Sunday, January 31, 2016

Documenting My Life | January

Around the age of 12 or 13 I enjoyed the idea of having a diary to write in every night. I'm not sure where I got the idea from, but I believed diaries were meant to be hidden away from everyone, tucked somewhere only I knew about. That the words I expressed were meant to be left between me and myself, no one else. So you could imagine my devastation when I realised my siblings were reading my diary. I still remember this specific day when we were heading to school in the morning and my siblings were reciting something and laughing, it took me a couple of seconds to register what they said and realise they were mentioning something I've written the night before. I stopped keeping a diary since than and tore all the ones I've had. I also think it's the reason I have a hard time telling people about this blog or journalling in general for that matter.

I've had this blog since 2009 if I'm not mistaken. I've had it for longer, I started it when I was 16, but I once decided to delete everything I've ever written on this blog prior to 2009 and I can't seem to remember why. I feel like a big chunk of my writings has been destroyed by no one other than myself and I wish I could go back and read what I used to write. So for the sake of no future regrets, I'll start documenting my life on a monthly basis hoping the habit my change to a daily one some day.

I have so much hope for 2016 to be a year where I get to know myself better. I've heard the term "self-awareness" so many time in 2015 for it to make me self-aware that I'm not self-aware. I like defining and organising things into clear categories but I can't seem to do that with myself. With the end of January, I'm no where near understanding myself better. But here is January wrapped up with a ribbon on top.

At the beginning of the year, I got myself the 5 year Q&A journal that I've been answering everyday in January. For a while it felt like an alternative to journalling but my talkative brain doesn't seem to like being limited to 4 lines. However, the book has been a good conversation starter and a potential way to know myself better. I find myself over analysing every question I've answered so far, ensuring I answer the questions in the best possible way. Actually, I feel like I spent January over analysing and thinking about everything around me, hoping for any answer in any form for questions I might not even have asked myself about yet.

I desperately want to document my life to compensate for the undocumented past years. I've once enjoyed the idea of photography, to go out and take pictures of anything and everything. I used to document my life so much better when I had a compact camera but I sadly lost all the pictures (damn you unreliable technology). With a DSLR, I found myself slowly getting tired of the heavy camera and using my phone to take pictures instead. So for the sake of visual memories, I decided to take only blue pictures for January as a way to document my year in colour. I got really busy and it became hard to snap pictures. I don't like the "busy" excuse but that's how it is.

In mid January, I presented with my group a poster presentation on Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and for a change I wasn't very nervous. I have spent the last 2 weeks of January in the lab between pipettes and samples. Trying to avoid contamination and hoping to get perfect results. Learning to be patient and hoping for the best. Perfecting the art of making an agarose gel and ensuring the current is running correctly in an electrophoresis. I've waited for PCRs to finish, loaded my samples with a dye in agarose gel wells and watched as the green dye separated to blue purple and yellow. I've waited for the moment of truth in front of the UV light machine to see whether my PCR worked or not, got disappointed more times than I like but the feeling of accomplishment when the bands appeared in all the right places gave me hope that I can find my way through a lab.

This January, I've treated myself to go and see two musicals, Les Miserables and Wicked. I still find myself listening to the lovely sound tracks from Les Mis and remembering the way the emerald green lights lit up in Wicked. I hope I get the chance to tick off all the musicals I want to watch. I also decided to get myself a bouquet of beautiful white tulips and pink peonies to stare at and admire. I caught up with Sherlock the show and trying to make the most of the sleepless nights. I now have 2 unicorn mugs.

From fast and slow January,
Maria

Friday, January 29, 2016

Life Lessons From The Lab

With the end of the second set of practicals, I think it's time to write about what that extra white place with bright lights and a lot of breakable things (aka the lab) has taught me. To be honest I never thought I'll learn so much about myself and life from the lab but I guess it's bound to happen if we spend most of our day in there. Bare with me while I get philosophical about my somehow self awareness journey in there.

