13 January 2009

Be, do or own?

This little article about sums up why it's good to travel now. Go out there and see some new places and cultures!

< /plug>

Okay, so it seems people are pretty split on whether it is better to take a prestigious job or to go backpacking around the globe, and arguments for both sides have raised good points. The funny thing was that in the last day, largely due to your feedback, I was starting to lean away from a year of traveling and towards going to a nice little college town-- and my partner was starting to lean towards traveling and giving up the tenure-track position. Of course. I guess we'll have to hash this out some more. (I am guessing we were both trying to 'see the other's perspective'/be nice.)

Also funny: we were hanging out with another couple we are friends with, and their reaction to our job vs. traveling was incomprehension. As in 'how could you even ask such a question?' To the job offer, 'congratulations!' To the backpacking possibility, 'again?' (Mind you, the last time my partner and I went backpacking was in 2005 to Croatia and Slovenia-- it is not at all like we go backpacking every other weekend.)

So, here is another version of the same question. On your deathbed, looking at your life, would you rather say, "Ah, I'm glad I decided to _______ above all else"?

1. Be
2. Do
3. Own

(Sounds like a game where the answer is Bedouin, but no, sorry, that's not the answer.)

To be means you have fulfilled your potential. You said THIS is me at my best, who I want to be in life, and that is the life you lived.

To do means you set out specific goals to accomplish, and you can review your accomplishments with pride when you look back on your life.

To own means you want to build something to leave behind, either for future generations or in a museum or some other form of legacy. This is a life in which you cultivate something for history's sake.

They are certainly not mutually exclusive, and I realize that this is starting to sound like one of those zen chain emails (an oxymoron, if ever I heard one-- talk about the stress and un-zen reaction I get when I get a *&%$ chain email...). But bear with me for part II.

A final version of the same question. Again, on your deathbed (if hindsight is 20/20), which life do you want to have led?

1. The perfect family
2. A life of cool experiences
3. A life of success

My partner was wondering if he had a duty to use his scientific ability to serve humanity-- not in an egomaniacal way, but in the sense of 'am I slacking off if I go travel?' I believe travel enhances everything we do, but then again, I am a travel addict.

So, if family life is the goal, then a small town which is safe, full of nice and grounded people and good school districts is the way to go.

A life of cool experiences means you always go where your comfort zone will be stretched, and you seize every opportunity to live more fully that comes your way. When you die, you have an incredible array of stories and experiences to share. The downside: you have no guarantees and cannot follow a carefully prescribed plan, you may never find conventional success, and your searching may lead you wandering for the rest of your life. When you die, you may have nothing but stories to share.

A life of success for my partner could mean doing a post-doctoral research fellowship (my partner would rather eat pocket lint), but then he would be able to be a professor at any of the most prestigious universities in the world. Short-term sacrifice for long-term goals.

All right, that's it. Your thoughts?