13 Feb How can I prophesy my good fortune (LOU MARINOFF)
One of my college mentors was a scientist who had risen to a senior professorship at a time when very few women went further than high school biology. In a competitive and then largely male world, Irene devoted all her energy to her career and was rewarded with increasing recognition of her excellent scholarship and brilliant research. This came at a personal cost: though she enjoyed a strong marriage, Irene had never felt she could step back from science long enough to bear and raise children. As she grew older, and her standing in the academic world solidified, she realized that she was sorry to have missed the experience of motherhood.
And so, after long (and successful) devotion to one purpose, a second, surprising one emerged. Starting a biological family was no longer an option for Irene, but neither was floundering in regret. Instead she created a program to introduce promising students—young women in particular—to science careers beginning in their freshman year. It wasn’t the kind of thing senior faculty usually worked on, but it was soon a resounding success, and a number of today’s scientists look back and credit her with igniting and encouraging their interest.
The success of any endeavor she undertook would surprise no one, but the mother hen role she adopted with the students no one would have foreseen—including herself. Irene found a new purpose in being a surrogate mother to these groups of young men and women, as well as in being an intellectual mentor. By fearlessly recognizing shifts in her sense of purpose, Irene combined and fulfilled two important aspects of her personality, never losing her sense of purpose while expanding her sources of meaning.
Plato, Not Prozac