Dr. Mom, My Adventures as a Mommy-Scientist

Discussion of my journey from grad school to postdoc to tenure with two kids, a husband, (and a bit of breast cancer) in tow.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

I want to be a window washer

My in-laws live in Florida. Needless to say it was amazing over the holiday break. I took my kids swimming, twice. They live in South Florida, in a rather affluent area, which reminds me of Eden. In some ways, I think there is too much opulence and pretention, but in other ways I cannot help but appreciate the pleasure of it all. I have often wished that we, too, could live in SoFlo, near the beach, what an idyllic life it would be. Unfortunately, I want to be an academic and the universities in the area do not accommodate my field of study.

This weekend I was sitting in my in-laws living room watching the window washer. He looked to be in his late 30's early 40's. He seemed quite happy. I was watching the back and forth of the squeegee, which is almost hypnotic thinking about what kind of life he must lead. He is self-employed. He works when he wants to. He isn't paid so much, but I'm sure that he makes a pretty decent living. He lives in a climate that is consistently warm, with the beach minutes away. I dreamed of quitting my job and becoming a window washer.

And then the cruel reality of fate hit me. I am too smart to be a window washer. I know that sounds a little elitist, but it is true. Before I went to grad school I worked at a regular (actually pretty prestigious) company with my BS. And, I was bored out of my mind. Unfortunately, I could not be happy with only the squeegee to keep my comfort. Even at my postdoc, where I am following a fairly traditional route of research, I have moments of fleeting boredom. I think sometimes, when you have a certain level of intelligence, it becomes exceedingly difficult for the brain to be satisfied. I enjoy my research because it is maddening. It is one of the only times in my life that things don't come easily for me, and I love/hate it.

I find it extremely unfortunate that my intelligence limits my choice of career in such a way that it makes it difficult for me to live in places that I would like to. I just hope that I am making the right decisions. Sometimes I feel like I am like a trapeze artist, jumping from one swing to another. For me finding happiness is making that leap and hoping that there will be a hand to catch me on the other side.


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