In the fifth grade your teacher showed your class a Jacques Cousteau film and that pretty girl that sat in front of you told you that she wanted to be a marine biologist. You didn’t really know why at the time, but the natural response seemed to be taking up her cause as your own.
In high school she got popular and you, not so much. You had become a man of science and decided that you, hailing from a landlocked city, were going to spend your life frolicking with sharks, teaching dolphins sign language, and studying the secret mating dances of the Atlantic lobster.
Many people went through the marine biology phase. Most of them moved on. Not you though. You saw your dreams through to the bitter end.
You started college and attacked your undergraduate degree in biology with fervor. Probably about the time you got to Organic Chemistry you started questioning your choices, but you powered through with more than a little help from that homely chemistry major you suddenly took an interest in and then let down not so gently when the semester was over.
Now you were four years in and committed to the graduate school path, because you knew that without a doctoral degree your career in marine biology would end at one or more of the following (in relatively descending order of acceptability):
• Adjunct professor of biology at Central Florida Community College.
• Junior marketing associate at a drug company.
• Middle manager in charge of going to meetings at the same drug company.
• High school science teacher.
• Yacht salesman.
• Yacht cleaner.
• Pool cleaner.
• Peanut vendor at Miami Dolphins games.
None of this aligned with your goals so you went on to get your doctoral degree. Having spent the better part of a decade lost in academia, you were hopelessly out of touch with every aspect of the actual human world and convinced yourself that your thesis, “Heteronormative Behaviors in Sea Cucumber Colonies,” would have significant global impact.
The lesson you failed to learn in all those years is that none of your marine biology classes were without a professor. In fact, no marine biology class anywhere is without a professor and a line of seventeen aging post-doctoral layabouts waiting for a tenured old codger to finally die and vacate a university teaching seat.
Upon further study you discover that the jobs for marine biology PhDs are (in relatively descending order of acceptability):
• Government-funded researcher with directives to make the science match the administration’s current stance on global warming.
• Corporate-funded researcher concerned with practical applications of exploiting the marine habitats that you have dedicated nearly half of your life to.
• Sea World killer whale artificial inseminator.
• Swim-with-the-sharks tour guide and chum distributor.
• Pool cleaner at Sea World.
• Aquarium security guard who tells children not to tap on the glass.
• Head barnacle scraper down at the docks.
• Stock boy at Pier One Imports.
• Long John Silvers fry cook.
Pool cleaner at least moved up a couple of spots.
Having come to terms with the reality of being forced out of the comfortable womb of academic life, you are born into a world where there are precisely twelve research jobs in your field, and most of them are being taken by people who had the foresight to study the oceans as an ancillary means to a more lucrative end in biotechnology. Each one you pursue and lose leads you further into depression.
It turns out that the girl you tried to impress back in fifth grade gave up on her dream of marine biology and went to business school. One day she was eating sushi with a school of the suits you swore you’d never be like and the waiter told them that raw sea urchin is often used in Japan as a male sexual enhancement supplement.
She got some investors together and started a company that makes billions selling UniSecs, a natural aphrodisiac made from extracted sea urchin pheromones. They needed a head of research and development to lead them in their quest to patent the urchin genome. You were up for the job, but you were a little too “sciencey” for the Board of Directors, so they decided to go a different direction. Instead, they promoted that marketing douchebag with the B.S. in biology. After they went public, he bought a yacht.
Yacht salesmen, by the way, make a fortune in commissions.
You took a job at the famed Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute as a janitor where you waited in vain for the scientists to discover that you were a brilliant mind and offer you the job of your dreams.
Overwhelmed by mounting student loan debt you stole one of the manned submersibles and took it as deep as it would go before you blew the hatch and allowed sudden explosive decompression to lay you to rest on the ocean floor, amidst a bed of sea cucumbers.