Monday, September 14, 2009
Feeling the loss
I've been cleaning out my office now for about a week. I've packed up my books and personal effects. What I'm still dealing with are the many boxes of reprints of published papers that I've accumulated over the years.
As I go through each box, I see the names of those individuals I have known in this long career. Some of these people were like heroes to me. I read their published work, thought about their ideas, incorporated some of their methods into my own studies.
I see the names of those who have long ago retired. I read the inscriptions from those who have been dead for many years. These people shaped my career. I feel sad as I look through these papers. The sadness is not only about their having moved on but about the impending move that I'm going to make in a little over six months. And yet, there is something more to this feeling than just the idea of leaving this job.
I think that what I am feeling is my own aging, my own loss of enthusiasm for the work. When I was finishing up my dissertation and just getting started in this career, I wanted to be at the top of my field. I wanted to be like my scientific heroes.
And now, after all has been said and done, I have accomplished quite a bit of what I set out to do. In the process, I took on chairing this department which meant more administrative work, more grant writing, and more efforts at keeping staff employed. Some part of me feels as if I sold out, gave up my heroes and true scientific pursuits. Another part of me screams that the love of science is still there, but that this is just a progression of life: To move on and begin a new chapter. I can't help thinking that I'm where I'm meant to be and that my heroes probably have felt the way I'm feeling at one time or another.
Meanwhile, all my reprints are going to the library here. They will be catalogued and put into the collection for others to use. Maybe some of the new staff will chance upon a reference that inspires them to find their own scientific hero.