Not that long ago, somebody asked me just what it was I was doing at the University of Minnesota. When I described my dissertation research to them, they paused in thoughtful silence, then asked slowly, “Did you ever think about doing something…useful?”
I’m pretty thick-skinned – so that just made me laugh. I love what I do and wouldn’t trade it for the world. But I also think that it really and truly is important. We live increasingly in a world where water comes from the tap, and food from the grocery store. I think it’s important for us to understand how the world works – how all of the puzzle pieces fit together to produce this amazingly vibrant, dynamic mosaic of life…and how our actions might affect it.
And so with that, this post is devoted to all the things that people say when I tell them what I do. I’m curious to hear the lines that other folks get!
The things people say:
— Huh. Did you ever think about doing something…practical?
— I hope you get paid for that…
— Um…what are you going to do with that?
— So, are you going to be able to get a job?
— You’ve been in school for HOW long?
— Really? You get to be a “doctor”?
— Oh! Kind of like the Lion King?
But my personal favorite? “You have the BEST job in the whole world!” I usually hear this from tourists while in the field. They say this from the inside of their air-conditioned cars, on the way back to their hotels with running water and fresh food (that’s been refrigerated!). I am usually dusty when they tell me this, I am covered in tsetse fly bites and Acacia thorn scratches, my nose is sunburned and my arms ache because my Land Rover has no power steering. Part of me wants to point out to them the fact that most of my day is spent playing with power tools or watching lion sleep, and that this in fact is rather boring. Part of me wants to point out that I get fresh meat only every 6 weeks, and have no refrigerator to put it in. That my shower is a bucket, and ever since the spitting cobra incident, I’m a little on edge in the ‘bathroom’. That my toilet is outside and sometimes hard to get to because buffalo like to wander through the yard at night. Yes, a part of me wants to point all of these things out to them…but I don’t. Why? Because in the end…I think they’re right.