You see, I'm impatient with things not working the way I want them to and a little bit insecure about my lab skills. This time, I entered the lab with some illusion of confidence and eventually tricked my mind into it. Everyday, I'd follow the protocol like I know what I'm doing and eventually I feel like I got the hang of things. Not the entire two weeks went smoothly, some days were stressful but I learned to suck it up and move on. After all, we're just experimenting or like Filippo likes to say "we're just playing". I promised myself before coming to London that I'll force myself to give labs a real chance to sort its way out of that little part of my brain that controls hate, I think its finally finding a way out. So here is a post to come back to when I need a reminder.


  1. Labs are like a game of hopscotch, sometimes the stone falls right into the drawn box and other times it doesn't. Sometimes the stone falls in the right place but you lose your balance jumping from one box to the other. And other times, you win the game. But at the end, just remember, always have fun!
  2. Labs are the best teachers of patience. You spend around 6 hours working on an experiment hoping everything works out fine, sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. Patience is key to survive in there.
  3. Labs teach you to accept disappointment on top of patience. After a long day, there is a high probability that your experiment won't come up with the expected results. You won't always know the reason why. However, whatever the result is, keep going.
  4. Labs and life have something in common, something we have to realise and accept sooner than later. Working hard DOES NOT always mean you'll get positive results. The sooner you realise that the less disappointments you'll face. But that also doesn't mean that you should stop trying.  Don't give up.
  5. Finally, keep believing in the power of luck for sometimes that's all you have in your hands after working all day. Don't get stressed in front of the UV light machine it's just there to let you know how you did. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Reminder: Keep Going

At some point in your life something significant will happen that will mess up the laws of time and physics as you know it. A year will pass right in front of you, and at some parts, the passing of time will feel like a blink of an eye, some times like a day and others the slowest it can ever be. But you'll learn that no matter what happens, time passes and life moves on. It won't wait for you while you tie your shoes on the side of the road, or check you have your keys when you exit the door. Whether you spend it wisely or not, time will pass with no care for your fragile feelings or tough ones for that matter. That exact concept of time will one day break you and another day mend you. I suggest you move on like the ticking of a clock, never stopping, always going. No matter how time treats you, keep an eye at it, not too long not too short but acknowledged its existence for before you know it, it will stop giving you any of its belongings. 

Friday, January 01, 2016

Dear 26

Dear 26,

2015 has finally ended with cuts and bruises but with a braver heart and a more conscious brain. I have hit so many walls in the past year i'm surprised I didn't get a concussion. It was definitely a year of reading, I've read so much that I already miss all the free time I had. Forgetting your worries, travelling to different places while you're laying on bed or sitting in the living room is an amazing feeling. I'm glad 2015 is over though. Glad of the people I got to know better and the beautiful opportunity to start my MSc. I was very bitter throughout the year just like my black coffee but that's alright. I barely slept and spent the sleepless hours overthinking, I didn't find solutions but it felt good doing something instead of just tossing and turning. 

I'll leave that all behind. I'll just take the person I grew to be to help me carry on. I'm ready to face 2016, I'm ready to be braver, more courageous, more conscious about myself and surroundings. Will I get a chance to read as much? Not as much I guess but there is always a way. For a change I'll be optimistic, positive and leave my worries behind. 


26, I'm sure you can see the change I feel and you'll probably read this and smile in public. And when you do, someone will smile back, because it only makes sense things will workout. 


Happy new year!


Still 23 but different in so many ways,
Maria

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Seeking Balance In 2015

2015 was the year I decided not to write a resolution list and instead focus on tackling one main issue; finding balance at a time when I felt the most unbalanced. I didn’t know where to start as feeling unbalanced means you’re usually lost somewhere between the beginning and the end. I eventually sought a beginning in my reading challenge, hoping to balance between my Arabic and English reads. I read a total of 39 books, 12 of which were in Arabic. Not so balanced but an improvement from the previous year, I read 9. My brain was in a default setting of being negative, I tried to stay positive most of the time, reminding myself of the goals I hope to achieve one day. So I wore my “Have faith in your dreams” bracelet more often as a constant reminder to stay positive. I tried to find balance between my worries and what to actually do about it and so I turned to writing; as I express myself better through it. The first half of the year passed and I finally felt a bit more balanced with things slowly falling into place. I was ready to face the next 6 months with a clear plan of what I should do next. I knew balance will come with being content and I looked for what made me happy for 100 days non-stop, I appreciated my life more. In September, I left to London to start my MSc, and it took me a bit of time to rebalance myself. I eventually found a way, albeit the lack of sleep, to fit in random reading sessions on my commutes, write when I can’t fall asleep and finish my university work without leaving it to the last minute.


