1) Eat a pear 2) Vacuum the house 3) Mop floorboards 4) Get a video call and find myself web-cammed into a party Auckland, New Zealand at 2am, and hang out in a (slightly drunk) circle of people I love/people I’ve never met and listen to music/sing along together from two different cities, across the Tasman sea.
This week the sun peeked out from all that rain and cold, giving some hope of spring. Australia has such frightful winters — bone chilling, and without the compensation of snow. Maybe I took the turn for granted, because while typing this thing a big clamor rang out like a frightful train had crashed into the house (it was a freak lightning storm).
So many people seem to have laryngitis recently — Dr. M, a cardiologist I’d never met, had answered in a raspy voice that I’d originally thought was normal for him; when Catrina left a voice message on my cellphone I almost couldn’t recognise her. I’d had it too, the last week — sick, feverish for a bit after my voice returned (a different virus, perhaps). The next day I’d had to go in to collect some blood samples for the study, and lied to the nurses, saying my fever had broken. It hadn’t. But it hadn’t been a bad day, tolerable after I marched myself over to the pharmacy and bought a hundred-pack of paracetamol.
I feel a bit cagey, waiting for winter to slide away, waiting for the trees to re-dress themselves. Birdsong can be heard later at night now. The Australian election came and went last weekend, with not much to show for it. The routineness of data collection, laboratory spinning downs, sneaking samples into different freezers (not related to my department), petty politics… can’t say it doesn’t have its own charm, although stress for an October deadline is building up. Maybe I’m getting used to the scientific life.
In the give of August, Prof R and I seem to have come to a strange understanding. Perhaps all my previous arguments are starting to make sense, given the context. I don’t know if he knew — it all of a sudden seems easier when other consultants are (tentatively) on your side. Maybe it’s a change in my own attitude. I’d struggled, gave in a bit, won a bit of ground, and now it’s pretty much like this. I’ve stopped caring about if our controls are matched, or that the assay machine is (still) broken weeks before my thesis due date, or that I have no results.
Go with the flow! :) I feel like I’ve grown from this. Learnt more about dealing with difficult people, or communication problems.
When I told Sam that I often felt bad for not getting along with Prof R better during the year, especially in comparison to J, who always seemed to take everything in with a smile, Sam said that it made sense because J was a nice person. Not to say that I wasn’t nice, he quickly ammended. Just more honest, perhaps. Recently I found out, catching J in the operating room setting up for one of their experiments, that he was also fed up with Prof R, for other reasons. I’d been so surprised, I’d always thought they were very close! It turned out he felt frustrated too, mostly, but was better at hiding it.
Sam is definitely right. I’m a terrible liar. It’s not that I don’t want to, but for some reason my facial expressions just can’t be schooled. If I’m aghast, it’ll be in the quirk of my eyebrows. I feel really childish in this respect. People say children are cruel, possibly because of this reason. I don’t think children are any less tolerant than adults because they are educated in tolerance by the adults in their lives, but perhaps they are more verbal about it. As for me, I’m just a bad actress.
Strangely, I’ve come to like Prof R better when we’re not always arguing. After all, it’s only ever professionally that we didn’t get along. I’ve always thought he was a pretty nice person, on a personal level. I like the way he chuckles at messes of his own making, or gets ridiculously offended by certain things he’s discovered are going wrong — again, of his own doing. Most of this relates to Ethics. Most of all I like how he’s willing to work with me to overcome them.
I had dinner, then supper at Jingyi’s house last weekend. I hadn’t seen her in a while, and as usual she was the force of life for miles around. “You listen to me,” she said. “Sometimes it’s more important to have a good relationship with your supervisor than it is to have a good grade. Where will a good grade get you? Where will a good reference get you?”
Woke up today in a nest of blankets, all lovely and warm but slightly confused. Something was rattling outside of the cocoon of sheets. It was early, still. The room still had a slight chill, and the light was grey through the slits between my blinds.
Something seemed kinetic, though. Something that demanded urgent attention. Like looking for that one wonky thing in a child’s picture game, there seemed to be an part that didn’t go with the calm, August morning.
It took me a while to realise that it was my erratically beating heart. :D
“Now, absence can only exist as a consequence of the other: it is the other who leaves, it is I who remain. The other is in a condition of perpetual departure, of journeying; the other is, by vocation, migrant, fugitive; I — I who love, by converse vocation, am sedentary, motionless, at hand, in expectation, nailed to the spot, in suspense — like a package in some forgotten corner of a railway station. Amorous absence functions in a single direction, expressed by the one who stays, never by the one who leaves: and always present I is constituted only by a confrontation with an always absent you. To speak this absence is from the start to propose that the subject’s place and the other’s place cannot permute; it is to say: “I am loved less than I love.”—
from ‘A Lover’s Discource: Fragments’ — Roland Barthes. Translated by Richard Howard. (via Sasha Wants More)
I’m back from sunny Queensland, missing the sunshine — even the smell of it, dashed onto the dirt and my shirts, or the musk of sweat and grilled meat from stalls along the temporary streets catering to 32 odd thousand. Splendour In The Grass was amazing beyond words.
The strangest thing is, lying on my back in the dark up in Woodfordia, Catrina’s sleeping bag kicked loosely around my tummy for the heat, I’d felt safe — as if I had previously been feeling unsafe for years on end and not know it. At night, walking through the festival grounds, the smell of oregano and cajun chicken filled the air and colourful lights from strung bulbs around a man-made lake, and a floating boat as well as dozens of paper lanterns filled the air. The path to the main amphitheatre was lined on one side with a bank of trees and gave way to a valley surrounded by the greenest woods I’ve seen on the continent. The hill reverberated both the frosty mornings and the heat from sun. Even the air smelt evergreen.
When we came back it was to city lost beneath cold and rain. Already on Tuesday, with only eight hours sleep and a halo of tiredness, there were forms to arrange, patients to prepare for — chemical compounds and autoclaved jars that I’d set up the previous week to account for. I left my phone on the train and was touched by the person who texted someone on my last called list, then returned it to Flinders Street lost property.
On one of these scrappy evenings not long after I got back, I met N for dinner.
I’d known N since first year. N’s biggest charm is that she has a way of somehow saying anything and everything she is thinking in a very oblivious way, which most other people are also probably thinking too but not saying out loud (although at times this can be confronting). I’ve never met someone so transparent — in a good way. Someone who doesn’t have something to hide.
N’s plight with finding a partner and falling in love was kind of sweet — out in the open, with that sincere honesty that I appreciate. “I’m afraid I’ll never find a partner,” she said. I had laughed — it seemed crazy. “Looking back at the first years of university,” she said, “I did a lot of things that weren’t important. Joined social justice groups that I don’t think are that important to me anymore. Why didn’t spend more time on this?”
That got me thinking — what do I wish I had spent more time on way back then? There are lots of academically related things, like study harder or get involved in research earlier. What else? I can’t think of anything. I could have been more social throughout the years, I guess. Maybe hung out with my brother more.
Thinking about Queensland, I’m glad Renny was there with me, and that we met Mark and Romy along the way. People are more important than ever. I really appreciate the people I have.
All speculation to the sound of rain, telling me it’s time to go to sleep :) It was nice to be away, but it’s also good to be back.