Life as an Extreme Sport

ruts and worlds

I’m stuck in a bit of a rut again, brought on I think by trying to catch up on TV shows and thus being more exposed than normal to a high level of forensics and FBI work. And I realize how cheesy it is, but I sometimes still think about changing fields and going after it – wonder if I could get myself in shape enough to join the Academy before the age cut off. Ignoring the neuropathic disorder, anyhow, right?

I just…sometimes wonder how much change you can really create, affect, in academia and research. And as pathetic as it may sound, I want my life to have meaning. I want to look back as I die and have no regrets, to know I did good things, things that had meaning for other people. Things that made a difference. And I want my work, as a major component of my life, to have that.

I was mentioning this on my LJ the other day, and I received two very different but interesting responses. One person suggest I look into the State Department – basically, become a foreign service officer/specialist, and move into politics/diplomacy. I took the placing test, and it strongly recommended me to either politics/diplomacy/analysis or collecting and processing information. A lot of people use this as a way to step off and up into government work, going on to serve high ranking positions in the world of diplomacy and ambassadorship. I’m not sure this is the way I’d dream about chasing the need to be useful, but it would be, and I’d be able to travel and live elsewhere for a while.

The other response was eloquently worded, and required no research, only thought, on my part, so I’m reposting bits of it here:

I can understand having doubts about pursuing something you love through academia. The airless, self-involved nature of that realm has always been the thing that worried me most about you being in it, because you’re not into those incestuous games, and part of the purpose those games serve in the first place is to trap and drag down the people who aren’t manipulative enough or willing enough to go through them. (This is true of most fields, really, but the insularity of academia makes it particularly overheated, I think.)

But…I wonder if perhaps the potential lesson here is not “leave the field,” but instead an opportunity to shape it in a whole new realm. Your experiences in academia so far demonstrate to me that you’re pretty much too big to be contained by what the field is currently, and I suspect that plays a part in a lot of the frustration you’ve ended up with in it.

I bring this up not looking for sympathy, or scaring people into thinking I’m making grand life plans, but to share a little something I can be proud of having done, and made an impact with.

Twenty years ago, I was eleven years old, and a guerrilla gardener at my middle school. The science teacher caught on to what the few of us were doing, and we ended up being given this rather barren and dusty patch of land. On weekends, the science and several other teachers came by to help us, as did our parents, and we turned that barren land into a forest like setting with a river that trickled through all of the major zones on the earth, from the cool evergreen to the blasting hot desert sand.

It was small, it maybe wrapped 1/4 the way around the science building, but it was mine, something I had designed and willed to happen. I always wondered what had happened to it.

Mom and I were talking about schools the last time I was here, and she asked me to Google all the various schools I used to go to. Being the dutiful daughter, I did so, and I found that my little guerrilla project went from semi-wrapping around one building to this:

The pictures on the website are amazing. The kids are growing fresh fruits and veggies in a CSA model, they’ve expanded the habitats so everything isn’t so smooshed – in fact, the entire thing wraps around the whole school, including cutting in to the oversized sports field.

Here, I think I have a map…

The pink area is where I started the guerrilla gardening. The green is what we were asked to productively channel ourselves into. The blue is what it’s all turned into.

A small project to make the trees pretty grew into keeping us busy, but learning about the environments we were creating. And now, this…