Hello faithful readers (if, indeed, there are many of you left). As might be deduced by scrolling through the blog archives, my frequency of posting has waned significantly of late. Believe me, this is not a reflection of any lack of ideas, topics, or Things I Think Are Important, but rather a lack of energy, and a re-evaluation of what I see as the purpose of The Lab and Field.
When I started blogging back in 2013, I was about 18 months into my first postdoc, and the only person in the lab, aside from the PI. We were the only ecologists in an entire building of hydrologists and meteorologists, and I saw blogging as an outlet for looking at neat papers, expressing ideas and opinions, and sharing personal anecdotes from my professional journey.
In the intervening 3+ years, I did a second postdoc, went to faculty interviews (got rejected from by of them), ended up working for a massive environmental NGO, moved continents, lost family, gained friends, and visited some of the most remote and spectacular places on Earth. And the whole time I’ve questioned decisions, second-guessed all the what-ifs imaginable, struggled, worked far too much, and been exhausted. I’ve fought what I see as a few good fights, and lost a number of them (or at least that’s how it sometimes feels).
I’m not normally one for too much navel-gazing, but rather a few people have asked recently when I would blog next, or mentioned that they missed seeing new posts. And while that’s deeply gratifying, I think I’ll be taking a break. Not indefinite, but of uncertain length.
A very dear friend and I discussed at some length recently how working in conservation, whether as a solo researcher or as part of a massive machine, is emotionally exhausting, how we often compromise to fit funding requirements, and put ourselves in less-than-ideal places, all while struggling to make ends meet at home. Conservation work, like most things I see as Very Important, tends to not pay well, can involve significant time away from home, and huge emotional investment (and a good dose of tilting at windmills, with often predictable consequences).
Years ago (and despite extensive searching, I can’t re-find it), I heard a public talk on a podcast where the speaker would set aside 4 weeks each year, in two chunks, to simply disappear, usually to a Buddhist monastery or equally quiet, contemplative place, free from phones, clutter, jumble, and what I’ll call “ancillary crap” (the associated un-fun things about daily life). I always found that appealing, if financially unattainable.
I sense an increasingly rant-y wave of posts in my drafts folder, and we all have enough negativity in our personal and professional lives. But it’s often this negativity that makes being positive and encouraging so energetically expensive – a feeling I knew all too well before coming out, and, well, am starting to see again from time to time.
So time to take a break (though without the monastic setting, jokes about Bedfordshire aside). You can still find me on Twitter, if you’re so inclined.