Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A little bit of everything

For my guest blog, I am going to respond to all of the suggested prompts (except that one about animals...). But as a warning, I would not choose a career that involved blogging, my bucket list does not include starting a blog, and my most important experience in life will certainly not be writing this blog (although "never say never" I suppose). As someone who doesn't participate in any sort of social media (and as a Wisconsin kid with four brothers ready to tease you for anything), I have never felt too much like portraying my thoughts for all to see! That being said, I am glad to jump on board the LAKES REU blogspot this week to give all of the hard-working students some much needed time away.

First, I will tackle the question of "what would I be if not for a professor". This question is fun for me, because I didn't decide to become a professor until I was 26 (a whole five years ago). After receiving my undergraduate degree, I became a computer programmer at a not-to-be-named company in Wisconsin (*cough* Epic *cough*). From this experience I can tell you exactly what I would not be: a computer programmer. The long days of sitting behind a computer just weren't for me. After that, I moved on to work for EPA in Washington, D.C. The boring and easy answer to this question would be that I would still be at EPA if I did not come back home to Wisconsin. I enjoyed my work, I enjoyed my colleagues, and I enjoyed D.C. However, I had my fun in the big city, and knew I wanted to come back to Wisconsin where I could get a Miller Lite at the bar for less than $9 during happy hour... After graduating from college (the first time), I briefly contemplated being a dock hand at Lake Yellowstone for a few years. I think it would be pretty cool to work outside, potentially in Yellowstone or some other western U.S. national park. I could definitely see myself out in the field, electro-fishing or doing something else along those lines. However, that too might have grown old, as I would always want to come back to Wisconsin, where my family all lives and I wouldn't have to buy mlb.tv to watch the Brewers. I am being pretty wishy-washy in this blog post, huh? I could also see myself working for a pro baseball team. "Working", not playing for; I realized a long time ago that 5'11" right-handed pitchers aren't in high demand. I could absolutely see myself in the front office of a team. Baseball has become very analytical, and my proficiency for using large datasets and making inferences based on the data would be very in demand for today's major league clubs. However, I am not sure I could handle the late nights away from my kids, so potentially cross that one off the list as well. Collectively, I think my answer to this question is boy am I happy to be a professor. I love doing research on environmental policy, I love teaching students who are eager to learn, and I REALLY love having flexible hours and no (direct) boss. At the end of the day though, if I traveled a different path, I would either be at EPA, in the field, or working in baseball.

Second, I discuss my bucket list. I must say, it is a very shallow bucket. I have been lucky enough to do all sorts of cool things, from living in big cities, to playing college baseball and pitching in major league stadiums, to having a darn cool wife and two awesome sons. I would say that most of my bucket list items have to do with being outdoors (I really am quite the generic environmental economist). Number one is catching a 40" musky. I love to go fishing, even if it is just throwing a bobber off my dock. However, I have never been that great at fishing. Perhaps it is due to my proclivity to focus more on what's inside the cooler (not fish), but I usually come up empty in terms of mountable fish. I just think that catching a huge musky, taking those pictures, and throwing it back would be the thrill of a lifetime. The next and final thing on my bucket would have to be going to Alaska. I have always thought that Alaska is just the coolest place, and I think that a vacation there (plus some probably-failed fishing attempts) would be a blast.

Finally (even in my blogs I write like an academic...), it's time for my most important experience. Before starting my programming career, I worked as a Senate intern in the office of Russ Feingold. That summer was one of the most fun summers of my life, and it also shaped my world views in a lot of ways. Before spending that summer in D.C., I had gone from Sheboygan to small-town Iowa, and that was my experience with the world. I had always been a politics nerd, but I had never really seen the world from anyone's eyes other than a middle-class white kid from the Midwest. In D.C., that most definitely changed. I met new people, I learned new political ideologies, I witnessed the "sausage-making" that was the law-making process. Even though I was simply an unpaid intern mostly answering angry constituent mail (gas was $4.50/gallon that summer, and I heard A LOT about how it was D.C.'s fault!), that experience changed my life.

In conclusion, this is the part where I am supposed to sum up what I have discussed thus far, in a very formal manner. I am going to skip that part, even though it kills me to do so! This blog is a lesson for me in going outside my comfort zone, so why stop now? I will just end by saying that I think everybody who reads this knows why I don't have a Facebook account now.

Until next summer,

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