Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A *blank* person

In ecology we refer to people by the topics they study. For example, you can be a "plant person", an "elephant person", a "fish person", etc. Generally we use it to refer to the primary organism we study but sometimes we like to say "that guy, he's a molecular-microbial person" which tells us that he likes really small complicated things. Essentially, it's a shorthand way of letting people know what you study without spewing your dissertation all over them. Really, it's just a quick way to say, "I'm a nerd and I'm OK with that."

I find this way of pegging people both charming and a bit daunting. When I first met many of the students in my cohort they already knew what kind of "person" they were but I didn't. It set me on edge as I fluctuated between being a "crayfish/invert(ebrate) person" to being a "plant person." I'm really not ready for my title. I'm an undecided person. Undecided, but looking forward to specializing. It seems to me that being an expert in a topic carries a great deal of responsibility, but I look forward to to the day when I can stop saying "I don't know." And as I write that, I realize it will be a very sad day when I know everything. If I am going to be an ecologist, a teacher, a crafter, a person, I need to value asking a question and seeking the answer. It's only partly about the end result, but what I do while I get there.

1 comment:

Natural Patriot said...

Just keep focused on what you think are the most interesting and important questions, wherever that takes you. The rest will follow. Eventually you'll end up with some sort of label -- but half the fun is keping people guessing, and trying different directions!