I just placed an order with Amazon.com for non-school related books. Not only are the books not for school they are not even non-fiction. When they arrive, I am going to read them and I will not be a scientist and it will be great.
On Thursday night I went out to dinner with one of the fourth year students in my program, and then we went to see Persepolis.
Over a plate of mussels, she and I began talking about books. I enjoy spending time with her because she is a very well-rounded person and will actually talk about pop culture and literature instead of science, science and more science.
One of my big insecurities as a grad student is that I am not one of the people who are always stoked (and always has something to say) about science. And I feel as if there is some judgment at this level of biology, if you would rather read a novel than the latest issue of Nature. Frankly, I think that there are many novels in existence that are more worthy of my time than a random issue of Nature.
It's not that scientists don't have hobbies but I think a lot of them idolize "the life of the mind" defined narrowly as only pertaining to science.
Because I'm not really willing to play at intellectual pissing contests, I think people often underestimate me (and this isn't purely conjecture, I know for a fact that it's happened at least once). Not necessarily as a scientist but as an intellect in general.
I actually take some perverse pride in keeping things to myself and letting people underestimate me.
But to discuss books with this other student, it made me feel refreshed. To be a person who enjoys reading books talking to another person who enjoys reading books about what we had both read, it was deeply satisfying.
It reminded me that I'm in grad school to better myself, and if I spent all my time reading journal articles at the expense of other intellectual pursuits I won't really be a better person for it.
Here's to balance, may it persevere.