Tag Archives: life

The Years of Me (2)


Continuing from my previous post, when I had finally managed to become un-unsociable and had jumped into a long-distance relationship with a Portuguese guy…

2006: The Year of Lite
I started my PhD – a dream come true, with a very dedicated professor as my promotor, and the thing with Lite got serious. A dream job and the cutest, sweetest guy in the universe who loved me: life was good. We travelled around a good deal, Lite and I, and after his Erasmus-year in Italy, Lite even moved to Belgium for an internship. I learned an awful lot of him: self-confidence, perspective, laid-back’ness. If I gotten the concept right, this is my guy-that-got-away.

2007: The Worst Year of my Life
Early in the year, on Lite’s birthday, we broke up. If we had lived closer together (he had ended the internship by then), we might have been able to work things out, but there was no time, no place. I broke. Had I suffered from losing Viking, it was nothing like this. To make matters worse, I had moved 8 kms out of the city, with no car, making it harder to meet my friends, and Loetse got a girlfriend, putting an end to our close friendship (which had continued during my relationship with Lite. it is almost embarrassing when people ask you how long you’ve been together, and you have to answer you’re actually with someone else). I almost lost my job. And I fell back in my old habit of shutting people out.

2008: The Best Year of my Life
I have my friends to thank for not letting me shut them out. I had too much free time on my hands, and started to do stuff. I still had my Portuguese classes, but I added: belly dancing. Teacher course. Ballroom dancing. Accordion classes. Lindy Hop. I went on holidays: skiing with my dad, Istanbul with the belly dancers, Seville, Paris, Barcelona, Mexico. I had one free night a week and I didn’t save a penny, but I had the time of my life. I decided I wouldn’t let my life depend on meeting someone, and bought a house in the city. And to top it all of, Tink came in the picture.

2009: The Year of Tinkel (and Sports Injuries)
While I had been familiar with the whole bisexual thing for years, it was new to T. And her friends. And her family. Ironically, it was my mum that shut the door on me/us. It took severed knee ligaments (bloody snowboarders…) to bring out enough mother feelings to start the acceptance process (still in progress). Around the same time, T had surgery in a final attempt to get rid of the shoulder injury she had been struggling with for a few months then (she was an avid badminton player. national level avid.). So with one good pair of legs and one good pair of arms we complemented each other perfectly.

2010: The Year of Change and Babies. And Hormones.
It was a very fertile year: no less than 7 babies were added to my circle of friends (no twins, btw). It set off my biological clock and freaked me out. But I had no time for that: I needed to finish my PhD, find a new job. There was an opportunity in Sweden, but although I had been dreaming of spending some more time abroad I was reluctant to go – I wanted T to move in and go to the bank with me so we could find us some sperm cells. Unfortunately for me, T didn’t want either of those: I had found the one girl with bigger bonding issues than your average guy. The decision was made: I was taking the job abroad.

2011: The Year of the Rabbit
Apparently. I am guessing for me this will be the Year of Weddings (it’s Belgium… we don’t tend follow the usual order of things). So far, 6 weddings are marked on the 2011 calendar (plus 2 babies), and it’s only February … . And it will be a Swedish Year, obviously, which I’ve decided to enjoy fully, letting my return depend on whether T is ready to move in with me or not. It’s a crossroad year, and I feel the decisions I will make this year will have a big impact on the rest of my life. So here’s to hoping I make the right ones. And here’s to enjoying “now” without worries.

The Years of Me (1)


Happy New Year!

I just love saying that ;).

While we celebrated the Gregorian New Year some while back, now it’s the turn for the Chinese – and as a true cosmopolitan, I, of course, will celebrate with them. Tomorrow we move from a Tiger Year (yey!) to a Rabbit Year (eh… yey?). Not just any Rabbit though – a Metal Rabbit. I tend to like them fluffier, but hey, Chinese know best. But it got me wondering how my past life would look like if I would describe them in years. The Year of the PhD? The Year of the Cold Feet?

Now, as an introductory note, you should realize I was not an average teenager. I had no friends. I barely talked to my classmates, unless it was school related. I was an avid reader: I read in between classes, before classes, after classes, on the bus and at home. I spent my lunch breaks at the library, reading. I didn’t study – I just attended classes, did what I had to do, passed. I didn’t go out. My mum dragged me to musical classes, which I enjoyed, but I still wouldn’t open my mouth unless on stage. “Unsociable” was the word most people used to describe me.
But – and this is important – I was happy. I wasn’t bullied, I wasn’t excluded: my teachers, classmates, … reached out, tried to involve me – it was me who decided to place myself outside the group (though largely unconsciously). That’s the person who we start with in 1999.

