In the End, I Still Really Like Maps

I’ve been meaning for ages, just ages dahling, to post on ideal intellectual communities, grad school, consulting, &c. &c. Because while my job is quite tolerable and even engaging on a day to day level, week to week and month to month I’m getting bored. Time to grab the angst by the bull horns and have at all those things early twentysomethings are supposed to have bullshit angst at, what?

Excerpts from the Tao Te Ching may be freely substituted for the remainder of this post, if you’d rather. In a charming synchronicity, this particular translation was written by a woman who had just been booted out of academia. Her talk of “getting right with the Tao” is irksome in the way it’s been scraped off the barrel of evangelical Christianity, but hey, there’s swear words!

Two paths: find a job I can really truly love, or find a way to live without a job. I use the word “job” intentionally here, not “work” or “career”, because I’m really talking about conventional ways of paying conventional bills. Both paths are possible; both are also tricky, and I’m pretty sure I can’t follow them both at once.

The first path means going to grad school. In what, I’m not quite sure; the word “geostatistics” has been wandering around my head lately in search of something to connect with, but it hasn’t gelled. All signs point to academia, or a quasi-academic government institution like the USGS, because for all the innovation that’s supposed to exist in consulting, no one ever seems to step back and look at the big picture of why these crazy methods work. I swear, the next time I am paid to apply some empricial relation derived from upteen-bajillion arbitrarily adjusted coefficients, I’ll start proving theorems on the boss’s dry erase board.

Grad school of course breeds a certain kind of neurosis, but I think I’ve just been hyping myself up by having all these kinds of discussions with humanities dropouts. To put it bluntly, dropout scientists are still fundamentally employable. This cuts out a lot of angst (maybe that’s why I’m the only quasi-dropout scientist I know of blogging about how science education made me bitter?).

The second path is more interesting. Here’s where the last comment on Amanda’s post has started old marbles rolling down new tracks:

Third, I’m hankering for intentional communities as so many of us gain the ability to live whereever we want due to the ease of online communications. I want those salon-mates, spoken of in this post and thread of comments, in my smaller community of the future. And, perhaps it would need to be constructed intentionally if I’m unwilling to live in a major urban center.

Artist colony slash kibbutz slash group home for nerds, anyone?

I’m completely serious about this. I want a communal living space with some fertile land and some ducks and a goat, and a windmill, and a chosen family of nerdy hippies. I can’t rhapsodize right now about the benefits of such a lifestyle or the numerous ways in which one could possibly make it work, because it’s long past my bedtime. But.

I’ll be dreaming of ducks.


  1. Amanda wrote:

    I’ve been meaning to comment on this for the past week. I think you’re right about scientists having much better post-academic job prospects than humanists. I don’t know where the “a humanities Ph.D. is only good as preparation for academia” attitude comes from, but I’ve often wished academics in my field were more willing to think like the science people and consider “industry” jobs as an acceptable alternative.
    But anyway, I’d live in your artist colony/nerd kibbutz! Only I’d probably pine for city life unless there were a subway line nearby. But maybe I could come visit on the weekends and pet the goat.

  2. yami wrote:

    Heh. I think some conversations have to happen slowly, and consist mostly of thoughtful pauses.

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