Life Angst, or is there life outside lab and should ther

ebarak at NSF.GOV ebarak at NSF.GOV
Thu Aug 4 16:36:19 EST 1994


I think your feelings --- both your yearnings and your angsts --- are 
widely shared among practicing scientists.

Most of the talented scientists I've ever known have interests (and 
talents!) outside of science.  Yet, very few of them are willing to 
"expose" this to colleagues, for fear of somehow being viewed as "less 
serious" about their work.  As a result, they are unaware that their 
colleagues are in the same boat.

Those I know who have openly shared their outside interests with 
colleagues have had interests ranging from serious musicianship 
(Einstein was not the only scientist who played a stringed 
instrument!) to photography, painting, creative writing (including at 
least one who publishes popular fiction under a pseudonym), and dance. 
 I also know at least one very serious mountain-climber.  Then, of 
course, there is competitive tennis or other one-on-one sport, and 
other hobbies.  Etc. Etc. Etc.







______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Life Angst, or is there life outside lab and should there be
Author:  AC Missias <acm at pharmdec.wustl.edu> at NOTE
Date:    8/4/94 4:12 PM


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I'm having a problem that, while not unique to women, seems perhaps 
more common among them.  That is that while I love science (the 
material, the people in it, even the daily benchwork), and am 
relatively confident of my ability to do and think about it, I am 
beginning to wonder if this is the lifestyle I want to have in the long 
run.  Sometimes the notion of having a 40 hour/week job where I could 
really have the energy and time to do what I want with my weekends and 
evenings -- read a book (!), develop my hobbies, study various 
subjects, wander in the woods -- is highly appealing, and makes me 
wonder whether I should stick with this.  Part of me is excited to 
think about picking a new lab (for a post doc) with exciting scientific 
possibilities, etc., while another part thinks that it could be a long 
(infinite?) time before I get to really explore the many other parts of 
my life that I also value -- we're not just talking about relationships 
or family, but everything non-scientific that I think of as me.

How many other people have wished that they had the time to get more 
involved with activities, organizations, interests that they value but 
push to the side?  To what extent is this just a fact of life in any 
career versus being something specific to science or perhaps to 
academia?  How do people attempt to answer these questions for 
themselves?

I think that being a woman comes into this specifically in two ways:

1) women have traditionally been brought up to place more value on 
non-career aspects of their lives (and to define themselves in a 
broader range of ways) than have men
2) I chafe against the notion of letting myself be squeezed out by #1 
and/or by the masculine system of values that seems to be inherent in 
the system of career development/advancement in many fields -- one that 
to selects for those people willing to devote themselves completely to 
one thing only (of whatever sex).

It seems that there is a growing acceptance of the need to make time 
for families/children, and acknowledgement that balancing work and 
family is a consideration for many people (again, of both sexes) -- 
even if it's one that the system would prefer not to have to deal with 
-- but there is little sympathy for any need/desire to simply make time 
for oneself.  You are just viewed as less serious or focussed than 
those for whom science is all-consuming.  One is left in the position 
of balancing stress with guilt.  Yuck.

Anyway, this seems lengthy enough.  I may be rehashing the same 
problems that others have talked about, but I have only recently 
discovered this group and am eager to hear your thoughts.

Thanks in advance for the reality checks. 
-ACM



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