E D I T O R' S N O T E
Life's Grand Detours
Just a little more than 20 years ago, Hopkins scientist Richard Cone experienced a wrenching personal loss that propelled him to look for new meaning in his work. So the tenured biophysics professor, an expert on the rods and cones of the eye, embarked on a different course entirely: contraception and the world of reproductive health. As you'll read in "Subverting Sperm and Germs," Cone and his colleagues now stand on the verge of making a major contribution to the health of millions of women around the world.
Today we see this same story--what I refer to privately as "Life's Grand Detour"--played out in the lives of friends and family members with ever increasing frequency. The colleague's wife who walks away from a successful corporate marketing career to become a nurse. The Manhattan attorney so affected by September 11 that he moved to Baltimore and enrolled as a Hopkins premed. The senior participants in Peabody's Elderhostel program, intent on trying new paths ... learning new languages ... biking across Denmark.
Americans are living longer, healthier, more financially secure lives than most of our grandparents ever did. One happy byproduct of this largesse is that many of us now have the opportunity, the means, and the inclination to periodically reinvent ourselves. Toiled the first 20 years of your working life in law enforcement? Why not retire early and become a teacher? Burned out by long years spent in sales? Perhaps it's time to pursue that lifelong dream of organic vegetable farming. Schools of continuing education, at Hopkins and across the nation, continue to burgeon, as droves of Americans strike out in new directions, in a kind of post-structuralist version of Manifest Destiny.
Even the young are being swept up. Now more than ever, "circuitous" is the operative word among Hopkins' top students, say Ron Fishbein and Mary Catherine Savage, advisers to the premed and prelaw programs. One of the duo's most promising premeds took a break after sophomore year and spent two years playing her saxophone around the globe. After a stint in Copenhagen, and later in Vietnam, doing research, she's now back at Hopkins and applying to medical school. By all accounts, a great catch.
"My greatest fear is that I will not take a risk," admits one Peabody Elderhosteler in a moment of candor. "I'm afraid that if I don't take a risk, I'll miss things." Words, both timeless and timely, to live by.
-Sue De Pasquale
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