Monthly Archives: February 2011

michael douglas’s advice

From the back page questionnaire of this month’s Vanity Fair (consistently one of my favourite parts of the magazine):
what is your motto?
“Give it your best effort and then fuck it.”

Of course, Michael Douglas’s success can hardly be attributed solely to this motto, but I think it’s solid advice.

every rose has its thorn

every rose has its thorn
just like every night has its dawn
just like every cowboy sings his sad, sad song
every rose has its thorn
– POISON

So, the end result of months of effort, hundreds of dollars, and one truly delightful trip to Chicago, is that I have been rejected by every American graduate school I applied to. This is possibly the sort of thing you shouldn’t post on the internet, because the people who read it might think: EGAD! A TOTAL REJECT! A FAILURE!

That is more or less the state of mind I was inhabiting yesterday, when I drank beer by myself at 4PM in a pub I’d never been to before, and then walked a circuitous 9km back to my house. (Any excuse for self-indulgent melodrama! Ah shuddup, I needed the exercise…)

Today, however! Today I have readjusted my expectations, stuffed certain (pipe) dreams back in the cellar where they apparently belong, and have begun the process of rewriting my personal narrative. This happens every so often. It’s necessary. I’m getting better at it. One of the benefits of periodically reinventing oneself in different countries, I suppose.

Possible themes for the rewrite:

1. TRUE NATIVE OF THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST SEES THE LIGHT AND RETURNS HOME, FOR GOOD. SAVES WHALES.

2. PERPETUAL NOMAD PACKS SUITCASE, RETURNS TO AFRICA.

3. URBAN GARDENER BUYS HOUSE FOR $7500 IN DETROIT, FORMS SUSTAINABLE ART/ENVIRONMENT COLLECTIVE, PARTICIPATES IN AMERICAN RENAISSANCE.

4. DISILLUSIONED COLLEGE GRAD SAYS “FUCK THE MAN,” MOVES TO HAIDA GWAII TO WEATHER OUT THE COMING APOCALYPSE.

5. FOLLOWING PARTICIPATION IN THE MONGOL RALLY, NEWLY-MINTED ADVENTURIST TRADES CAR FOR GER, SPENDS REST OF LIFE ON THE MONGOLIAN STEPPES. MAINTAINS FRIENDSHIP WITH NOTORIOUSLY LEATHER-PANTS-WEARING WILD CAMEL BIOLOGIST.

6. ACADEMIC CHANGES SPOTS, SWITCHES TO INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS. OPENS OFFICE FOR EXPANDING CANADIAN OIL COMPANY IN LUANDA, ANGOLA. KICKS ASS, TAKES NAMES. MAKES BRIBES.

7. STARBUCKS.

So we’ll see. “It’s all for the best.” That statement is part desperate rationalization, part necessity, part logical conclusion, part philosophical pondering. In many ways, I’m not well-suited for a PhD in biology. After five (six? seven?) years in a demanding, prestigious grad school, my path would have been well-marked. Is that what I want? I haven’t divined my own path. I think it’s good to have one, but not sure if embarking on a PhD before I’ve figured it out for myself is a good idea. In a way, signing up for a PhD would be asking someone else to form my path – to set the course and keep me on it for however many years it takes. That’s not necessarily a good thing. I believe in the importance of finding our own inspiration. So, perhaps, “it’s all for the best.”

Life is full of surprises. Chances are I’ll be in Vancouver come September. When I got off the plane in Victoria, returning from Chicago, I looked at the mountains, breathed in the air, and felt a sense of relief and happiness at having returned home. This is my favourite place. I am more comfortable, more myself, in a sense more fully-realized when I am here. It’s impossible to compare the value of these various things: money, prestige, career, path-finding, environment, “self-realization,” happiness, growth of various kinds, culture, friends, opportunity… But I almost believe, must force myself to believe, will actively remind myself to believe, that it’s all for the best. I never regret.

seatac transit

In the Seattle airport, feeling (as usual!) like an international woman of mystery.  Or maybe just a college student. Transience is a powerful state of being; I have with me everything I need. I could go anywhere, be anyone, in a matter of hours. Objects with me right now:

– Set of clothing appropriate for all weather and a variety of social settings
– Laptop, from which I can make phone calls, do work, research, and stay in touch with anyone I might want to stay in touch with
– Camera
– Phone
– Notebook and pens
– Book to read
– Passports
– Credit card
– Water bottle

That’s it. That’s all I need. Right now I could take off to anywhere in the world and my life could continue more or less as before. My office is set up the moment I open my computer.  My desk is a round cafeteria table.  Huge curved windows open onto the tarmac where the planes are taxiing and taking off, exuberant and unbelievable in flight. Behind them is the breathtaking line of the Olympic mountains, snowcapped and razor-sharp in the bright winter sun.

Next stop, the future. Maybe my future. Somebody’s future, anyhow.

pineapple party

I feel bad leaving without photos.

Here’s one: me, with a pineapple on my head.

u. chicago interview: jitters

Tomorrow morning I leave to fly to Midway Airport in Chicago and do my First Ever Grad School Interview. For those not in the know, I’ve been applying to PhD programs in evolutionary biology, and this is my first bite. I’ve just been flat-out rejected by Stanford (confidential to Stanford Biosciences: FUCK YOU! Just kidding… maybe you’ll take me as a post-doc?) so I feel particularly pressured to perform at U. Chicago. Maybe this is my only chance! My single nibble! The only, lonely fish caught by my not-so-widely-cast net!

That’s okay. U. Chicago is an excellent school, nestled in a city of wonders. Fingers crossed I convince them that I am the right student. CHOOSE ME.

Would write more, realize I’m slacking, etc etc etc… But for now, I must finish packing. SNOWPOCALYPSE is a major departure from balmy Victoria.

 

the best form i’ve ever had to fill out

republic of botswana medical form

Basically, this form has not been changed for about 50 years.

For those interested:

Favus is a scalp fungus, easily treatable with a modern antifungal.

Framboesia and/or yaws (two names for more or less the same thing) is a rather horrible ulcerating disease that can destroy your bones…  But it’s easily treatable with penicillin, and accordingly its prevalence was reduced by 95% sometime in the 1960s.

And so now you know: I don’t have syphilis. Nor am I an imbecile. Here’s an excerpt of my interaction with the doctor at the walk-in clinic:

ME:  So, I’m going to Botswana, and I need this medical form filled out.

DOCTOR: [TAKES FORM] Oh, Botswana, that’s interesting.. where is that again? Will you need any lab tests for this?

ME: It’s just above South Africa. And..  tests.. well, I don’t think so. Have a look.

DOCTOR: [ACTUALLY READS FORM, RAISES EYEBROWS] … Really?

ME: Yeah.

DOCTOR: Well, you don’t look like an idiot…  Do you have syphilis?

ME: Pretty sure I don’t.

DOCTOR: Okay. [SIGNS FORM]

Thus certified as being free of all the important contagions and mental illnesses, I was permitted to reside in the country of Botswana.