What I Want
Aside from an infection and an allergic reaction to something they used during my surgery, I'm fine. My pathology report came back great--I won't need anything else done with the dreaded lump. The bonus of this whole ordeal is that the rash/infection gave me an excuse to get into dermatology right away and have my skin checked out for skin cancer at no extra cost. My skin looks good too, in case you were wondering:)
You have shared your motivations and desires (thank you--keep going if you'd like), so I should now explain why I asked. I am swamped here, so I'll have to break all of this into a series of posts (sorry).
I'm having one of those defining turning points in my life right now, and the events of the past few months, both personal and professional, have really made me think about what road I'm going down next. In order to explain this whole mess, I'm going to have to go way back...
Once upon a time,
I decided that I wanted to be a scientist. If I'm being honest, I must admit that I made this decision for three reasons. First, I was inquisitive, bright, and I enjoyed science because it fit the way my brain worked. Little dopamine molecules were released every time I completed a little, elementary school experiment. We are first slaves to our reward systems--that free will mumbo jumbo is secondary.
The second reason seemed righteous enough on the surface--I wanted to help the world. I grew up in an economically-depressed region where parents had it rough and children, in turn, had it rougher. I wanted to make a difference. This urge almost lead me to become a missionary until I had a falling out with institutionalized religion, so you can believe that it was (and still is) a strong one.
So where does the dopamine slavery fit in here, you may be wondering? Wanting to help people seems void of appetitive behavior. Could it be that we humans are one of the few altruistic animal species on the planet?
I don't know the answer to that. I do know that because I was a teacher's child, the school decided that I would be more noble than the rest, or at least easier to control. I was the one they placed in the "bad" homerooms to balance out the teachers' loads. I was the one that they sat next to the reallypoor kid with lice and BO because they knew that I didn't have the heart (or balls) to tease anyone. I was the girl who always got stuck tutoring the kid covered in open wounds that he created by erasing his skin off using a pink, number-2-pencil eraser.
I loved the attention I got because I was so "good", such a special little martyr. I loved being "better" than the other kids. When you're nerdy and chubby and dressed in clothes from BigLots and Hills--when you don't get the pretty pink invitations to the slumber parties held by the cool girls that always got placed together in the "good" homeroom--you need something that makes you feel better than the others. If you can't feel better than them, in some way it means you are below them, that you are unworthy. So maybe part of me was selfless in wanting to save the world, but part of my motivation turned out to be purely Pavlovian.
The third reason is the saddest, or maybe the most hilarious depending on how you take your tea. In 6th grade, I had to do an assignment where I picked an occupation from this humungous occupation manual. The lesson involved writing a paper defending my career choice and explaining how I would reach my goal. Pretty heavy for an elementary school kid who really just wanted to do the assignment on King Tut. I started out with interior design because it was the 1980's, and everyone wanted to be an interior designer. When I found out what an interior designer really did, however, I was annoyed, so I rethought my strategy.
How does a kid choose a job when given so many options? How does a child know that they want to be a doctor, a nurse, a fire fighter, or a vet (the most common choices of my classmates).
Beats the hell out of me.
I flipped through the books looking at salaries. I landed on my dream job which had an annual salary of...gasp...$50,000.
I was going to be a marine biologist, and I was going to be rich.
I was never going to live in a trailer again and be made fun of. I was never going to spend afternoons sitting in a dirty line in an ugly building waiting for an unemployment check with my dad. I was never going to buy my toys at Ames and wear dresses from Fashion Bug (or, on special occasions, JC Penny's). I was never going to eat hot-dog soup again. I was never going to cry at Christmas, not wanting to make a list of toys because I saw my mom and dad fighting and crying over money and bills every night. My muffler was not going to be held onto the car with a coat hanger or duct tape. I was not going to have eyes the color of pain and sadness like my mom and dad.
No, a marine biologist would never have to do any of those things. Welcome motivation number 3...money, or at least the assumption that money would cure the pain of my childhood and save my future children from being...well...from being me.
Alright, you can laugh now. How was I supposed to know that research scientist would be ranked as one of the top-5 jobs that payed badly in 2005, the year I was to finish my PhD?
To be continued...