- Seriously?! I unpacked everything, or nearly everything, when I got to Pisac. And last night I was repacking everything to go to Cusco. BUT IT DIDN’T FIT. My father was witness to a major packing freakout the first time I packed before leaving for three months. I was convinced that I needed to fit what I was bringing for three months into my one suitcase and backpack. I ended up cutting out, oh, about a third of the stuff. Now I’m here, and I’ve acquired some things (cough lots of yarn) (and some gifts for lovely folks back home) and gotten rid of some things (cough a whole box of KIND bars) (and one of the guidebooks I brought, among other things). My mother is considered the Packing Queen in our house, and for the longest time I was the Packing Princess. But this morning I pulled the least-Packing-Princess-like (but by far the most stress-relieving) move: I went to the market and I bought another bag. Seriously? Seriously. Great decision. And it’s probably going to end up being a present for my sister when I get home. Some part of me is going, “Really, Packing Princess?” And the part that was stressed out early last night before having this idea is going, “Yes. Really.”
- The first episode of the second season of Serial is out – Serial as in the famous/personally-infamous podcast that I devoured in one weekend while knitting my first Skiff hat last spring. I have not started it yet, but I’m excited. We’ll see how many socks come out of season two.
- Cereal. AKA my favorite food ever, my soul food. If I were a food, I would definitely be a bowl of cereal. It doesn’t exist here. (Same with peanut butter, which constitutes approximately 22.7% of my diet at home and at The School on The Hill). I’m craving cereal, with milk or almond milk. It will definitely be the first thing I eat when I get home.
I woke up around 3:30 this morning convinced that someone was filling up a bathtub on the floor above me.
You see, all I could hear was the sound of pouring massive amounts of water, and I knew in my half-dazed state that no one could pee that much or that loudly. So a bathtub it was.
I then proceeded to drift in and out of conscious thought, which included college spreadsheets (for the second time recently when waking up early and going back to bed) and a very odd dream (something involving Modern Family and a greenhouse and shooting people, and I know the shooting people part must be related to the Kahlil Gibran book I was reading).
My usual alarm went off at six. I checked email, and got out of bed to walk across the hostel courtyard to go to the bathroom. I stepped outside and got a real answer: it had rained. A lot, apparently. At least a bathtub’s worth.
Welcome to the rainy season.
I am in Perú, and I am breathless.
Granted, there’s altitude playing in there, as I’m now 2900m above sea level, and flew in at 3400m. But it’s not just the altitude – it’s the hard-to-describe feeling of being someplace beautiful beyond words, and also totally on one’s own.
I am in Perú, alone, for the next three and a half months.
It keeps hitting me like a tidal wave, knocking all composure and breath out of me. After eighteen hours of traveling, I’m on a new continent, in a new hemisphere, alone. I was asked several times during those eighteen hours of traveling, “Estás viajando sola?” (“Are you traveling alone?”) and I said yes, yes I was, yes I am. What that truly means is only barely starting to sink in.
I have been gifted nearly four months to explore. And while I’m excited, I’m also scared out of my mind. And, for the time being, breathless.
I’m thinking about Peru.
Mostly because I’m actually going to Peru this winter and the act of writing that still makes me so excited and so flipped out. I’m going to Peru. It doesn’t seem real.
So now comes all of the logistics. Where I’m staying in Pisac. How I’m going to get places. Being a vegetarian. Hours at the medical center. Vaccines (which my mentor kindly reminded me of over the summer, and which I have to figure out which ones to get and schedule the actual getting of them in October). The fact that I haven’t been speaking Spanish regularly for the past four months.
I’m trying to convince myself that I can do this. I’m a good traveler. I’ve been places. I know my stuff. I have a passport (and now a suitcase). I’ve spoken Spanish before and have a couple contact people and dates and plane tickets. I’ll be okay.
Peru. Stuff’s getting real.
This past spring, I threw away a pair of boots – lace-up Steve Madden ones – that had giant holes in them. My mother had been begging me to throw them away for more than a year, but for whatever reason, I kept them and wore them a couple of times. Despite the giant holes.
