mostly unpaid since their funding comes from NASA and other institutions, and I don't have a PhD to qualify me as a visiting scholar to let me access school's supercomputers legally. Also, I feel like I won't grow much in this part-time manner.
I had considered doing this on my own, at my own pace, but I am not at a level where I can do/learn on myself yet. I need someone to discuss and check if I understand something correctly. I much prefer doing it in person than digging through online forums.
This is long, and I appreciate your time in reading and I really look forward to some guidance or experience-sharing. Thank you.
[Technical comments:] Question asked by Flora. Originally tagged mp.mathematical-physics , ca.analysis-and-odes , ra.rings-and-algebras, to provide more focused mathematical context. [end technical comments, by quid].