Monday, December 1, 2014

Born at the Right Time?

I have often wondered what might have been if I was born a few years later or earlier.  Of course, that exercise has an obvious answer--I prefer the time I was born since it allowed me to meet and marry the wonderful Mrs. Spew, and I would not want to re-play the genetic lottery that produced the terrific person that is Baby Infant Kid Teen College Spew. Still, I do wonder.  Tonight, the question resolved itself forever.  How so?  Let me consider how moving forward or backwards slightly in time would have changed things:

  • Earlier:  If was born a few years to a decade or two earlier, the academic job market would have been less competitive.  I came out of grad school as the market shifted due to the early 90s recession and due to the proliferation of grad programs/students.  The price I paid was six years in Lubbock.  Well, I could have avoided that if I was a better job candidate as well.  On the other hand, my career has worked out pretty well
    • a fantastic cohort of grad students at UCSD who made the experience far more pleasant than others have experienced elsewhere; 
    • two years of temping in Vermont gave me time to learn how to teach plus heaps of skiing and I loved Burlington; 
    • I hated Lubbock but enjoyed the cohort of junior faculty (the prisoners of war job market) who have become wildly entertaining lifetime friends plus I had plenty of time to establish a research record that led to the fellowship and to the next job; 
    • ten years in Montreal that were mostly positive; and now a terrific job in a cool city with heaps of friends.  
    • Plus if I was born earlier, I would have had to do more of my writing on a typewriter rather than a computer. 
  • Later:  If I was born later, I would have had to compete in an even nastier job market against super-qualified people.  I also would have been far more distracted by the internet while I was working on my tenure case.
  • Judgement: I was born at the right time professionally.
  • Earlier: If I had been born a few years earlier, my ultimate experience would have been pretty much the same.  More than that, and there would not have been much college ultimate as it started at Oberlin (and elsewhere) in 1976 or so.
  • Later: At the time I was in college, the best athletes played other sports.  These days, the level of athleticism of the college ultimate players is just amazing.  Tonight, I played with the NPSIA grad students who were mildly athletic, similar to the players I played with in college thirty years ago (yes, tis thirty years since I started playing collegiate ultimate but that is a post for another time).  The team we played against consisted of the students who play with the Carleton U. ultimate frisbee team.  They are incredibly athletic--so very quick, can jump really high, and already quite skilled.  So, if I was born much later, I too might have picked up better ultimate skills before going to college, but I would not have gotten much playing time.  I have never been as quick as these kids are, so I would have spent much less time playing ultimate with the intercollegiate team.
  • Judgement: On this score along, I was born at the right time.
So, yeah, I was born at the right time... and this does not even include being a teenager as Star Wars and Raiders came out.

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