Astrobiology Blues (by )

So as many people know I wanted to be an astrobiologist and I got quiet close and then a combo of things got in the way - the main one was not actually Jeany but rather the health complications before, during and after the pregnancy. I tried to go back when Jeany started pre-school but again this ended in disastor both financially and again medically. It then became clear that there was no way even if I sorted out the instant issue of me having to pay 'top-up' fees and took another break to completely recover, I still couldn't do it due to Alaric's job and Jeany care.

At the time my mother was going through her second lot of cancer treatment and a few other issues had popped up. I had reached the glass ceiling - I had reached it probably as soon as I got pregnant with Jean but was still determined - now the decission was clear - family verses career.

And so I stopped kidding myself that I was on a 'break' from science and faced up to facts. It didn't help that I was failing at being a web-designer at the same time - a career I had thought should bring in money and be doable from home - except.. except people still expect you to turn up to meetings and things and then I was just shunted to the side by people offering shoddy but cheap web-development and I ran into people assuming I can't do things 'properlly' cos I'm female - I'm sorry but I did get this several times. So travel and child care for no contracts = FAIL. Add in clients refusing to pay for months and it was another no go.

And so before I am 30 years old I am basically on my 3rd career and not with nice financial boosters from the previous ones :/ But rather stupid amounts of debt.

But I thought I'd got over all of this - thought I was being happy with what I am building - having sold a painting, having stories accepted, getting poems short listed etc... I'd even stopped crying everytime I looked at my minerallogy texts books and started reading the texts I'd gotten to help me become a good Astrobiologist. I had and have for a long time had some vague notion of being able to write popular science books - to bring it to the public and when I run the Scouts I spent ages making up projects for their science and astronomy badges etc.. both scientific and craft (like loo roll hubble which I really need to put the how-to instructions up for!).

But I get told - you can't do that unless you are part of the science world. I have also got an issue in not having access to the journals I want nor could I even contemplate a subscription. I don't think I can belong to alot of the groups as you have to be put forward by peers which I now do not have and those I did have either forgotten me or are peeved that I let things get in the way.

And so my science - all that hard work is generally used for what? Advising the odd writer on how to build aliens and alien worlds convincingly, similar with gaming both role playing and computer games and my tentative steps into things like the paleo-art. Most of the time I convince myself that this is all fine - that this is me still being part of the science world. My science/tech poetry etc... the same.

But then there is an announcement about NASA and astrobiology and a deep depression feels me. I wanted to ignore it - after all what was I going to get if I even tried looking into this? Pain over being excluded from the actual scientific community, of not having access to papers nor people to chat about them over coffee or my standard pint of OJ in the bar. No debates, just my mum looking at me slightly blank and my little girl drawing me pictures of 'germs' to cheer me up.

So I tried to ignore it - thinking how stupid it was that I was crying over not being a scientist and putting it down to this lot of pregnancy hornmones.

And then some how from this I found myself scouring the net for any info and finding just how much the general public had got their knickers in a twist with info that was being reported wrong and that there was going to be a press conference live from NASA.

So I rearranged the family evening to watch it and snapped at my family that no they couldn't have my laptop and then spent this morning writing about it on my rarely updated Astronomy blog. This made me feel better - but I still haven't got the paper to read :/ And I'm not even sure why I took notes of the press conference and why I had to write about it.

Part of it was a friend telling me Carl Sagan would be sad if he knew I was hiding from science because I can be active in it. Alaric keeps telling me it's not too late for my science career but really it is. And I have to think like that or I will just be 'waiting' to do real things and miss out on my lovely family. I'm also generally being moppy at the moment - I am stuck - I have a sprained wrist and there is ice so going out even with crutches, even with car is not happening, writing and art are at a minimium and guitar and drums completely out.

I'm afraid I have the Astrobiology Blues and a case of the green eyes of research envy (put it this way I planned an experiment during GCSE biology to try and force microbes to use Si instead of C my reasoning was that they could both form chains and sheets and things - I was going on valencies - I wasn't allowed to run the experiment as it would take to long and be too expensive!).

There isn't really a point to this post by the way - it's just another - this is how I'm feeling.


  • By Iain Watson, Sat 4th Dec 2010 @ 4:24 pm

    I do understand completely what you're saying. I feel much the same way about my own pharmacology degree and love of history while spending my days in an office wishing I was dead 😉 It's so hard for non-specialists to get positions when some people have devoted their whole skill sets to getting it. I do take some hope from US Union general William Sherman though. He had loads of jobs in his youth as a failed banker, insurance clerk, grocer and distributor and eventually joined the army. When the Civil War broke out, all the Union Generals were in disarray, their classical training completely unprepared for modern industial warfare. It turned out that Sherman's limitted understanding of finance, industry, distribution, logistics and budgetted made him perfectly suited for modern warfare and he quickly became one of the most celebrated generals of all time. I guess what I'm trying to say is that you never know how your own (impressive!) skill set might set you up for something really special in the future. I know it's unlikely, but it's the thought that gets me through the day!

    I know your soul is in research and hope you have enough people to talk to about science &c. For what it's worth, I think youve got something special ahead of you that you're uniquely suited for! You're certainly good at explaining sciencey stuff for the layman. Hope you don't mind if I direct people to your explanation of the arsenic-based life significance.

  • By Kai, Sun 5th Dec 2010 @ 12:29 am

    Not to be flippant, but you've mentioned one solution already. You are an expert on astrobiology - why not leverage it for writers? Monetize it with amazon/adsense and most of all INDULGE yourself. YOU have all the power here - and I can't think of a better person suited to explaining the science behind space stuff. If you wanna chat about monetization, gimmie a shout. I love blogging, not least because I do make a passive income off some of them.

  • By @ndy, Mon 6th Dec 2010 @ 12:41 pm

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