Academia is notoriously tolerant of the unusual, the strange, the eccentric and the just plain freaky Professor. Some of this is undeserved, there are plenty of perfectly normal people (like me!) who make a go of it in academic research science. Other people have....quirks. Sharp edges that might be hammered down in other fields of endeavor. Or at least edges that must be guarded with a protective covering in the work environment, rather than brandished like a sacred talisman. Professor in Training opened the discussion with a query:
I'm just curious as to whether your perceptions of colleagues are altered if they have atypical non-work interests.
Ok, here's an extreme, ridiculous example ... if one of your colleagues was a brilliant teacher and well funded and respected researcher but you found out they had a penchant for Barbie dolls (male colleague) or monster truck rallies (female colleague), would you see them in a different light?
Short answer: It's all good in science.
Of course, there is a long answer.
Let's start with YHN's approach to worrying about big picture lifestyle stuff and how it is going to be viewed by one's institution and peers, in short how it is going to affect one's career. Fuck 'em!
Life is just too damn short. If there are things that are important to you, do them. Will if affect your career prospects? Sure, it might. But what's the alternative? You create some faux version of yourself just so you'll make tenure? In academics? One of the more tolerant working cultures? Not worth it.
So let me think about some of the discordant freaks of my experience.
1) Athletic obsession. D00d, this is not even discordant. People practically expect academics to engage in sports these days! I know of the running-obsessed, an infamous multi-institute soccer game (networking, yo!), cyclists, faculty softball leaguers, Institutional golf tourney, the (many) campus basketball games, the pros who wear those disgusting Dolphin shorts all afternoon (and nothing else) post-run... The list goes on and on. And yes, to address PiT's point, even some sports that seem a little out there. Like the violent ones. Admittedly, I haven't yet run across any fight-clubbers but hockey, football, ruggers...all good.
2) Appearance. HAHAHHAHAHAAHAH!!!!! aah, I crack myself up. Srsly. C'mon. I've seen it all. The dressed-to-the nines (both sexes). Near-homeless-person chic. Too formal. Too informal. A bit too sexy (both sexes). Midlife crisis tattoos/hairstyle revision/body adornment. Or younger generation same.
3) Hobbies. umm, okay, I've never run across too much in the way of personal hobbies like knitting or stamp collecting or anything- but what would be the difference? Having bands that actually book gigs, comedy acts, etc..sure.
There is a reality part of this however, which is Prof in Training's real point. What are the risks?
Well it is just like anything else. You. Have. To. Produce! If you are doing good science that your department likes, nothing else matters. In fact you will find that those unusual parts of your life will be a strong positive, giving seminar introductions that personal touch, used to defuse a nerdy scientist stereotype or even personalizing those donor-soliciting pamphlets your University generates. "Prof Smith just won a multi-million dollar research award for OurAuldUniversity and oh, btw, loves to train for her sub-3hr marathons with the six retired-from-racing greyhounds she has adopted."
Of course, if you are a borderline tenure case, "Prof Jones just isn't committed to his science because he spends all his damn time flying airplanes".
Like I said above, Life is too short. Just Do It*.
*This blogger is not sponsored by any commercial entities which cater to the recreational or diversionary side of life.