August 7, 2012
I often say this (even on my facebook page) when I’m excited about my research. I don’t mean it in a competitive way; I’m not the type to brag about being up all night running experiments in the lab. I tried that in college; it didn’t work out too well. I was dissecting octopus eyeballs to make slides for a laser microscope, but I kept nodding off while processing them at 2am. When I say “Science never sleeps!” the subtext is, “but I do!”
Work/life balance is tough in any career, but it can be especially tricky in science. I’m concerned that I can’t keep up with changes in my field, or the peripheral disciplines that affect my research. Or if I can, how do I keep up with the rest of my life?
Two weeks ago I began preparing specifically for this trip. Until that point I’d been pushing other projects so hard that August seemed half a year away. Also two weeks ago, my two closest friends took a sudden opportunity to move to Portland. When I get back to Los Angeles, it won’t be the same.
I’ve been a close friend with Jen for about fourteen years, and with her husband Paul for about 7. Above is a picture of Jen and I at her fabulous wedding last year. Since I moved from their hip Silver Lake neighborhood last winter I’ve missed walking up the street to watch movies on lazy evenings. Now I’ll miss brunches where we’d review the week’s developments in the music business, comedy scene, and paleontology finds. I’ll miss that moment in each conversation when Jen shrugs and says, ‘They’re just rocks’, and Paul wants to know more about the specific fossils and physics.
Saturday afternoon I found myself still on campus, pouring over my sponge fossils one by one, organizing and packing and planning. It was time to leave for Jen’s going-away barbeque, which was characteristically festive if a little bittersweet.
Now I’m on an airplane bound for South America, into the land of Darwin’s confusion and birthplace of the potato. Out my window, between the equatorial storm clouds, I can see just a narrow slice of spectacular sunset. Brilliant pink and tangerine on a single white cloud sandwiched between the grey.
Academic life will keep me moving for a few years, I guess. It’s lucky I got to live in the same town as long-time friends for most of my PhD years. It’s just tough to be a grown up, and to watch the wonderful adventures and opportunities we gain also draw us apart.
Written over the southern tip of Mexico, 6:15 California time.