Tuesday, February 2, 2010

are we really so much happier???

France, evening

I went to a doctor this morning. For my new contract I have to get checked by a physician. I know the doctor since a year and half by now, and she has been very helpful during all the story of my arsenic intoxication. Anyway, we were chatting and she told me that a few days ago, she had a patient like me: foreigner, around my age (34), far from her family and long term friends, with a short term contract, who keeps moving from one place to the other to hopefully find some kind of stability and keep doing scientific research. The doctor asked me how we manage to not collapse and get crazy. I easily answered her that I don't know about this girl, but I am quite sick of this life and that if it was not because I like what I am doing so much, I would seriously think of changing to find something else (not that it would be easy with such a specific skills like mine).

Again, as I wrote already, I like my work and I generally like my life. I traveled a lot, lived in a lot of cool places, seeing many things, done a lot of cool other things, etc. What I have every year more and more difficulties to deal with is the instability in any single part of my life. Apparently this girl had the same problem, since she got into a depression. And I know many other scientists with a temporary contract, especially the ones who find themselves living in a foreign country, experiencing depression at a certain point of their lives because of all this instability. To make short what it could be too long, our situation is to pass from one short contract to another short contract or a grant till the day we hopefully get a permanent position. However, since there are not that many permanent positions, someone is going for sure to be left out and everyone in this business is aware of that. How to try to not be one of those left out? working like crazy, forgetting the meaning of week ends, holidays, etc. On top of this, if you add that in some countries, like Italy, it is almost impossible to find a job in a fair way (read without knowing someone who knows someone, who knows someone else who is very very important in the system), you have an even clearer picture. Let's add the fact that if you are a woman, and you have passed your 30th, it is not a good idea to hire you, because probably once you will have that permanent position that you were waiting for, you will start to procreate or around those lines.

I got a job interview this summer for a permanent position. One of the guy in the commission asked me if I was married, if I was living with someone, etc. Of course, he was technically not allowed to ask me that. But he did it anyway.

Consequence of this type of life is that either you find someone who doesn't mind to follow you during all the movements from one country to another to gain more experience or go where the funds to keep working are (and this if you are a woman let me tell you is very, very difficult to happen, as men often expect a woman to invest on them and not on the other way around), or you try the long distance relationship (which after a while can became a nightmare because all what the relationship is based on became an idea of a future together and long talks in the present, but very little of anything else), or you just decide to stay alone till the day you will settle in some place (which may happen when you are around 40), or you decide that since you will very likely end up suffering becoming attached to people and things since you probably will have to move again, you may just have fun trying out different guys that you may like and not allowing yourself to actually feel any bond to anything and anyone.

I have met any kind of the above mentioned people and none of them for one reason or the other is happy. If someone invest everything on you and then he is not happy too, you will feel always responsible. Distance relationship, especially for long time are just a nightmare for me, more painful than anything else. Not getting attached to anything and anyone may be ok for a while, but at the end makes you feel very lonely.

Why did I get into this kind of thinking today? for various reasons. The chat I had with the doctor, some of the people I spoke to in these days, and a book I started to read. The title is "deep economy" by Bill McKibben. I just started, so I can't write too much about it. But the point is that we live in a society based on growth, and income, and while this some time ago helped us to have a better life, now these same things do not necessarily make us happier. The economy is based on what "produces" and so people have to adapt to do something useful and that would give the highest production in the shorter time as possible, in a way to have a good profit. This fact doesn't take into account a lot of other small things that we would need (for sure I do) in our daily life.

For me there is not such a thing as valuable as family and friends close by, the possibility to have green spaces (and not artificially made green spaces) to walk or bike around, the chances to grow my own vegetables (even if for sure I would kill all of them considering that I am not able to keep any plant)....I am very much for small daily things. I loved the familiar nucleus in which I grew up for example, with grandparents, parents, parents of my friends, friends, relatives etc. all being part of my life. Instead, now everyone has to be scattered around to increase the chances to find a job, which would allow to possibly have a decent life.

Does all this growing makes the quality of our lives better? I don't think so. Of course, our life style is better than in other countries, where people are actually poor. But when I was a child we were not poor, but we were not rich either, we were part of that middle class that now is disappearing. We had less material things that I could have now, but for sure life looked simpler (maybe also because I was looking at it as a child....)....

Anyway, I will keep posting about the book, as it is a topic that really interests me. Any thought is more than welcomed!!!


Anonymous said...

please keep posting about the book, it sounds really interesting and insightful.

i appreciate when you wrote about the feelings you had growing up in your family and sharing your life with friends and their parents.

an older man once told me that when you get old, you will find that the thing that matters in life is family and friends.

i know being with people we love is incredibly important. but it seems that the world that we live in takes us more and more away from that because we have to fight to survive. we have to go where work takes us. i wish that we could have more of an enviornment and state of mind that allows us to enjoy our work and be with the people we love.

your post is very insightful. and your work seems incredibly interesting (the little bit i know:)

Anonymous said...

oh, it's audrey again:) i visited some friends in colorado, so i am catching up on your postings.

i think you would like Colorado here in the states. there are lots of mountains and wide open spaces and sushine. from your writings you seem like a person who likes to be outdoors in nature.

i'm very much a city girl. i grew up in nyc, so i am now learning about the beauty of nature.

fromtheworld said...

I am sure I would love Colorado. A friend of mine always told me that I should absolutely visit three states in the USA: Colorado, Oregon, and Arizona. I really hope that this summer I could go to Oregon. I love anything natural! But I like city life too, as long as it has a lot of nature around. For example, I love San Francisco and together with Amsterdam, I think it is one of my favorite cities in the world (well, for what I have seen so far).

NY for me is special. I have learned to rollerblade in the central park in NY when I was 18. I always remember that!

I will keep posting about the book and related topics. I am very interested on it. And yes, my work is wonderful. I am a scientist. And I love it. But it is a very demanding work and sometimes I have some down moment.

My family and old time friends are extremely important in my life. Especially my mom. Some years ago, when I was working on a remote island in the Pacific, my grandma passed away. My family needed me and I needed to be with them. It took me a month to be able to go back to Italy. I told to myself that for how wonderful many places in the world can be, I don't want to be so far from them anymore. The USA have many more job opportunities, but I can't reach Italy within a day if I would need it so easily as if I am in Europe.