But those ones are gone now, replaced with a pair of Bogs boots that look like a cross between the utilitarian Blundstone boots and short horseback riding boots. And being the winter-lover I am, I’m dreaming of wearing them with hand-knit socks. I have a pair on the needles now (these broken seed stitch ones, in brown and blue), but am itching to knit more like these:
Hermione’s Everyday Socks (which I’ve been planning to knit for ages but haven’t done yet!)
Irish Oats (though probably not oats-colored)
My Cup of Tea (because tea and sock knitting always go hand-in-hand)
Liseron (Rose Hiver’s patterns are SO BEAUTIFUL and I keep saying I’ll knit a pair of really nice fair isle socks but am putting it off…)
But I’ve got a long (loooong) time before I’d actually have the right weather to wear any of these. So time to knit them, I suppose!
A couple minutes ago, I finished writing the draft of a post titled, “On Working for Joy.” I’d just spent a while figuring out some deep conclusions about my life and happiness through writing.
And, when I finished and read it over, I hit the “Publish” button. I was directed to a page that read, “Are you sure you want to do this? Please try again.” And so I hit Please try again. What did I get? It took me back to the previous page, with all of my writing erased.
At first I was shocked and angry of course, and tried to retrieve it to no avail. Then I couldn’t stop laughing. Here I was, writing about joy and doing things for myself, and the Internet just prevented me from putting it out there. So I guess that one was intended just for me after all.
Despite any lingering frustration, I can’t take it as anything other than a message from the universe.
I’m sitting on the couch at home, on my summer break. It’s Sunday, and tomorrow morning I will be back in the lab, running PCRs and Gibson reactions and making and titering lysates and learning about phages and biology and the ways lab life works. And what I should be thinking about is my project in lab, and why the PCRs aren’t working. I should be troubleshooting. I should not have had the following tabs open in recent history:
MIT Admissions blog – X
MIT Admissions blog – Y
MIT Admissions blog – Z
SAT Math II Practice Questions
NYU Abu Dhabi – Application Requirements
The University of Chicago – Student Research
The list stretches on in my browsing history for most of this afternoon and all of last night. I couldn’t manage to take my mind off the ominous presence.
Now, I’m always someone who is thinking about the future. It’s who I am; it’s how I work; it’s not going to change by simply closing computer tabs. The topical solution won’t fix it. Closing computer tabs is a band-aid on a bullet wound. I need to find my internal command line and type, in my internal half-Python, “killall future planning.” (this killall command is the solution I used recently to reboot my Mac Dock, and it worked beautifully) Or, more specifically, “killall college planning.”
Planning, of course, isn’t a bad thing. It’s great; it keeps you organized; it lets you keep sane when there are any number of variables coming your way. But right now planning is a hindrance.
I’m going to tell a little story.
I’ve had a lot of female friends over the years, and not so many guys. But in middle school, I had two guy friends, both of whom, it happened, were a little obsessed with college.
Okay, maybe that’s an understatement. One of them was a little obsessed, and the other was totally crazy about it. I was a stereotypically high-achieving, straight-A student in middle school, and I thought they were crazy. One of them – B – had decided by the second or third grade that he wanted to go to Cornell and start a chain of five-star hotels. The other – P – had decided that he would most certainly absolutely go to Yale and become a doctor. (He was going about doing this by following the list of recommended extracurriculars on Yale’s website.)
B and P had both been close friends of mine for years by the time I left for The School on The Hill. And I have seen them both, I think, since I left middle school. Occasionally I miss them and the fierce-yet-friendly academic competition we would have over things as small as a hundredth of a point on our Earth Science averages. (At The School on The Hill we don’t see our grades and instead work “to grow in knowledge of the universe” – which I mostly appreciate, I really do, but sometimes miss the concreteness of numbers.)
I was and am stubborn in saying that I am not like them. I do not have one school that I know I will end up at. I do not ebulliently deny the realities of college admissions processes. I acknowledge what little control I have in the application process – it was demonstrated a couple years ago in applying to schools like the one on The Hill – and I have forced myself to not get attached to one idea of the future. Compared to those two, I feel like Silly Putty or ooblek.
But one thing is the same: we’re all constantly thinking about what’s next.
And by “what’s next” I don’t mean what I’ll do after I finish writing this; I mean the next big step in our lives, and for us, like so many teenagers, that’s college.
