Double Life

I am an academic and an NWU member. That gives you a clue to the double professional life I live. As an academic, I published a book on work, stress, and health.

With my colleague Renzo Bianchi, I have been involved in research on job-related depression and burnout. Recently Renzo and I developed the Occupational Burnout Inventory, a survey designed to assess job-related depression.

The research I just described is one half of my double life. I was motivated to join NWU because I am also writing a trade book that is not related to my academic life. It’s about about my boyhood and adolescence in a New York City housing project.

Although that may not seem unusual—given post-World War II timing and the location—it was. The project, like many others of the era, was built to accommodate the families of returning GIs. Every dad was a hero to us boys. Our parents were commensurately tolerant of our having war toys, Daisy air rifles, bayonet knives and the like.

As for the location, the project was in Flatlands, the least developed corner of Brooklyn. We were surrounded—and this is difficult to imagine today—by meadows, trees, freshwater swamps and farms.

My friends and I were city boys but we took advantage of our surroundings. We built rafts. We hunted for all kinds of animals and caught them with our bare hands, including snakes in rock piles and frogs in swamps. We brought those animals home and kept them as pets. We seized tadpoles, snails, and praying mantis eggs and brought them home as well.

We built campfires on a vast prairie punctuated by lush groves. At the end of the day, we returned home to New York City Housing Authority apartments and Mom and Dad.

Each half of my double life is different from the other half. But each has its rewards.