Thursday, September 03, 2009

well THIS sucks!

It's weird, I've just had a day where nothing amazingly bad has happened, and I'm feeling like I've had the kind of day that requires a long hot bath, a lot of chocolate and something to hit... I've just done a downswing on the mood-yoyo (swings are WAY too gentle for the way I shift moods lately).
It started badly, I had to go to Pretoria where I have a bunch of really nice people helping me to resurrect my rather dead (and always dilapidated) inner Chemistry lab-monkey. Of course today is the day they close all but one lane on the highway, so a trip that normally takes me just under an hour took almost 3!
Admittedly the trip was not entirely uneventful, for the stretch where we sat still most of the time, occasionally reaching blazing speeds of 10 km/h I spend far more time than I'd admit to having Facebook message conversations with two of my friends. One of them was one of the people I got to know on Saturday evening and I really enjoyed having the opportunity to talk to them. The other was a very special friend who I don't see often who was having a bad day of her own.
Once I got to the lab where I'm working I was greeted with big smiles (and some slight surprise) from the researchers there who I think may have forgotten that I was coming. We had set up the day a few weeks ago so I don't blame them, but they recovered well and were super-helpful! It was actually quite amazing to watch the way that their lab works - basically there are two very senior researchers who work in slightly different disciplines and they throw ideas around ALL the time! I also met a junior lecturer/masters student who at my age has already got 3 degrees, worked for a year and is in the process of doing his entire masters in about a year flat.
I made sure that they understood that I knew NOTHING (a lot of what generally goes wrong in my lab work is that I really don't know much and I make silly mistakes because people believe that I'm capable). And then I got annoyed when they acted as if I knew nothing. Anyway the junior lecturer basically dropped everything to jump in and help - he made a solvent for me and then watched me make the second one, even letting me use his lab coat rather than the manky one they had there (and his oh-so-stylish safety glasses that fulfilled all criteria for the perfect pair - they were too big, fell off all the time and were nearly impossible to see through).
From there we ran the first trial which gave really exciting results (basically it looked like my lizards only have one compound (out of a potential 600) and that's one that's relatively easily accessible for me!)
While the test was running the older researchers went off to a meeting and I had lunch with the junior guy who was really nice and I think rather excited to have someone around his age to talk to. Of course we talked Chemistry for about an hour. Really. I kind of had flashbacks to when I was in honours and ate/slept/breathed my research. I was incredibly successful and efficient, but I remember the complete depression when it was all over and I had nothing left in my life. I tried to explain the importance of balance (his big social events for the year were two lab functions) and he nodded gravely and then went on to explain how drinking deionised water can kill you and the chemical reasoning behind feeding charcoal to people who tried to commit suicide. And why you shouldn't brush your teeth too often (and the chemistry behind his reasoning).
By then I was exhausted - labwork makes me really tired and talking about Science (particularly a discipline that I nearly failed 6 years ago) was killing me, and I was suffering from the lack of coffee machine and the fact that my water bottle was in my car and I've got kind of used to having a huge water-bottle on my desk. And when the senior folks got back they almost offered me coffee but then got really excited about something to do with mangoes and sunscreen and then got all excited about my stuff.
By the end of it I was swaying on my feet from exhaustion and dehydration, and they handed me a sample to look at and I nearly passed out - turns out the solvent is rather volatile. They sighed all nostalgically and said "Oh yes, that's the cheapest high ever, too bad we can't even smell it anymore." Not kidding. On the downside we found another compound and we have no way of identifying it just yet.
Eventually 4pm arrived and I was itching to beat the traffic and avoid another 3-hour stint when they started getting all excited about solvent gradients and I quietly explained my need to be back so that in my solvent-induced euphoria I could go to tai chi and swing a sword around. I managed to get home in time to change for tai chi and I went off in great anticipation!
And it sucked. My sword looks slightly different to everyone else's, and that bothers me. It's still awesome though. And the regular teachers weren't there, so we were paired with two advanced students who were REALLY nice, but moved even faster than the teacher was on Tuesday. Even worse - the guy I practise with is a total natural and got really annoyed that I can not keep track of hands, feet AND sword and so we had to stop every five seconds so they could correct me. By the end I was tired, sweaty and gross and really frustrated, and I know that nothing we did tonight is going to stick, and I'm going to end up in a group of just me again until I can catch up. And of COURSE the TOD came to confirm a super-early session tomorrow.
So yes, I'm on track to finish chemical analyses only a few days after I'd hoped to leave for the field (which is great), I had a chance to catch up with two awesome people, I had fun in a chemistry lab, met a really awesome (if somewhat lab-bound) person, didn't get too stuck in traffic on my way home and got to spend the evening wielding a sword (albeit badly).
Why do I need a hug?


po said...

I cannot explain that feeling but it drives me NUTS, when you feel bad but you don't know why. Soemtimes it is hormones for me but that just pisses me off, cos then it feels like it's not real.

I can't believe that guy had three degrees at your age. Ok, I don't know your age but I can't believe he had 3 degrees at any age really. Does he count honours as a degree, cos that is sneaky!

Kath Lockett said... need a hug because you're still high from the solvents and need a warm human to bring you down! :)

Candice said...

You don't need a reason to need a hug!


Helen said...

Po: I'm 24. He had two separate honours degrees... I have a bSc ad honours, so I totally count it as two degrees - honours was HARD! I'm pretty used to the mood-yoyo, so I guess the downswing was inevitable. Just annoying! Glad it's not just me!

Kath: thanks! Obviously a bad trip...

Candice: thanks!

Tamara said...

Hugs to Helen!!!

Because it was a long day of much busyness and no hydration and you feel you need a hug, therefore you do.