Hello world! I’m back after a long (and sadly, not a very unusual) hiatus. I just finished my first year of PhD – I’ve got a million anecdotes and stories which were supposed to posted out here, actually. But if I have to sum it up in a sentence, I’ll just say that it was a crazy whirlwind of classes, friends, exams, exploring the streets, doing rotations in different labs to figure out the perfect match, movie nights with pancakes and cookies, ‘discovering’ various book stores and tucked-away cafes, stressing out over course work, and carving out my own little niche in the heart of the city.
So yes, it’s a busy busy life and it’s incredibly easy to get sucked into our little routines and habits. And yes, I have to plead guilty on that charge. Little day-to-day matters bog us down to the extent that we’re always rushing, rushing to meetings, rushing to run errands, rushing to do, without sparing a moment to stop and think. It’s harried and crazy, and we hardly have any time or even inclination to look up and look around – actually enjoy everything, take out a few minutes to just relax and genuinely feel contentment.
And then I got onto a looooong flight – a 16-hours, non-stop flight. I’d expected to be bored. I’d planned on sleeping most of the way, and watching movies on the in-flight entertainment system to make the time go by. And yes, I slept. I watched movies. But what I remember the most is just sitting and gazing awe-struck out of the window. It was absolutely beautiful. The infinitely blue sky stretching out everywhere, and fields and fields of clouds below. When I’m on the ground and look at clouds, I always imagine them to be fluffy, like clumps of soft cotton candy. Pretty, and fun to imagine shapes of, but just about that. But looking down from a plane… clouds appeared like white-tipped frothy waves about to crash thunderously over the shore – crested waves on the precipice of crashing over, frozen in time. In spots of relative calm in this stormy ocean of clouds, I saw long deep gouges in sheets of white – like ski tracks on the snow. It was a majestic sight, almost frightening in its beauty.
And when the cloud cover was flung aside by the winds (Is it still a cover if it’s below you? Somehow a cover sounds like something you pull on top of you.) I could see… everything. Everything in miniature – forests and woods looking like emerald patches of cultivated lawns, shiny lakes which appeared to contain all of two teaspoons of water, tiny little houses which you play with in Monopoly, rivers resembling silvery worms (or fly larvae, actually – I am a Drosophila geneticist after all) and cars which looked like an orderly line of ants on roller blades. And then, as I was all peaceful and content, just gazing outside, feeling connected to the world, and yet sort of distant… I realized that if the forests and cities and water bodies are so tiny in the grand scheme of things, my little day-to-day worries which seem SO overwhelming are really rather insignificant.
And right there in that moment I knew what a change in perspective actually meant. It means that while I live in my zoomed-in little life in which it’s oh-so-important to get to places on time, meet all my deadlines, do my groceries and laundry, pay bills, get my flu shot (Oops. Is it that time of the year already?)… I also need to remember that the world is a big, BIG place teeming with life forms of multiple sorts, and yes, while we all have problems… we need to Let It Gooooooo (sorry, couldn’t resist) because the world is astounding in all its glory. Life is absolutely beautiful, the sun shines, emotions like love and trust exist in spite of cynicism and darkness, chocolate exists, and unicorns really do slide down rainbows. (Alright, alright… I don’t really believe in unicorns. Honest!)
Of course, the moment my plane landed I was jolted out of this pleasant dreamy haze and brought back down to earth, literally. And I was back, back to my busy-bee life – running around to claim my baggage, going through Immigration and Customs, and whipping out my smartphone to figure out the best way home. But one thing is for sure: I now have a crystal-clear image in my mind’s eye to get some perspective. Whenever I feel over-stressed or over-worked or over-whelmed, I’m going to close my eyes, take a deep breath and think of crashing waves frozen in time and ski tracks in the snow.