Friday, January 24, 2014

Wistful traveler

Charles de Gaulle airport...I felt like a piece of luggage being transferred through a maze.  After a whirlwind trip, it was a strange way to say farewell to Europe.  It felt very space-age, as if I was going from somewhere quite unreal back to the real world.

And even now, six months later, I feel just as I did standing there, feeling as if I lived through a marvelous time that couldn't have been real, surely not.  I imagined the entire thing, down to the last detail, Sara waving goodbye as my passport and ticket were checked and approved, me thanking the ticket officer with a quiet "merci." 

But it was real.  It was a two week extravaganza of people, places, crowds, art, flowers, food, music, late nights, early mornings, train rides, castles, mountains, was astonishing.

It's an understatement to say it was a departure from my current life, a life where I work 60 hours a week, in lab every day, rain, shine or winter storm.  I bolt upright in the middle of the night with improved phrasing for a talk I'm preparing to give, a control I should include, or the best setup for an upcoming experiment.  My walk to work isn't a pleasant stroll, it's a strategy session.  My waking hours are spent swimming through SOPs for carbon monoxide experiments, coordinating repairs for biosafety cabinets, cloning a myriad of constructs with the requisite swims through DNA sequences 20000 letters long.  Tunnel vision is encroaching, and I have to do everything to make sure it doesn't take over completely.

A far cry from Europe, to be sure.

So it's hard to look back on everything and be assured that I did see Monet's Garden, ma Tour Eiffel, Opera Garnier, Big Ben, Guggisberg, Lake Geneva.  But I was there.  It wasn't a hallucination. And every time I see someone's photos from a trip on facebook, all I feel is a wistful sort of jealousy, an almost unfair feeling that time should speed up, so I can go more interesting places, do more interesting things. 

I don't dislike science, certainly not.  Science and talking about science will always be my thing.  And I know, poor me, I have to get paid to do something I like to do that will advance my career while living in an amazing city for free in return for mentoring smart and talented young ladies.  First world problems. 

Yet.  It's no Bastille Day in Paris spent at the Louvre and then watching the fireworks over the Eiffel Tower, or an afternoon spent in a quiet English garden drinking the best cup of tea I've ever had.  And it makes me wonder how I'll get back, when I'll get back.  I know it will be someday, but it's hard to be in the no man's land of spinning my wheels in science with no defined end in site, and no travel plans in the future.  And once you're a traveler (and when you're lucky to be brought up as a traveler, thanks mom and Pa!) -- you can't let go of the next trip, the next thing to plan.  Thank goodness I have some visitors coming to the city soon, that's all I know.

(apologies for the self-pity...I think the sappy Olympics commercials about dreams and my long days at work are getting the best of me). 

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