Most readers of this blog are probably biophiles of one sort or another, but it takes a special sort of passion (or lunacy) to start a blog on a subject in your spare time and write about it for hours on end without any expectation of renumeration. Yet I have done it now for over two years.
Why? A feeling, and the burning desire to share it with others. At its heart, my love of life on Earth is a love of shape, form, color, texture, and mechanism (which is why I put such an emphasis on good, large photos, diagrams, and art at this blog) — of the sort that’s put into overdrive by art like Haeckel’s drawings of ascomycete fungi at left, and of course, by seeing and understanding the organisms themselves. There’s also a joy that comes from looking at a pine tree and understanding (and being able to visualize) how that sucker works from root to shoot that I imagine is not far off from the feeling aerospace engineers have while drinking in a Saturn V rocket.
In fact, I recently read a description by a meteorologist of his similar feelings that convinced me I am not alone. The following is from the autobiography of meteorologist Richard Reed, who had an aptitude for science and math when he enlisted in the Navy at the outbreak of World War II but no idea what to do with with his life. He was previously planning to become an accountant when he signed up for the Navy forecasting service:
Freshly minted young ensigns Max Edelstein and Alvin Morris, the latter to become a longtime friend after the war, were assigned the job of teaching the trainees the elements of meteorology. To aid their instruction they suggested that we read a popular— and deservedly so—elementary textbook by Blair. I have never forgotten this experience. Once started on the book I could not put it down, staying up that night until I had finished reading it and feeling at the conclusion that I had thoroughly absorbed the material despite my relatively weak scientific background. If there ever was a case of love at first sight for a scientific subject, I experienced it that day (and night). There are those who view unusual ability in math and physics as the key to scientific success and its manifestation in a particular subject as largely a matter of accident. I have never subscribed to this view. The aesthetic feelings aroused in me by weather patterns and the fascination I felt for weather phenomena as physically evolving entities have always seemed to me inborn facets of my being. I cannot picture any other field of study having had the same emotional effect.
If you find something like this in your life, grab it and don’t let go. I once saw a documentary about a jazz musician (I cannot remember which one) who went through the rise to stardom followed by de rigeur drug- and alcohol-induced crash. At the peak of his fame, he had played in an exclusive jazz club. Now that he was penniless, he sat outside it on the curb, playing the same songs he had done before for free. He could not imagine anything else he’d rather do with his time, whether he was being paid or not.
When I watched this, I was in college and struggling with what to do with my life. For four years after I realized I had no desire to be a research scientist after all, I had no clue. If only, I thought, I could find a career I felt about the way that jazz guy did. Something I was so passionate about that I would do it for free. And eleven years later, here I am, blissfully, unemployed-ly, doing what I love and giving it away. I am thinking perhaps that life has now provided me the cosmic kick in the pants to go for it fully — and maybe even get paid.
So in the wake of my recent job loss, I will be embarking on the grand adventure of the freelance lifestyle. I am excited about this change; it is one I’ve been hoping to make for a long time. At the same time, it’s also terrifying. The mortgage, health insurance premiums, and grocery bills must all get paid each month. And so I will continue to look for part-time work. But I have a deep-down feeling that this is the place, and now is the time. In addition to this blog and to magazine, newspaper, and internet work, I am hoping, one day, to also write books that will also help you fall in love with (and laugh a bit about) some of your planet’s lesser-known co-passengers. And I am hoping you will want to read them. : )
Thanks to all who have sent in freelance contacts so far; more are most welcome. And thanks for everyone who’s advised me to seize the moment. Fortune favors the bold, so the Romans said, and so I hope.