Monday, July 4, 2011

July 4th

I recently spoke to a relative who just started an internship and is delighted by one feature of the job: after she gets home from work, in the evening, her day's work is over and she is free to turn her mind to other things with no nagging thought in the back of her mind of what she should be doing for work.

I answered that, except when backpacking, I do not really know that feeling. I was just a little bit envious. In our profession, we always have one more thing to do, there is always one more theorem that needs to be proved, one more paper that needs to be finished, one more review that needs to be written. In what other profession would I, of my own volition, be spending most of the day of July 4th working?

The upside of course is that our job is interesting, and, we like to think, vastly more interesting than 9-to-5 jobs. But as a lifelong academic, I have no way of knowing that for sure. One hint that that might be true: once I was with a group of about 10 people in their thirties. One said that if he came into a large sum of money, he would retire from his job. Another answered: "Of course. We all would!" I looked around, surprised to see everyone nodding, while the only other academic in the room and I simultaneously answered: "No we wouldn't!" --- at least we would hesitate, weigh the pros and cons, the exciting aspects of our job versus what we are missing out on in life by spending so much of our energy focused on generally arcane topics; it would not be the obvious decision that it seems to be in other professions.

So, that's the upside.

The downside is that I find myself at my desk on the morning of July 4th.

1 comment:

  1. I spent some time in industry post-PhD and now I am back in academia. I can safely say that I fully agree with you. The only difference is that I am making up my mind based on actual experience!


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