Like just about any lower-middle class kid, my parents hoped I'd end up wearing a white shirt to work, to do better than they did, to go to the middle-middle class or higher. They gave me every opportunity to choose to do so.
Somewhere along the way, I did. I ended up in a white lab coat, and for fun and profit I did dirty work that was fun to me, being a fisherman. Sure, I pumped gas, pulled concrete forms, cooked at a pizza place, unloaded trucks and went through more than one pair of workboots a year, but I was also putting on my white shirt for my career job, presumably which would happen more and more as school wound down.
I learned VERY quickly in grad school that people in the administrative and political side of science are mostly scum. Politicians, two-faced, self-serving assholes. Where law degrees become more valuable than scientific knowledge, I got out of my depth. My career arc was heading towards a NOAA job or equivalent administrative position after I realized that pure research as a person who doesn't want to teach wouldn't pay shit.
Turns out, that's just politics.
As revolting as that was to me, it was enough to cure me of any tolerance for politics. The muddy, dirty and muscle-sore shit-smelling awfulness of being a fisherman was CLEAN in comparison. I could wash that stink off. I think it was this realization that let me have my course correction, when I realized how badly my life was off-track, when I decided that I had to quit pretending to be a fisherman, and go be a fisherman. Eventually, it lead me here.
My job still is stinky. I have to shower after most watches to get the sweat, dirt and smell off my skin. Heavy fuel oil smells SO bad that to those not used to it it has similar effects to a near-miss with pepper-spray- not enough to blind you, but enough that your eyes can't focus from all the tears.
A month on board the HQ and the smell gets inside me. My wife hands me a big glass of scotch when I get home and we sit outside so I'll sweat out most of the smell. The sour stink of whisky sweat washes off in the shower, and takes away enough of the bunker fuel sulfur stink that I don't ruin the sheets in my bed.
Seeing the Senate hearings yesterday, I know I made the right decision . What truly awful, awful people. I did the right thing, putting a beach between me and them. I can't claim to be a better or worse human being than any other, I suppose. But I do know that however filthy I get in the course of earning a paycheck, I am not dirty like those people on TV.