Guilt.

Maybe it doesn’t exist. Maybe it’s a fantasy in 2011.  I sometimes wish I had a job where I don’t feel guilty for leaving the lab to go home at a usual hour (say a 8am-6pm workday), even when I get there at 8am or even before. The science doesn’t take a break- there’s always more to do and not just in the abstract sense that no matter what, we as scientists will probably never know everything- always more questions- So why should I? Because I’m human? That doesn’t seem sufficient; have I earned a break? I don’t think so, no matter what I’ve gotten done. I know part of this stems from being an early career scientist needing to prove myself worthy and a sense that I need to keep up with everyone else who seems to be working those long hours too. It’s sort of a passive aggressive competition to see who can leave last at the end of the day. I know another part is just not having a balanced life too…why leave work when there’s nothing exciting waiting at home (I’m working on developing that thing at least)? To be a scientist requires passion for the work and an obsession with it; and it’s easy to be that to an unhealthy level (I know I have). I hope it’s OK to be a human and a scientist (I sometimes get the sense that it’s just absolutely not allowed). Reducing my level of guilt has been a challenge, but I seem to be heading the right direction with it at least…trending downward. It seems to be enabling me to enjoy life and work more. May that continue.

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Author: Ian Street

Ian is a plant scientist and science writer relating stories of plant science and scientists on his blog, The Quiet Branches as well as other outlets. You can find him on Twitter @IHStreet.

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