There is a phenomenon that has never risen to my conscious, blog-writing mind, but one I have seen many many times. It is the site of a group, anywhere from 4 to10 young women, in their 20s hanging out in the airport. They are laughing and talking and going somewhere or coming home together. They are beautiful, to my eye, in the way that all young women are. They have lots of luggage and talk and laugh, often loudly.
It hit me while traveling to a meeting last month that this is something I never did. I never had a "horde" of girlfriends. In college and my master's program I was the only women in my major, in my program. I certainly didn't have enough money to take any kind of leisure trip with friends, let alone fly. I remember missing a friends wedding, because I simply did not have the money to fly cross-country (D & R, I am sorry to this day). I think that flying is relatively cheaper now than it was back then (30-40 years ago). I think (some) parents may be more indulgent. And, if these women are pushing the end of the 20s envelope, they may be making enough money that they can choose to spend it on this.
This past weekend, my darling and I went to have dinner with friends. My darling, beyond a successful profession, has an obsession: jazz, including writing articles & books, and producing albums and way too many vinyl albums in the basement. One of the friends, J, shares the love. It's more than loving the music, its understanding the history, and the people and the motivations and the flows of styles and themes. My darling and J talked Jazz much of the evening, and it was fascinating. J's wife had retired and Gardened with a capital G. We sat in their outdoor gardens, which were like an old Italian garden, with stone and plants and trees and a fountain. This picture is not their garden, but it could be. The Italian part was not by chance: they loved Italy and their house had large photos that J had shot: "yes, yes", he said impatiently, "I used to do photography, before digital". Photography didn't grip him anymore, but wine did (my darling said before we went, we don't bring wine, bring flowers & music, but not wine), and we started with prosecco, moved to flowery reds, comparing France & Napa, and finished with a sauterne. Passion, real passion, passion that comes from within, passion that flows out of a person is, for me, compelling, interesting, enlightening. I love it. It was a marvelous evening, and it was over all too soon.
I realized going home that everyone around me had hobbies: my darling and friends, jazz and wine and gardening and photography and golf. Some of this is time-filling for some people. For J and wife and my darling, these are not hobbies but integral parts of their lives. I thought about those groups of young women going somewhere, together, with a purpose, living life out loud (and sometimes very out loud). And then I thought about how completely science has consumed my life. I thought about getting up at 5:30 to go in and run an early morning experiment or care for animals. I never felt the pull of a hobby, the need to have a hobby. I'm not famous, and important? Not to anyone except my mother and my family. As I reach the end of my career, and what is most likely the last third of my life, I think about this.
I understand that science and research do not exist in a vacuum. I do not do my research for myself, but that as loathe as I am to use the word "community", I am part of a community. I have a responsibility to the people who fund me, my department that supports me, the people in my lab who want training, to the animals with whom I work. Yet, inside there is something more. I recognized it when J's wife talked about different perennials, when J talked about the wine producing regions of France. There is something more, in me, and that passion is enough.