Two(ish) weeks ago I started graduate school at the Jackson School of Geosciences (JSG) at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin). I am a paleontologist, which means I straddle the boundary of Geology and Biology (also known as 4D Biology; the three dimensions of space, plus time). During this time I have moved into my own apartment, signed up for everything from W4 forms to background checks, and acquired an impressive number of keys and codes.
I have also met many amazingly intelligent (and surprisingly nice) people, both in the JSG and the greater Austin area. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t that I was expecting stuffy professors and cut-throat grad students, but the level of compassion for my well-being could rival the hockey stick curve for global warming.
The last two weeks have changed me from a kid to an adult. Not just any adult…my version of an adult. This version is significantly more fun and enlightened than the average stereotype of adulthood, but still runs to Starbucks and pays bills on time.
What bothers me is that the general populace seems to conflate responsibility with banality. The only way to “have fun” or “let loose” is to break a rule or two, or perhaps push the bounds of social conduct. Not only is this incorrect, it reveals a potentially fatal flaw in American perception. Either you slog through the day and hope to make enough cash to be irresponsible on the weekends or you enjoy your work and make no money at all (ex: “the starving artist”). Also, your level of importance in society seems to be dependent upon a complex calculation of race, clothing, money, and twitter activity.
If we must have some method of measuring each other, why can’t it be respect? There are three actions related to this idea of respect that I have been doing in the last two weeks that have improved my life considerably:
(1) Shake hands
(2) Look people in the eye
The amount I have learned and grown from this simple sequence has provided content at least ten blog posts. Hopefully I have to the time in grad school to write all of it down!