It has been a while since I wrote a blog post. The reason is simple – I have been away for almost four weeks. First, I went to Aberdeen for a week to extract DNA from my glacier samples (yes, I actually have a project on glaciers, or rather, the soil in front of glaciers, which represents a chronosequence of ecosystem development because of the retreating ice), then I went on holiday to Portugal for almost two weeks (kitesurfing! 25 degrees! sunshine!), and then I went to a three-day workshop. Yes, this sounds great, but coming back from it all is not so great, as I have been struggling to keep up with things, or rather, to get rid of the backlog. Holidays cause stress – before you go to finish things, and after you come back to catch up with things.
Of course, I could have made time to write a blog post. I could have also made time to catch up with friends, to ring my family, to send private emails, to reply to all those non-urgent work emails, and to clean the house. I could have made time to buy a plant for my new office, to take my car for an MOT, or to have my passport renewed. I could have also finally analysed data from last year’s experiment, and talked to a sales rep about the centrifuge that I want for my lab. But none of this was urgent enough.
Because life is a race. Or at least my life is. I work like I am being chased; like I am running out of time. And why? Not because I am competitive – well, I am, but that is not my main motivation.
I guess, first and foremost, I love my job. I love doing the science I do, I love discovering things and analyzing results, I love to talk about ideas and to think about new experiments. I love setting up an experiment and thinking about the brilliant, amazing, powerful dataset it will give me. And then I think about the publications. Because what I love most of all, is writing. Pulling it all together and making a nice, crisp, and clear story. Preferably, a story that will find a home in a high impact journal that is read by lots of people.
And I am in a hurry! Because publications are the currency of academia – they give you jobs and grants – it’s best to get them out quick. You can have the most amazing results and ideas, but if you don’t publish them, they are lost. Therefore, my strategy is always to get the paper that is closest to being accepted by a journal out of the way first. For example, if I get comments back from reviewers on a paper, incorporating them and revising that paper is top priority. Once I have finished that job and resubmitted the paper, I can relax – for a while, at least! But, until that is done, it is haunting me and always on my mind, and I will use every opportunity to work on the revised paper. I get completely engrossed in it and find it hard to make myself go for a run, or a coffee, or home! And then, while I am running, or watching telly, thoughts keep popping up in my head – sentences that can go into the paper, a response to a reviewer’s comment, a better graph….
Non-academic readers might think what the fun of all this is. Or even fellow academics might, although I know many colleagues who are similar to me. However, I do wonder whether I can sustain this manic workload, and whether it is healthy. Or maybe there is a time for everything, and I am just working this hard because I can – I have no children, and very few other responsibilities. But I do feel like I need to calm down at some point. Or do I?