1999: The Year of First Love
I was 17 and we met at summer camp, where we both worked. She blew me off my feet. I wasn’t in love, obviously, I just wanted to be with her. Talk. Be. I wasn’t in love. It took me almost 2 years to realize that, actually, I was. By then I had of course long blown my chances, lol, but we managed to stay close, and I’m guessing she might now me better than anyone, having witnessed (and helped me) change from who I was to who I am.

2000: The Year of University
Oh what a change! Classes in the morning from 8h30 till 12h45, practicals in the afternoon from 2pm till you were done, which could be any time between 5 and 8. It was exhausting. And I had to study. I had never studied before – prepared for tests, yes, but studied? No. Never. I passed half of the subjects (ironically, these were math and philosophy. I was in biology.). I failed the other half. It would be a summer full of physics and chemistry. But – I managed to make friends. They didn’t know they weren’t supposed to come close, to talk to me, and I discovered I actually enjoyed their company.

2001: The Year of Meeting Guys
While I built up some friendships, they were all with girls. Guys were … noisy. Annoying. Impatient. And noisy. I had always been in girls-only schools, and I had never had to deal with boys. At university, I had to work with them. I generally just shut up when they were around (think Raj from The Big Bang Theory, but the other way around), but it was impossible to keep this up. And as it turned out, after some getting used to, they were ok. Still noisy, but ok. Some were even pretty cute. And sweet. And nice to hug. VERY nice to hug (hey, 2 years ago I was “unsociable”, let’s take it slow, shall we?).

2002: The Year of the Bachelor
A year later than planned, I got my Bachelors in Biology, and decided to continue in Biotechnology. It was a big thing for me – I had managed to establish some friendships, against all expectations, almost coincidentally. Now I had to leave them behind (including my best friend who I obviously had a crush on) and get into a new group where, for the first time, I wánted to find friends. I wasn’t sure if I could do that in an intentional way. But lo and behold (been dying to use that expression!) – I did.

2003: The Year of the Firsts
First kiss and first boyfriend, that is. Both events took place in the same weekend, although with different boys. Hey, my crush wasn’t moving, somebody had to do something – but I didn’t know how to kiss. So I let the unthinkable happen, and allowed a guy to hit on me and kiss me. It was an unfortunate complication the guy, Pjetr, was actually in a relationship, but well, sacrifices have to be made for love, and I believe she never found out. I immediately put my new-gained knowledge into practice, and got myself a Viking boyfriend. He decided he was in love with another girl 3 moths later and broke my heart, but at least now I got the hang of the whole kissing thing.

2004: The Year of the Room, the Rebound(s), and the Second Boyfriend.
Finally my parents let me move on rooms in the city, so I no longer had to suffer hour-long busrides from home to school and back. Ah, the freedom… still grieving over the loss of my Viking, I started to fool around with Pjetr, my first-kiss guy (who was thereby cheating on his mistress with which he cheated on his girlfriend), and Tomaseti. Both things were kept secret, the first for obvious reasons, the second … for complicated reasons. As I was getting the hang of the whole girl/boy thing, I discovered Loetse. I had known him for 4 years, so I can’t say we met, but something happened. In theory, it lasted only a month – in practice though, it was the start of a platonic relationship that would last several years.

2005: The International Year and another First Kiss
I went on Erasmus, an exchange program, to Ireland for 5 months. In addition to the fun and freedom of living on rooms, I would now have to take on the responsibility of laundry and cooking. Still feeling very insecure socially, I preferred a rainy country where they spoke English over sunny Spain and promptly fell in love with Lite, a Portuguese guy who was there on holidays… . Deciding the long distance road was not ours to take, we broke it off when he went home, although we kept in touch.
That summer can only be described as eventful: I kissed a girl for the first time, cheated on her with Lite (just a kiss… honestly), had a quite dramatic departure from Portugal (think Hollywood), an equally dramatic return to Belgium (think jealous girlfriend), and started a new, long-distance relationship with Lite…

More or less my departure from Portugal. Plus tears. And both of us dating someone else.



I think (most) people who defend their PhD thesis actually deserve two titles.

A degree in whatever subject they spend 4+ years on studying.

And a PhD in procrastination.

