The Thoughts of a Frumpy Professor

............................................ ............................................ A blog devoted to the ramblings of a small town, middle aged college professor as he experiences life and all its strange variances.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

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What I Wanted to Be



An interesting question was posed to me a few days ago by a student. He asked me how I had decided to become a biologist. I gave him a general, very typical (although accurate at a certain level) sort of answer. I stated that I became a biologist because I wanted to study life, and I was curious about living things in a scientific way.

Yet, there is a whole aspect of personality and psychology that I believe shapes how a person becomes. I have been thinking about all the various "jobs/careers" I had strongly desired over the years, and really all of them all point in a way to what I have become in my life... even though at first glance it may seem each of the different choices for career are incongruent:

1. Used/New Car Salesman (from the age of four till ten) - This is the first sort of job I told my parents I wanted to be when I was young. I have always been fascinated with mechanical things, but especially automobiles. I could tell various automobiles apart very easily as a very small child of four. I thought being a salesman of automobiles would be one of the most fun and amazing jobs as a kid.

2. Bus Driver, or better yet, Manager of a Bus Terminal (from the age of four to seven) - Accompanying my love of automobiles was my fascination with busses. City busses, school busses - it didn't really matter. The thought of driving a bus was very appealing to me, but even more so was what I guess could be thought of as a "manager" of a bus terminal. I learned numbers and how to write numbers at a very early age, and I remember writing in a small memo book between the ages of 4-6 the numbers of all the busses I would see. It was a bit of an obsession with me. I carried the little memo pad everywhere, and when I would see a bus, I would have to find some identifying number for the bus and write it down.

3. Archeologist (ages 6 - 13) - I used to read all sorts of books about the far flung travels and adventures of various archologists as a kid, and watched programs on television about them as well. My passion for archeology was a strong driving force for me to travel all around the county where I grew up looking for fossils, remnants of bone, or remnants of various earlier people who may have been in the same area hundreds of years before. I and my friends (who I convinced we would find amazing treasures) used to spend hours digging holes all around our neighborhood, and later, I became more "wise and sophisticated" and realized ditches that had been dug had done most of the hard work for me, and I would trapse around and in ditches everywhere I would go, looking for anything of interest.

4. Tobacconist (ages 8 - 25 and sporadically as a daydream ever since) - My dad, a venerate pipe smoker, would plan regular trips to two or three of the various tobacco shops in our area to look at and buy pipes, pipe tobacco, cigars, matches, etc. I always enjoyed those times where I was able to tag along with him. The atmosphere and warmth and camaraderie I always felt when I was in those shops with my father were very appealing and inviting to me. The aromas, the genteel demeanor of most of the workers and patrons of the store, and the homey, inviting nature of the place made it seem like a great time. I had always been fascinated with my father's pipes... looking at their shape, and sizes, and textures, and found watching him smoke his pipe fascinating.

5. High School Teacher (ages 10 - 15) - I began to see some very real joys in a life of teaching as I made my way through school. Not only was my father a teacher, but I found I really looked up to my teachers (and my father) in a way much different from other people in other careers. I did not really realize it then, but I think what I admired was the aspect of "service" being a teacher entails. For the most part, teachers strive to make the world a better places, and while there are other careers that also do that, this was the career I regularly observed that "striving to do good things" as a career. My wanting to be a high school teacher faded early in high school... not because of any loss in respect for my teachers, but because I saw how obnoxious many of my fellow classmates could be in high school and I resented that the teachers had to devote so much of their time to discipline instead of teaching.

6. Scientist (age 10 and up) - As I stated above, I loved machinery (cars especially, but damn near anything mechanical). I quickly realized I liked virtually anything having to do with any aspect of science. In my younger years I especially enjoyed things related to engineering, physics, and chemistry. But by the time I had gotten into my teens, I was more fascinated with biology and psychology.

7. Professor (age 15 and up) - when I quit wanting to be a high school teacher, I becamse more aware of the role of a college professor. It seemed wonderful... I could teach and do research.

8. Writer (age 17 and up) - a few times in college I thought of chaning my major or having a dual major in English as well as in biology. And, there were several times when I thought a career in writing would be very appealing. Yet, the instability of the stereotypical life of a writer (think most writers, or even some of the greats... Hemingway for example) was a bit too nerve-wraking for my tastes. I craved (and still crave) stability and consistency.

9. Medical Doctor (age 17-18) - a large array of the adults in my life at this age were suggesting and encouraging me to become a medical doctor... as it was considered a pinnacle of sorts in careers, and my interest in science and biology would make me a good candidate for getting into medical schools. Yet, even though I very briefly toyed with the idea during my Freshman year in college, I knew in my heart and in my mind that it was a horrible, wretched, and completely wrong choice for me. The responsibilities for other's lives, and the weight of those responsibilites on the mind and shoulders of a doctor would be horrid to have. And, while I believe most good medical doctors develop a jaded edge to these responsibilites in order to survive and strive as a medical doctor, I do not think my own personality is well suited to developing that "jaded edge" that is a sort of protective mechanism for those in the career. So, I was forutnate enough to know that though I loved the science of medicine, practicing medicine was not something I would find physiologically or psychologically healthy for me.

10. What I Am - I am a professor, and in reality, the job is far more than my earlier impressions of the career. It really embodies ALL nine of the above career choices to one extent or another. But this post is already long. So, I shall leave the discussion on how I am ALL Of the above for another day (if there is interest).

PipeTobacco

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