Monday, 1 August 2011

Reading Week

This week is Reading Week, where the whole lab decamps down to my supervisor's lovely seaside home, and we spend the week reading neuroscience papers, and discussing them over huge meals and abundant bottles of wine. Alongside shorts, sunhat and various neuroscience texts, I also - with a vague sense of shame - packed GRR Martin's "Game of Thrones" to read in my spare time.

Which highlights a point of tension for me: should I even be reading for fun at all? Shouldn't all my reading hours be given over to papers, reviews and books about neuroscience? If I'm serious about this PhD shouldn't I be willing to sacrifice reading fiction for fun for a few years?

And it's not just a reading issue - what about my hobbies? When I was a wage-slave in the IT industry all those years, frustrated and bored at work much of the time, I lived for my free time, and hobbies were a big part of that. Paragliding, boardgaming, wargaming, mountain walking, cycling, drawing, even dancing for a couple of years. Now that I'm in the lab doing something interesting and exciting with my working day, it's not so urgently important for my happiness to be doing all these hobbies. Plus there's less time and energy left for them these days. But I am still pretty interested in some of them, especially walking and boardgaming and books. Should I still be making time for this stuff? My supervisor on my masters told me "science should be your hobby too". Even at this early stage, I can feel the totalizing pressure of science on my life, and I can see that for some of the really successful scientists it becomes an all-consuming passion. Should I let that happen to me? Or is there still room for a hobby or two in my life?