My dog found his calling: Winter. Winter, Snow, Frozen Poop. He refuses to come inside without mocking me as I chase him around the backyard. Little patches of snow are unearthed to reveal the poop he gnaws on with pleasure and defiant satisfaction.
My dogs, Axl and Senge, changed the course of my doctoral study. These little dudes forced me to spend more time at home, take walks, play, pet, and laugh. When I spend too much time away from home, I worry about them. Maybe, just maybe, these two guys made me recognize and reshape my priorities.
Working toward a PhD can be daunting, and for many, including myself at times, the PhD pursuit causes a single-minded effort toward everything Science. Study for classes, work on research, read, write, edit, analyze…think about the fact that everything is relative – acknowledge that success is measured in comparison to your peers. Without knowing the degree of your peers’ successes, this PhD pursuit becomes a competition with your imagined “ideal” student.
This lifestyle is stressful.
This lifestyle is unsustainable.
When my dogs joined my family, I became aware of this stress and unsustainability. I have killed (or let die?) many plants in my life. The responsibility of plants never forced me to take a step back and “epiphanize.” But, now, for the first time, I was responsible for the lives of living, breathing animals. This new pressure forced me to recognize how silly it was to put pressure on myself for everything else, everything science. Yes, success is important. Yes, working hard is important. But in the grand scheme of things, I don’t need to bend over backwards to be the best. Because ultimately, my success is determined by not only my scientific success, but my life success. Spending time with my dogs, family, friends. Achieving goals consistent with my values. Staying healthy. And science. Not just science.
I’m sure others have had this revelation, or maybe they disagree. Maybe there are some out there who think that in order for science to be successful, it requires a full and unwavering commitment. But for me, this balance creates an important space to release tension and become better.
My calling isn’t singular. It is multidimensional. It is winter, spring, summer, and fall.