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

Beatriz Y. Gonzalez beatriz at animal.ufl.edu
Fri Aug 5 14:23:36 EST 1994

In article <31r418$eft at cerberus-138.wustl.edu> acm at pharmdec.wustl.edu (AC Missias) writes:

>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.

AC, I have been thinking about this ever since I passed my qualifyers several 
years ago. I love science, but it seemed it coul not be taken as a "regular 
job": you do it while you're in the lab and when you get out you can do other 
things. In my opinion it is possible to approach it that way, if you don't 
mind never truly excelling in it.  When I went to do a postdoc 3 years ago, a 
male friend of mine told me not to work in the weekends (at least at the 
beginning) or stay late at night. The reason, if you do it at the beginning 
they will expect that from you and the day you don't do it it will seem as 
if there is a drop in your performance.

I know it is hard not to work a lot when you have a new and challenging 
project, especially if you relocate to a new city and know no one. But one has 
to hold it for a little while until one learns that life outside the lab can 
be wonderful as well.

>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

There are no easy answers, I just wish we (humans) could have an 
intellectually challenging job without needing to dedicate every minute of our 
day to it. I understand you, I think is time for people to start taking a 
stand and make clear we are not one-dimensional individuals who can only work.

>-- 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.

I've seen that again and again. At the beginning I thought it was cultural 
differences, but now I just think it's the way the mind of many people in 
science works. Professors would comment to me how it was obvious I was not 
dedicated to my studies because I cared too much about wearing trendy (not 
expensive) clothes, how come I had time to do my nails? And how was it 
possible that when I was writing my thesis I always had clean hair?! They 
assumed that if one wasn't full of dandruff and the hair was all greasy (clear 
sign that you were writing all day!) you were not working hard enough.

>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.

Good luck, I know many people understand what you are going through,


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