I thought it would all come apart at the seams, but it hasn’t, not yet, and I’m still here, breathing, typing, thinking, on the other side. The truth is, I can’t tell for sure that I’m on the other side, I’ve been in limbo for so long that I don’t think I can tell one side from the other anymore, but it feels like the edge of something, the end of an era or the beginning of a new one. It’s very jaggedy.
The end of last year was the end of an era, and it ended with a bang, not with a whimper. I submitted my PhD thesis end of October and flew to Lebanon for a month (where I got to see my family, lovely friends and cousins), spent a day in Budapest, flew back to Dublin to defend my thesis, and on the same day flew to London (Joannaland, as I like to call it). Four days in London, then another four days in Stuttgart with my sister (where the whole of the city centre was one giant Weihnachtsmarkt!), and then back to Dublin for Christmas with my boyfriend’s family. Two days later, my boyfriend and I caught a flight to Oslo, and then took the overnight train to Bergen, where we spent two nights, and then rode back to Oslo on the amazing Bergen-Oslo Railway. After a brilliant New Year’s Eve with friends in Oslo, we flew back to Dublin.
But now the era is truly over: a new year, a new life, a new job, possibly a new country, it’s all still very murky waters after that. Six countries in one month, around the world (or what seemed like it!) in 30 days. As of today, I am homeless, jobless, heading fast for penniless, and determined not to worry myself into a puddle.
While at home, I found a diary that I’d lost for years, the one I wrote after finishing university. I was so passionate back then, I had so many dreams of places I wanted to go and things I wanted to do. With a bit of a shock I realised that every single one of those dreams came true. My first dream was to get a scholarship to go and do a Masters in Europe. I did that. I dreamt of living alone and being financially and otherwise independent, I dreamt of going out with friends and having fun in pubs and going to the theatre and concerts and films and I did that. I dreamt of becoming fit, exercising, and being able to 'run like the wind'. I did that (to some degree- always room for improvement on that one!). I dreamt of doing a PhD in something that I was truly interested in, somewhere where I wasn’t expected to work too hard, where I could still do other things, like hike with a group of friends through beautiful countryside, be on society committees, take dance classes and go swimming, and I managed to do exactly that. I dreamt of teaching classes and labs and explaining science to students, and I did that to my heart’s content, and made a good bit of money on the side (all my current savings!). And I dreamt of travelling around the world, getting to know different people and cultures, and since I’ve left Lebanon I've been all around Europe and even made it to India, where I ran in to a friend of mine from Lebanon at the Taj Mahal. And never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that I would travel so much.
And here I am, at the end of an era, and I realise that I’ve run out of dreams. I genuinely do not know what I want to do next. I was so sure for years that I wanted to become a scientist, a university professor, but now I am not so sure anymore. I love the idea of it; I love science, especially neuroscience, and I love reading and writing about science and coming up with ideas for experiments, I love teaching and I think I’d love being involved in a bit of administration (my supervisor’s job at the moment looks like my ideal job!), but the problem is that to get to that point I would have to do a lot of research and research means sitting in a lab for long long hours doing the same thing over and over again and I don’t think I’m up for that anymore. I might just need a break (a bit of PhD burn-out maybe?), but I do know that I when I do decide what I want to do next, it will be something that I want to do. And maybe it’s ok not to be entirely sure what that is yet.