I love the prospect of college. The idea of applying, of writing essays and putting myself out there. By this point I have put out a dozen or so applications in my life, and I’m okay with rejection. Right now, that’s not what I’m worried about. I’m worried about losing the right now. I’m worried about thinking about MIT more than about going into the lab tomorrow. I’m worried about thinking about my CalTech admissions essay more than the next pie I should bake for my boss. I’m worried about losing the beauty of the present because I’m lost – like B and P were and probably are – thinking about the future.
It’s a tough problem to fix, for sure. A fine line to walk. But what I do know for certain is that I can’t let myself wander too far off the path. When you type, “killall Dock” in the command line of a Mac, the dock restarts itself again, functional. That, right now, is what I’m hoping for. I’m hoping, by writing this, I suppose, to hit an internal killall reset button, so I can close the windows’ worth of college preparation and sit down and troubleshoot my PCRs. (which, by the way, are leading to a really cool project that I’m really hoping works out, despite my total lack of control over the biology number game)
Let’s stop thinking about what’s next. Let’s think about now.
Late last night, I finished the twenty fifth book. I had taken a luxurious summer-vacation-only nap in the middle of the afternoon, and was still restless come ten, eleven o’clock. So I finished Do No Harm by Henry Marsh, on neurosurgery. He’s kind of an arse, Marsh, but it was an interesting book to read, especially compared to my main man, Atul Gawande.
The twenty fifth book means I’m a quarter of the way through the year’s reading for 2015. When I was sorting through old papers the other day, I found the old challenge for myself to read 100 books in a summer rather than a full calendar year. And that time, I made it to sixty five before going back to school. So I have some catching up to do.
The biggest piece of my reading mentality right now is to clean things off the shelves. For the most part my bookshelves are full of books I haven’t read yet. Acquired from my dad, bought both new and used at bookstores, picked up from the library free bin, given to me… all pushed to the side while I didn’t have time or was reading something else. Some of them were started and never finished (I’m looking at The Jungle and On the Road here). So this summer means reading those unread books, and clearing the unworthy ones off the shelves when I’m done. To put them back out into the world, or give them to someone else who would enjoy them more.
Anyways, I should go. I have a lot of reading to do.
Dutiful childhood list-making.
As a hyper-obsessive cleaner, I sometimes go through computer files and delete things like crazy. Today is not one of those days. Today I’m sitting on the lab counter in Reynolds after PW. Today I decided I like writing in Spanish better when I’m hotheaded and frustrated (like earlier today). Today I tried to put into writing a social science hypothesis that makes me sad to think about. Oh well.
But today I did discover a whole bunch of lists on my computer. They’re hilarious, to hear the perspective of my former self and the straight-out nuts ways I’d plan ahead for things. Yeah, Nathan’s whole “live in the moment” thing has impacted my perspective, considering I was making some of these with five (or twenty) years ahead in mind.
We’re almost at the end of the school year. We’ve got two days of classes left, then “finals” which are not really finals at a school that discourages testing. Project Week, or really Project Ten Days, then presentation day and graduation and school is out for the year.
That was fast.
We were sitting on the lawn this morning after brunch – the one morning and midday meal on Sunday. KStall said she doesn’t understand how I manage to read and knit so much and get homework done and go to bed early. Frankly, I don’t understand sometimes either. What I told her, though, was that I do the first two primarily on the weekends, in big spurts. I’ll finish a whole book – I read one overnight and this morning – or complete the back of a sweater or a whole hat. Then I won’t do anything like that during the week. Just school work.
For the most part I’m in bed by 9:30 every night, getting up at six the next morning to finish work and read and water the plants. I want to start running in the mornings, and will, as soon as school lets out. Running at school and running at home are so different – apples and zucchini, or potatoes and papayas. Running at school means hilly dirt roads or quiet trail runs. Running at home means concrete and sidewalks and the neighborhoods where I grew up. It’s really different.
I’ve been thinking about running a lot recently, exacerbated by reading Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running this weekend.
It’s something, I’m feeling, that I just need to start and the momentum will pick up. Or so I hope. I’ve just got a wall to bust through first, like with reading. At some point – I cross my fingers – the intermittent bursts will give way to habit.