Trust me, this is about science.
I’m working from home today. I saw my kid off on his carpool, and my spouse off to work. And I thought, I’m going to make myself a nice breakfast.
I got out a poblano, and some cheese and cilantro:
I sliced the poblano into some strips and cooked ’em up:
I steamed the tortillas in the microwave and assembled the tacos:
And then there’s some coffee, the morning funnies and the rest of the newspaper:
And then — obviously — I wrote this blog post.
Here’s what I’m thinking, as I’m making these tacos: “This is extraordinarily pleasant. I’m enjoying this so much. This is a lot more appealing than everything else in front of me today.” Perhaps part of the reason I made a nice breakfast is that it’s a useful form of procrastination. (Arguably, the same can be said of this post.)
Here’s the rub: the work on my plate today is actually pretty good stuff. What am I doing? I’m making plans for a experiments that start in three weeks, in Costa Rica. I am running some analyses for a pretty good paper that I’m working on. I’m assembling a dataset to send to a collaborator. And I’m finally getting to an outline of a review/polemic paper that I’ve been thinking about for years. And I’m going to zip out for some exercise, and today is absolutely gorgeous.
But what will my favorite part of the day will be, until I get to see my family this evening? Making those tacos.
What does this say about me as a scientist and as a person? I doubt I should quit my job and become a cook. Does it mean I need a sabbatical? Probably.
I’m planning to make serious progress on three papers, all of which are interesting to me, one of which I’m delusional enough to think that it might actually be important. But frankly, as I’m putting these papers together I feel more like a carpenter than a chef or a scientist. These papers might end up being well-cited, or maybe not, but regardless, it’s just another notch in a long series of notches. Science is incremental, even when we make what seem like big leaps at the moment, they’re small steps in the big picture.
At least this morning, I feel like half of the motivation for getting this work done is that I’m supposed to get it done. That’s what scientists do. They publish science. But if that’s the actual motivation for doing the work, then it’s not sustainable. We are so often acculturated into thinking that science is supposed to be driven by passion, but for many, it’s first and foremost a paying job. Today, I’m doing my job, working on those papers. Hopefully, next week, I’ll find myself more excited about them. In the meanwhile, I can look forward to making a nice dinner for my family tonight.