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Life Angst, or is there life outside lab and should there be?

AC Missias acm at pharmdec.wustl.edu
Thu Aug 4 11:12:24 EST 1994


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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