I have been really busy the last several weeks working on writing my dissertation and preparing to teach an Introduction to Ecology course. All the time spent staring at my computer has me daydreaming about all the hours I have spent doing field work over the course of my PhD. I flipped through some half finished blog posts and journal entries form that period, and found the start of the story I’m about to tell you. I was instantly transported back to that day, which was memorable but also pretty representative of how most of my field days went. Some of this is certainly Type II Fun.
Sometime in August of 2016…
I wake up before the sun has inched its way above the horizon, and fumble to turn off my alarm as quickly as possible. At the foot of the bed, my dog whines softly. My husband, Daniel, turns over and away from me in his sleep. In my non-field season life, I often hit the snooze button. I know it’s not good for my brain, or whatever, but I don’t care. I love it. During the field season, my alarm is set so uncomfortably early most days, 4:00 am or maybe 4:30, that snoozing seems masochistic. Also, it’s a little rude to the sleeping partner and pup. Besides, when you’re racing the tides, time is always of the essence. So, instead of rolling over for five more minutes of sleep, I roll out of bed and try to land on my feet. The cat judges me from Daniel’s pillow.
Welp, that title is actually a bit of a misnomer. I really have about 4 more days of field work that I need to knock out over the next week or so. DETAILS. I know I wrote a lot recently about how stressful the summer can be for me. It’s my busiest time of the year, field work is exhausting, and I probably don’t get enough alone time to really recharge (#introvertprobs). But, more than any of those less positive things, I really love how much time I get to spend outside each field season. I know I really like it, because I take about a zillion obnoxious iPhone pictures in the marsh each summer.
For your enjoyment, here is the view of my summer, from my smart phone.
Happy Summer Solstice! Last summer was so massively insane for us. I (Rachel) did, what I can only assume to be, the most field work ever. I have lots to do this summer, but I’m trying to prioritize work life balance a bit during this busy season. Having said that, I have to admit I sort of hate the buzz wordy-ness of the phrase ‘work life balance’ for a couple reasons. First, because balance somehow implies equality between multiple values or goals. It’s probably more accurate to call them ‘work life trade-offs,’ a phrase I think I got from my masters adviser. Second, I feel like, particularly in academia, people absolutely love to talk about balance, then keep right on working 12 hours a day or whatever. If you need some encouragement to choose to have a life sometimes, here’s a story. I recently co-organized a panel on non-academic careers in conservation (It was so, so great! Want to know more?), and Heather Tallis, the Lead Scientist for The Nature Conservancy, literally said we need to establish the pattern of work life balance you want in your career while you’re in graduate school, and that you absolutely didn’t have to destroy yourself to be a big fancy pants scientist (like her). We pressed her on it later and she doubled down; seriously, no need to not have a life.
And I (Meridith) last summer was, unbeknownst to me, still in the beginning of my Quals Take Three journey studying my face off for Quals Part Two, while living in Seattle for half the summer. It was a fantastic adventure, but the pressure of the looming exam definitely applied a layer of guilt and dread to everything I did that wasn’t directly related to studying. To be fair, I DID get to see some lovely people and explore a new city and attend my first Statistical Meeting. AND I didn’t have the added stress of the Field Season Life. This summer I have much more flexibility to focus on my own work life trade-offs while I continue advancing my research in preparation to ROCK my first statistical conference presentation.