"I tell this to all people who ask me about my career, which defines the word “alternative.” “I’m like bacteria,” I tell them. Bacteria — thermophilic or acidophilic bacteria, for example — do not “know” that the hot spot or acidic island is “over there.” They have no overall map of their surroundings to direct their movement in a straight line towards what they seek. What they sense instead is a local gradient — a small change, right next to them. It’s a little warmer that way. They move slightly. They feel it out again. Move. Feel. Move. And feel. The resulting path is a somewhat jagged, but non-random, path toward the thing that they love. And so is mine. I could not have predicted, on that hot, bright day in Guinea, that I would end up writing for science teachers. But I listened to a woman talk about science communication and something perked up inside me. That way, it’s a little warmer that way. And I took a step."
Stephanie Chasteen is a physicist, writer, and educator. She’s talking about scientists finding their way to “alternative” careers away from the bench, but I think this is a great metaphor for just about everyone.