And here we are, wherever we are…

I had thought to make this blog a real project, a real space to blend my interests and practice science communication and storytelling. But like many things, it fell to the wayside. I had imagined re-imagining myself, becoming the confident, energetic and capable professional creature I had envisioned myself becoming. But then everything (again) spiraled out of control and I find myself feeling more often than not deeply, existentially, exhausted. But who doesn’t these days, really?

I was laughing (because what else can we do) with someone other day about how strange everything pre-2020 seems now. It’s been nine months since the first shutdown where I lived, and it’s so strange to look back to what we were doing just before everything collapsed on itself. I remember the creeping dread while traveling week after week for grad school interviews, hearing nervous chatter in the airports, seeing headlines reporting nursing home deaths. My last flight home was nearly empty; my seat neighbor and I felt a great deal of mutual relief when we realized we could spread out and have whole rows to ourselves. Funny how realizing you’re not trapped together makes people feel more connected sometimes. I remember finally getting back to Wednesday night dumpling routine at the pop-up kitchen downtown, savoring the food (and regretting not getting the gochujang cauliflower even though that meant saving money for another visit the next week that never happened) while people, sitting outside, murmured nervously about potential workplace closures. I remember staying up until 2am shooting protein crystals with lab friends and feeling like I was finally back at home.

And yet, here we are.

I don’t have anything profound to say, only that the end of this year feels like a loss, and also an escape. I really struggled in the last (my first) semester because it felt like I gave up so much without clearly seeing what would arrive in return. Leaving the only place that really felt like home (leaving my ocean, my trees, my community, my lab projects, my friends), leaving the security of a real job, the possibility of finishing a project for myself that I had worked on from the very beginning. Finding myself three hours separated from family and friends, bittersweet reunions with old friends that I may never see again. Culture shock (again). California wildfires, knowing that places I used to think and walk in have burned. Sorrow for acquaintances who lost homes. Not being able to say goodbye, not being able to meet new people where I am now. Losing the chance to rotate in and potentially join several labs I’d been excited about. Anxiety attacks. Being stuck in a city unfriendly to pedestrians without a car, losing the accessibility of nature I’ve clung to for years.

These are small losses in the grand scheme of things, but losses all the same. December always makes me introspective, but perhaps that’s how it should be. Some times are for joy and movement, others for acknowledging the terror and loss. I keep waking in the middle of night with lines of poetry running pre-formed in my head. Sometimes it’s time for reflection, for trying hopelessly to pin down words for the ineffable.

So here’s to 2021? Here at the bitter end of a year that went awry when all there is left is to stubbornly hope, to heal, to hang on. Absorbing what quiet I can over the break between semesters, my first Christmas snow. Taking comfort in the changing weather, the beautiful patterns of bare branches against the sky. Who knows where we are going, but for now, here we are, wherever we are.

things I’ve been enjoying:

  • Tess of the Road – feels borderline between YA/adult fantasy, a story about a young woman walking her way out of trauma, shame, with a dash of dragons for good measure. Tess is bitter and not always likable, but feels real and deeply relatable. This was a reread; I needed something that felt healing and resonant. Not always an easy read, but a good one.
  • Poetry Unbound podcast – another deeply soothing endeavor, each episode is nothing more than a poem, read twice, and some commentary both personal and analytical about what it means. Comfortable, often illuminating, always like what poetry lessons in school ought to have been.
  • “Lessons from Microbes: What Can We Learn about Equity from Unculturable Bacteria?”
  • Deep sea soundscapes (I’ve thought some about how we explore new spaces from our own perspectives, even when not appropriate for our surroundings. How can we think we understand an environment in its totality when we only know it through our own lens? To know a world without light, why not turn to sound?)