I myself am surprised I still haven’t received tenure for a procrastination position, since I have perfected the art of procrastination and single handedly brought it to a whole new level. I rarely answer an e-mail within 24 hours. Just because. If it is an unwanted one I might just plain ignore it. I take the day off to avoid running into my PI. I would rather die from backpain than having to admit that 50kg bag is really too heavy for me, but if my hand hurts even a little I promptly decide I cannot do dishes, laundry or any other household work for a week.

Ok, some of this might be pure avoidance. But still.

I took last Friday off because I had a mail from my former PI to discuss the articles I still have to finish from my PhD which I defended almost a year ago – I wanted to work non-stop on those for 3 days. I also had to clean the apartment, do shopping, think about a project for a research grant due end of this month, and make a schedule for the work that needs to be done for my current project. To begin with.

So here’s what I did: I watched 2 seasons of Dexter, went out to Copenhagen on Friday night and booked a trip to Iceland.

Oh, and I got my sequencing results, which were perfect. Except for the fact I discovered my primers were wrong. If you don’t know what this means, let me translate: the past 5 long, boring, repetitive months of experiments (which shouldn’t have taken longer than a month tops to begin with) were in vain because I misdesigned one of the basic ingredients.

And thus I took today off too (PI avoidance…). And watched half a season of House.

All this to say that I’ll be laying low on the blog-front in the near future, trying to break my procrastination habit and get some stuff done, so as to feel less of a failure (please, don’t even try to say I’m not. I designed the primers. I did the experiments. Blaming this on anything else is nothing short of denial.). I had prepared some posts around the Chinese New Year coming up, I’ll see if I’ll be able to finish them. And after that, you might help me get some ideas for a career change.

Stuck on the same track


I’m sure many of you have heard either one or both stories…

A mother is preparing dinner when suddenly her 12-year-old daughter asks: “Mum, why do you cut both edges off the sausage before frying it?”
“Actually, I don’t know,” answers her mother, “but my mother always used to do it, we can ask her about it.”
But when they ask grandmother the reason, she replies: “Well, my old mother used to always cut the edges, I guess I simply learned it from her, but why she did it, I don’t know.”
The great-grandmother meanwhile has long since retired and lives in a nursing home. When her great-granddaughter comes to visit and asks her the reason for her sausage-cutting ritual, she is very much surprised: “My oh my, are you telling me you are still using that little old frying pan?”

What is the standard distance between railroad rails?
– 143.5 cm (4’8½”)
– Because that’s the gauge the tramways used before the railroads.
– Because the tramways were built using the same tools as wagon-builders and that’s how wide the wagon wheels were spaced.
– Because the old roads in England had ruts that the wheels needed to accommodate.
– Because the ruts were made by Imperial Roman chariots which were about as wide as the back of two horses.
And thus, when engineers at Thiokol were designing the solid rocket boosters for the Space Shuttle, they had to adapt the design so that it would fit through all the tunnels when transported by train from the factory to the launch site. The tunnel width was dependent on the track width which in turn derived from the width of a horse’s behind. In short, the main design feature of the world’s most advanced transportation system was designed based on a horse’s butt!

I first learned of the latter story/urban legend through Paulo Coelho’s “O Zahir” (for those who haven’t read it: read it, it is a beautiful tale of life, love, and longing) and was reminded of it by a colleague earlier today. I won’t discuss the level of truth/untruth of the anecdote(s) (that has already been done here and here, among others) but I feel both stories hold a great lesson in common.

Often, at one point in history, something or somebody decides: that’s the “right” way to do it, that is the “right” way to behave. Be it a woman that finds it easier to cut her sausages to fit them in her little frying pan or a Roman wagon maker that fits a chariot to fit two horses pulling it – their decisions are taken for good reasons, and may very well be the best decision at that time. But times change. Conditions change. And so should solutions. All too often we are stuck in our daily routine which may allow us to live our lives comfortably, but at the same time hinders us to be free, to make our own decisions, to set our own standards: to live our own life.

Because we are scared, we lack the courage to make the changes our lives sometimes so desperately need. Because we are scared, we’d rather accept the habits and customs that hold us back than question them, analyze them, and, ultimately, change them.

I plead guilty as charged. But one of the advantages of my coming to Sweden is that, in the meeting of a new environment, new people, and new habits, my own habits are automatically put in a different perspective, and through these new glasses, it is much easier to see what could and -especially- what should be changed. Let’s take it one step at a time.