Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Know thyself

This blog has made me become quite introspective. Which, I suppose, is to be expected since the first incarnation of this blog was a way for me to deal with my wife having cancer.

Mainly, I have been able to take a look at what I really want out of life and if what I am doing professionally is really lining up with those goals.  I have thought a lot about what drives me and what makes me happy.  These types of things have changed over time.  Especially since I had kids.

Here is a quick run down of the things that have driven me over my life:

Pre-pubescent Berserker: Being good at soccer and school, pleasing my parents, having friends, doing what's right. Hey- I was a kid.  I was a good kid (I think).  In reality, my world was very small.

Friedrich Nietzsche.  Sweet 'stache!
Adolescent Berserker: Sex, girls, punk rock, independence, art, music, deeper questions of life, rebellion, fun, friends. Extreme change here.  I was insane as a teen.  The onset of hormones drove me completely nuts.  But I also became, in some ways, more introspective.  I would read Nietzsche during my calculus class in high school (no I still don't really understand him... but his essays on nihilism really spoke to the adolescent me).  I really wondered about and explored the meaning of life... well between trying to someone to buy me beer and trying to find a place for my girlfriend and me to have sex... you know... priorities.

Time for me to grow up? I don't want any part.
Early College Berserker: Sex, girls, punk rock, aggression, independence, rebellion, beer. In some ways, my first couple of years in college were much simpler than high school.  I went to a really big college compared to my tiny suburban high school where I knew every single person.  I met a ton of great people in college who still mean a great deal to me.  I had a lot of fun without any parental oversight.  I played in a punk band that toured the midwest - playing crappy clubs and basements.  I worked for a living and lived in squalor.  At one point I worked 3 jobs to pay the bills and beer tab and tuition.  I was still young, stupid, and invincible.  I also cultivated a violent streak.  In college I filled out.  I was no longer a tall, lanky string bean.  And I had a chip on my shoulder. If a guy wanted to be all macho and try to show off by making fun of the weirdo punk kid, I would pop him in jaw and kick him in stones.  I took a few nasty beat downs too.  I was dumb and young and lucky to live through it.

All cool people have mustaches right?
Late College Berserker: Sex, my girl, science, physics, learning, the future of my life, punk rock. I met my wife in college and looking back it was a major turning point in my life.  She gave me an anchor rope to hold onto.  She made re-evaluate how I made decisions.  I was also maturing and starting to think before I acted.  About damn time.  Also, I realized that I should start really applying myself in college. This happened right before I met my wife.  I was always a good student.  Things came easy for me.  I didn't have to work hard for good grades.  But, I was paying thousands of dollars for this education, I should probably make something out of it.  In addition, I rediscovered my love of science, specifically physics.  So I focused on physics.  Started doing research.  I loved it.  I won a few scholarships and research fellowships.  Hey, I was actually GOOD at this.  And it was sure better than working at subway.  I also started teaching physics.  I liked that too!  Maybe I could actually do this for a job?!?  Science actually became more important to me than punk rock.  It was a weird time.

Early Grad School Berserker: Sex, my fiance, PHYSICS, punk rock, camaraderie  It was grad school.  You can't judge me... I lived and breathed physics.  60 hours of quantum mechanics and electrodynamics a week.  Cool.  Sleep is stupid anyways.  I also got engaged and married  My poor soon to be wife...  My band also broke up.  We all had kind of grown our separate ways.  Man, that was fun!  Playing shows that is.

Late Grad School Berserker: Wife, child, sex, physics, GRADUATION. While I was in grad school, my wife was diagnosed with cancer.  She is fine now, thankfully.  We were living together, 1000 miles away from our families and she had cancer.  We really only had each other.  It is the kind of thing that defines a relationship.  It also helps put dumb things in context.  As for school, everyone in grad school eventually gets sick of being poor and stuck in grad school.  So you bust your ass and finish your research.  I just did it with an infant strapped to my chest.  I actually wrote an entire chapter of my dissertation from 2-6 am with my infant son strapped to my chest.  We had our first kid while I was still in grad school and it was not as horrible sounding as it seemed.  I was on a fellowship, so I worked from home 3 days a week (really worked nights) and my wife worked from home 2 days a week.  We couldn't afford daycare, so we made it work.  Luckily she had a great boss!

That pretty much brings us up to date.  Well kind of.  So, what drives me today.  Sadly and gratefully, much of the same.  Wife, kids and sex probably at the front.  Yeah, I had sex on every list but never mentioned it.  I think sex and a sex drive are sort of a constant in a young man's life.  Always there in the back of your head...

There are some things that drive me now, that I would have never thought would motivate me.  Money is important to me.  Not that important, but I need to clothe and feed the little monsters that are my spawn. Plus, I like to buy them things.  Just admitting that money is a driving force in my life, even a small one, makes my punk rock soul rage and spin inside me.

Be true to thyself.  I am a wild dichotomy of social rebellion, punk rock scientist, father and husband.  I am often at odds with myself about anything as mundane as what grocery store to shop at (small, local expensive vs. corporate sell out) to as complex as how to handle talking about death with my kids (easy lies vs. truthful pain).

Know thyself.

No matter how difficult that may be.

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