Looking at the list of POPL 2012 accepted papers has me feeling unexpectedly grim. I feel about a million years away from ever being able to publish something at POPL because my so-called research has been a random mishmash of things -- I haven't been able to sustain a single coherent line of inquiry. (Edited to add: That is to say, I think the individual projects I've worked on have been (more or less) coherent unto themselves, but the set of projects I've worked on doesn't cohere.) In fact, my whole career feels like a random mishmash. I don't feel like an expert at anything.
I asked "Does the 'my career is held together with spit and chicken wire' feeling ever stop?" on Twitter a month ago, and the responses I got from a bunch of people I respect -- Jim Blandy, Peter Boothe, Mike Shaver, Jason Reed, and Tim Chevalier -- were, respectively, "no", "no", "not if you're doing it right", "when the spit is replaced by duct tape", and "sure; sometimes it catches on fire". But surely not everyone feels that way. There's one POPL author in particular who's younger than me, yet much further along in their career; they seem to keep on racking up first-author conference papers while still having time to blog about fun diversions. I know that jealousy is self-indulgent and unproductive, so I try not to be jealous (especially since I happen to like this person), but that still leaves me wondering just how the hell they manage to do it.