The professor’s graveyard

By Jonas Waldenström

I was having lunch with Dr X. and Dr Y. the other day. This is not unusual, we regularly head out on town for lunch, talking about the same old stuff we always do. Namely: women, booze, and bird watching philosophy, modern art and bird watching. And, of course, university administration, grant writing, and overhead costs.

This time we talked about the coming and goings of students and postdocs, and the hardship for people to secure permanent positions. (And here, if I may digress, we also talked about the stupidity of Swedish legislation that forces talented scientists to abandon academia because of the ‘two year rule’). Anyway, when Dr X. had put his fork down and slowly folded his paper napkin, he concluded that most people probably lead fuller lives outside academia than inside. And that this would apply to us too.

I am sure he is right, at least to a degree. Life in the Ivory Tower is not as glamorous as people think. In fact, it is often stressful, always competitive, and sometimes even dull. But it is also at times extremely rewarding, hugely inspiring, and full of talented students and colleagues. A sweet and bitter pill.

Over the years I have kept a mantra that I can do something else, if I just want to. You know, leave the keys on the desk and go get another job. And succeed well in that new line of work. However, now I am not that sure anymore. Maybe I am growing complacent, or I have molted too far into full eccentric professor’s plumage, but the call of the outside world isn’t that strong to me anymore.

In fact I like my job, and I love Dr X. and Dr Y. I look forward to this scene repeating itself over the years. We will go to the same restaurants and moan about the same stuff. Perhaps spice it up with age-related ailments, nasal hairs, and worries about our teenage kids. All the way to the professor’s graveyard.

And I kind of like that.

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3 thoughts on “The professor’s graveyard

  1. that reminds me to “revere” professor from Boston who used to blog
    about H5N1 until 2007.
    He also liked to post about collegues-talk occasionally,, how he used to send
    birthday cards to Einstein and such.
    But also about how bad it was with academica especially in other countries
    but also USA. Finally I asked him what country he would like best, if any –
    and he said : Sweden.

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