Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Happy World Ocean Day

When I was in grad school (the source of my Seminole love), my group was pretty tightly knit and pretty much exclusively just us oceanography students.  That's not surprising - grad school is all encompassing under any circumstances, but particularly so in science, with experiments and field work and lots of time in the lab and lots and lots of work at all hours.  We worked hard, and well, we played hard too.  In short, we pretty much traveled as a loose, semi fluid pack of broke grad students, spending all our time together.  And despite our obvious differences, our work meant we were more alike than different.  

My housemate Heidi was better at branching out and having outside friends, and so every once in a while we'd hang out with some rugby players.  (Heidi is still with Clarence, a rugby player whom she met near the end of their time at FSU.)  And actually one of the physical oceanographers was a rugby player, too, so there were some connections.  Anyway, however it happened, here was a connection to people who were a little different in their work and ambition than us - the thing that held them together was rugby, but they did all sorts of other things in their real life.  The thing that held us together was oceanography, and that was pretty much all we did.

At this point in my life, I'd spent two summers and one winter as a park ranger at Assateaugue Island National Seashore, (the best job I've ever had), another summer as a naturalist at Pocomoke River State Park, two other summers on a conservation crew working on the Pocomoke River, I was diving weekly in the Gulf of Mexico for our research, spending weekends diving in the clear freshwater springs that dot Florida, spending time at the Marine Lab, teaching kids on the weekend about the natural history of the Florida coast - in sum, doing things I loved that were also fun.  I'd be on one deep sea research cruise, and had missed diving to the bottom of the ocean in Alvin by a coin flip for the last spot on the last dive. 

And I've never forgotten a conversation held at a bar with some random rugby player one night.  He was going to law school, and was asking us about our research and our work and what we did.  He told me that his goal was to make a lot of money, which was why he was in law school.  And he'd work hard at law, and make that money, and on his vacations, 4 weeks a year, he'd go diving and swimming and camping and visit and stay in fabulous places.  And I remember just being incredulous.  I'd never actually met anyone who professional goal was to make money in order to fund the things he loved doing.  Everyone I knew at that point did the things they loved doing on a daily basis.  And sure, we'd never make a lot of money, but who needs a lot of money when you get to spend every single day doing what you loved?  It was a totally different perspective - one I've since come to learn is, let's be real, the prevalent one in the US.  Work is the thing you do to make money.  I'd always thought of work as your vocation - the thing you love to do more than any other thing and so while the reward may or may not be monetary, the true rewards come from doing what you were meant to do. 

And, well, since that time I went on two more deep sea cruises, and did get to visit the bottom of the ocean in Alvin, and realized research wasn't the path for me, but that the intersection of science/policy/education was and did lots of interesting work in interesting places.  And then along came Elizabeth.  And when I was pregnant with Elizabeth, I worked two port calls for the scientific research vessel my company managed and I stood on the deck of the ship and felt a powerful tug to sign up for a two month long research cruise, but also knew that was never, ever going to happen.  And then there was Andrew, and I've managed to patch together work in science and policy and education, until lately I've not been been able to.  And now I'm looking at jobs that are just that - jobs.  To earn money.  To be able to do the things that really matter to me.  But those things now are t-ball and field trips and music class and story time. 

It makes me sad, to be perfectly honest, to realize I can't make it work.  I look at lists of "good mom jobs" and think why didn't I become an accountant?  And then I think of free-falling in Alvin with the siphonphores twinkling in the dark of the deep ocean and know I wouldn't trade any of that away.  I just can't, for a variety of reasons, make it work right now, but now isn't forever. 

Happy World Ocean Day. 


Helen said...

Oh Susan. Big hugs.

Thrift Store Mama said...

This was really, really lovely Susan. You feel about oceans how I feel about college students.

yosan said...

nice pict