Sometimes I love my job, but sometimes it frustrates me. Not just because science is fucking hard, but because every scientist is subject to a series of outside pressures; pressure to be the best, pressure to do it all, pressure to forget that you like doing anything other than your research… While many of these pressures are easy to ignore, in favor of a more healthy work life balance, sometimes the dialogue around young scientists needing to work all the time is just impractical and based on models which don’t exist anymore. I’ve been bothered by this idea, that we should all make grand sacrifices for the sake of doing good work, regardless of what it means for our personal lives, for awhile. At some point, me not taking the time to take care of myself means I can’t take care of others and do the work that I’m trained to do, and especially not well. And thus, having the people or resources (i.e., time) necessary to take care of myself is imperative for me to be a good scientist.
Recently I have attend a number of events which have further exacerbated the “you shall not sleep if you expect to accomplish anything, or be the next great scientist” myth, which I don’t feel necessary to call out right now, but I do want to point out that many of the great scientists whom these events were referencing often had wives or the economic freedoms necessary to not have to take care of themselves1. I happen to like a clean house, and clean clothes, and personal hygiene, and to eat well, and to do yoga to keep myself happy and healthy, but I don’t have a wife/husband/housekeeper to take care of my cooking, cleaning, chores, errands, etc. That was true in the U.S., but it’s especially true in Mexico, where I’m not even certain how to do things like open a bank account or get a driver’s license. Luckily, my work takes care of some of these things, but if it weren’t for the fantastic individual that I am so very fortunate to call a friend, the future queen of the world, I would be completely lost. She jokes that she’s my housewife as I’m adapting to Mexico, but as a single individual who works excessively, there is no way I would be able to set up a house on my own, let alone do things like buy plants or art, things that make that house feel like a home. So, while I think it is important to acknowledge the work of great scientists, and recognize their achievements, I’m so often frustrated by the lack of acknowledgement of the people who make the work of the great scientists possible: the partners, the field crew, the lab supervisors, the officemates and friends, THE OTHER SCIENTISTS… We’re all in this together, and while it’s great to have aspirations to be the next great scientist, aspiring to be a good human—to recognize when people help you do your work well, or to help your friends accomplish their goals to be a great scientist—is equally as important, if not more so.
I thought about adding pictures of all the people who have made my science possible by doing things as big as helping me collect samples, or less big (but not insignificant), like helping me pack to come to Mexico, but that would be a giant photo album. Instead, here are some pictures of Mexico, a place I truly love and am so inspired to help with my science, provided I can find the balance I need in achieving my personal and professional goals simultaneously.
1Let’s be real, in most cases, it was wives. Which is super frustrating to hear an old man tell me, as a young scientist, that I shouldn’t be resting and we need more women in science on one hand, but not acknowledging that I’m still expected to take care of the unpaid labor at home. But this is a totally different blog post.