I had a really bad morning today at work. I am not sure where I am going to end up after January, when funding on the project I am on runs out, my paper is still not accepted for publication, I haven’t found a post doc position yet, our permanent residence application is pending and I can’t travel back home unless I get it, my new apartment is still a gigantic mess to be sorted out, and looks like I missed most of the deadlines for this grant cycle, at least. And in general I have NO idea which direction life is taking me after this. My husband will be out job hunting real soon and his situation is admittedly tougher than my own, but it’s all the same at this point really. It affects us, our marriage, our life, in short everything. And I was lightheaded from lack of food and that in turn got me a headache. I spent the entire morning trying to find some support for my research in case I needed to spend a longer time here, and came up with zilch.
And then, just by pure chance, I talked to a friend on Facebook and he told me about someone he is friends with. For sanity’s sake, I am going to call this person X. I had met X only once a few years back, and that too briefly. However, through many common friends, I sort of know him. X is a really talented person who recently published in Science (yes, Science.) and became a professor at a very young age in his home department. He was just about to close a deal on a new house when he fell violently sick and was diagnosed with a rare auto-immune condition that might well leave him permanently disabled. My friend told me that although X is being given good medical care (the unit in this hospital is among the very best in the US), his treatments are mostly not working, and when I read about his condition, I saw that there is NO therapy available for this, only some symptomatic relief.
As the guy is probably lying intubated in a medical ward in this building somewhere, I can’t help feeling a little ashamed of myself and my own pettiness. Here is this person, who did everything right in his career, and is so successful at such a young age, and yet, all this is probably so meaningless for him right now. His illness wouldn’t have been any less devastating if he had been a drop-out, however, I am just wondering if success can ever make up for such suffering. Although I sincerely hope he gets better and is not left with a permanent disability, there is a big chance that he might. And here I am, worrying about exactly the same things, when every day in life is in reality, like winning a jackpot. Honestly, how much do we assume is going to be perfect every day? Do I really think I might end up in a wheel chair in a week? Does anybody? Sometimes I think I need to sit back and really take a closer look at my priorities. Where will all this take me? This eternal race from one step of one’s career to the next, this eternal feeling of under-achievement, of having not done enough, of always wanting more, I am already starting to tire of this. I understand the importance of having a motivation in life, but seriously, when was the last time I took a break from this? I honestly cannot remember.
Then at lunch I met some more friends and realized, that stuff I am worrying about is less than what a lot of people are dealing with right now. A friend had to quit gradschool in the fifth year of study. Someone’s advisor is the biggest jerk on the planet. Someone has much more pressing financial needs. It’s unbelievable how much could have gone wrong with me, and I right now feel like I am thankful that it hasn’t. And I cannot bear to think how inconsequential it seems now for me to worry about if I will have money after six months. I guess like most people in my class, I had such a cossetted childhood and young adulthood that I take certain things for granted. I assume that things are going to be fine, life is always going to be worry free, static and smooth. If not, I can come back to the safety of my room in my parents’ house, and forget about the entire world. This habit became so ingrained in me that even as I start the third decade in life, I am not completely free of the terror (and at times the elation) at the thought of having nothing to fall back on, or being alone in this country. However, as days go by, I realize nothing in this life is certain and life, most definitely is not fair. I just have to learn to deal with this better. I will probably try to spend the rest of the day in a slightly better way, but my thoughts keep coming back to X and my heart goes out to him. We really are helpless sometimes.