Fledgling writers are often given the very good advice to "write what you know." The problem is that what one knows and knows well could very well be harmful to others. I discovered that as I set out upon a recent writing journey from which I share the following excerpt because I do not think it will go any further. The piece I share is not harmful, but some of the rest might well be. People who know me well might read it and think that they are being written about, and nothing could be farther from the truth, and yet people will see what they will see. So as discretion is the bitter part of valor (to quote Philip Jose Farmer), I think I do better to share only this relatively harmless excerpt.
It was into this fray that one day in late June I unsuspectingly wandered. I had been working on my Ph.D. in paleobiology--my particular subject of study was the functional morphology of seive-like plates that constitute one of the most identifiable of the disagreggated parts of an extinct relative of modern-day starfish. But, alas, my funding ran out and I had only one possibility--and a rather dismal one at that. The State Geological Survey needed coal resource mappers. It paid a buck more than minimum wage and involved weeks away from wife and soon-to-be child. But, whatever it took to keep body and soul together. More daunting than the summer prospects was the seeming perspective on the rest of my life. I was looking out over the increasingly dismal vistas of academia, knowing with a fearful certainty that I was destined for a soul-crushing eternity of teaching undergraduates who came to us as the deplorable product of what we laughingly call an educational system. All ths while balancing a rich array of grant-writing, research, and political backbiting and infighting that made the U.S. Senate look live a haven of serenity and equability. It little mattered that my advisor seemed to wear it very well and manage without much expensive therapy or extensive and inventive recreations of himself through padded CV and bogus nominations and awards.