A few days ago I achieved an important goal, the conclusion of a five-year-long journey. I graduated. Doesn’t happen often, does it?
And I’m really fine with it. I’m not really excited and I wasn’t when I discussed my thesis. I just did my work for five years. That’s a lot of time.
I’m particularly happy because talking about the last period of studying, I was really struggling. I think it’s the same for all of us. The last period is the worst. We know that we have to cross the finish line but we have no or very little energy left in our brain. There’s no place where we can buy some. Thus we have to decide: is it better to cross it crawling or stop for a moment, recharge the batteries and cross it head held high?
I personally crossed it half way. Anyway, I’m done! Did I tell you what I studied? Sorry.
Long story short: Bachelor of Science in Biological Science in Turin and now, Master of Science in Environmental Biology. Nothing to do with satellites, birds, plants or climate change. I sort of specialized in microbiology and biochemistry (love little things, you got it), and graduated with a thesis on the characterization of a bacterial enzyme.
In these five years, I did a couple of experiences abroad, in Wales and in Germany. Thanks to these experiences I properly learned English (well, more or less. Writing in English is great daily exercise to hone it by the way) and I have some basics of German.
What has the University taught me?
Kind of a tricky question. More pros or more cons? I still have to evaluate them. I want to do it quietly, so I’ll give myself time to think about it. Five years are very long to assess and metabolize..it’s like you have to do a company’s yearly balance but you don’t have neat spreadsheets to draw numbers from. You have to collect all the feelings you have felt, the places you have been, the problems you have solved, the friends you have lost and those you have found; and put everything in one messy place that is your mind, trying not to forget anything important.
After five years, I can criticize myself a lot. I spent endless hours analyzing my behavior with people (sounds like I’m Mystery. Ring a bell? Neil Strauss – The Game). Wasn’t it working? Let’s change it. Was it? Let’s keep it. I could have graduated in innerself psychology.
So it ended that I pretend a lot from people because I pretend a lot from myself. Some people like it, most do not. That’s why I can fastly count people worth of a call from time to time.
I learned that doing something you love is the engine of happiness. This is the main doubt I have when it comes to keep on working in science.
I think it’s something extremely useful. I know everything I do could bring something more, some knowledge, some real help to people who are in trouble. But when this is not working I feel bad, I wonder ‘holy shit is this what I want to do for the rest of my life? Being happy with my job just because I got one cool result in few months of work?’. And I have to say I ended up in places where working was really a pleasure, with wonderful people, in more or less well-equipped places, in cities I liked and explored. A sort of bubble of happiness.
I also know it’s not always like this. Supervisors who do not consider you and your efforts, you end up in places you don’t like, or, worst, you realize that what you are doing is simply not for you. It happens.
In that moment, put your head up and accept it. There’s always time to change if you’re willing to put passion in what you’ll do.
I really loved what I do, even though, of course, I had to sit for examinations I didn’t give a shit about and I had to clean stuff that was not mine. Sometimes I had to do extra work for other people. Hooray! That was part of the journey.
I loved spending late nights in the lab in front of the screen waiting for that bloody peak. Coming back so late you didn’t even have the force to prepare your dinner, but just put a cup of water in the microwave and a bag of chamomile. And waking up the morning later knowing that it would probably end the same way of yesterday. I loved preparing presentations, seminars, public speaking and the thrill I felt the first time I had to give my results as well as the thrill you feel when you understand you are surrounded by like-minded people and you could talk about an experiment until you haven’t found a way to do it better. I loved it all!
One of the few dreams I have is traveling as much as I can. That’s why The Travel Bakery was born.
So before coming back to science, if I will do so, I want to take a break. As long as I need it.
For me, Stefano, right now, it’s the only way to know whether I’ll miss it so much I’ll have to come back running.
Next step: Chile.
Go on baking travels!