I’m happy with decisions I’ve made this year. I’m proud of stepping up to what I think is right, facing those who I wouldn’t usually argue against. It’s the end of the year and I wouldn’t say I feel well balanced, but I’m in a more balanced place than I was in January. With 2016 comes the will of finding a new mindset and continuing with finding balance.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

The Good In The Bad

I woke up today on the wrong side of bed, with my pillow on the floor and my neck aching. Another sleepless night spent fighting for just a little bit of rest. It felt like its going to be a bad day. I compensated the lack of sleep with a cup of coffee, a croissant and makeup to hide the tired face I show up to uni with everyday for the past week. I was determined to find the good in it despite knowing I'll be in the lab for the whole day. I gave myself time to read and write in the train to freshen up my tired brain. It all went well until I entered the lab.

The bright lights, the faint smell of chemicals, so much glass in all forms and sizes. I'm on edge. Sarcasm and jokes seem like insults. Everyone moves smoothly, swaying from one side to the other. I'm rigid, ensuring to walk in the middle of the path, hugging myself just incase I accidentally bump into something and maybe break it. I ask so many questions. The first hour of lab work passes by well, I understand what is going on and everything seems like its going according to plan. After a 90 minute incubation time, I come back with a little bit of confidence that I can make it today. That I'll manage to follow a protocol and hopefully get results. Things slowly start to go out of control. The pellet forms weirdly. Centrifuging doesn't seem to fix it. Keep centrifuging, my head spins like the centrifuge. The sounds of equipments keeps getting louder, my heart beats faster, and then noises compete on loudness in my brain. Everything around me seems like a blur and I'm standing there with the place spinning around me trying to fix the problem in front of me. Now a third voice competes in my brain, "this is exactly why I hate labs". I don't want to give up but I no longer know what to do. Worried, I walk up to the demonstrator asking for help. I walk back to my seat and he calls out "hey we're having fun, this is science, cheer up". Not what I wanted to hear. I do as I'm told, add in the 70% ethanol, mix it and walk to the incubators for the ethanol to evaporate. I get asked if I'm alright and tears slowly find a way. As time passes, I realise everyone is having the same problem. It doesn't make me feel better.

I'm still determined to find the good in my day. The "happy" in my day. I'm grateful for course mates that give you a hug even when you don't ask for it. Course mates that take the time to joke around, lighten the air, help you feel better. I'm grateful for a best friend that made me a playlist with the perfect mix of songs. Grateful for a friend who brighten a cloudy days, laugh at lame comments and best of all encourage to keep going.  Today was a good day despite how it was.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Icicles

When I speak about myself, I'm referring to the empty spaces around everything that's named within me. It's only fair to be the parts of my body that are unidentified for me to be something identifiable. This might not make sense, it is late and I have been up for a while now. As it gets darker and colder outside, I can't help but remember all the times it got too dark and cold in those unidentified spaces I call myself. Bad memories to me, are freezing cold icicles that gradually find a place in me. There are a few of them hanging.

I try to melt the freezing icicles with hot dark black coffee, the darker the better. I follow it with lots of sugar, to give me enough energy to keep me moving, and after a while, it helps the icicles to melt. I walk, I run, I read, I write. I try to melt the icicles, not break them, because that will break me. I try not to sleep, because that's how icicles become stronger. Eventually I get tired and fall asleep, that's when the icicles manifest into horrible dreams, making it impossible not to wake up. And the cycle continues..