Friday, August 12, 2005

It is strange not being OCD

I was always obsessive. No, not washing my hands a thousand times of day but more like too passionate about whatever I was interested in at the time.

When I was practicing karate, I spent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for about 10 years, thinking about, reading about and practicing karate. Once I got my black belt I quit because I was already obsessive about horses.

I have ridden since I was five, but at about 18 I got really obsessed about riding. I spend 24/7 thinking about, reading about and practicing riding horses. Even my obsession with becoming the-best-veterinarian-ever was a subset of my obsession with horses - many years later I still remember a lot of equine medicine and zero about the health of cats and dogs.

When I was about 25, training young horses and teaching beginners to ride was a job. I switched my obsessions to science, particularly evolutionary theory and philosophy of biology. I read everything I could put my hands on.

A couple of years later I got into grad school and started living and breathing my research, non-stop thinking about my experiments, reading every damn paper in the field (both brand new studies and going back to the earliest history of the field) as well as many papers in other fields. I took three times as many classes in grad school than neccessary. I went to every seminar. Travelled to every meeting I could get someone to pay for.

Starting in summer of 2003 I became obsessed with electing a Democrat to the White House and spent every waking moment on campaign blogs, writing letters to the editor and angry e-mails to journalists.

Then I started my own blog and got hooked on blogging - 24/7.

But is different. And it feels weird. This is the first time in my life I am not obsessing over anything. No, I am not depressed and uninterested in anything. Quite to the contrary, I am interested in many things, but my interests are balanced.

I am interested in my wife, my children, my dog and my cat. I think about them, I spend time with them. They are not just "there", but a real object of my interest. Still, nothing obsessive about it.

I read books, not just sci-fi (as I obsessively did at some point in my past), but a little bit of nice literature, a little bit of sci-fi, a little bit of books about science, or politics, or history.

I have no time or money for riding horses right now, but I dream about riding (and often jumping in competition) almost every night. But I am not obsessing about it.

I have not put my karate kimono on in years, but I go through a few moves every day. Certainly not obsessive.

I maintain my interest in politics by listening to NPR in the car, occasionally buying local paper or NYTimes and reading half a dozen political blogs. Not nearly as obsessive as a year ago.

I work on writing my dissertation exactly four hours per day, six days a week. Not less, not more. I also think about it sometimes in the car as I drive home. I am interested in it, and want to do more, but I am not obsessing.

I blog in the evening, but quite a few posts I intended to write are still unwritten. Sometimes I am just too tired. Sometimes reading other blogs is more interesting, or reading a book, or playing with the kids. I am still into it, but I am not obsessive any more.

I am still interested in science generally. I don't read a dozen papers a day, but I read a paper every now and then, either something that is so relevant to my work that I have to include it in the Dissertation, or some cool new study about behavior or evolution. Sometimes I even read a paper just because everybody else is writing about it and everybody is misunderstanding it.

This is such a new feeling for me. I know that this is nice and balanced, but I am worried about NOT being obsessive.

Am I going to be a good enough scientist if I do not breathe my research 24/7? Am I a good enough citizen if I do not heed every blogger's call to write to my congressmen? Am I a good blogger if I do not write a 3000-word essay every night?

This is a new territory for me, still trying to get my bearings. A part of me appreciates this new balance in my life. The other part of me worries that without obsession I will never get to be the best I can be in any particular area of life.

Any thoughts?

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 1:02 AM | permalink | (4 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink