The chameleon

Last weekend, we celebrated my parents’ 33rd wedding anniversary. Since I’ve been travelling quite a bit the past months, we agreed to go to some place easy to reach with public transport and met in Brussels. It was fun, with lots of special beers and chocolate of course! Being away from the lab, even if only for a few days was good to reset my brain and really relax for a while. At some point, my sisters boyfriend asked me when I started drinking so much and I replied that I’ve always enjoyed a beer, but that it helps that I’m free to do whatever I want nowadays.

Traveling back was interesting. When I walked to the check-in for the train, I wanted to make sure I had everything I needed and stopped in the middle of the hall to pull out my ticket from my bag. Someone stopped behind me. I was puzzled at first, until I realised I’m getting into British territory again and this person is probably so fond of queueing, that he’s trying to start a queue behind me… It was quite entertaining to see his confusion after a troop of Spanish guys walked past our ‘queue’ and checked in. He still needed me to tell him I’m not actually queueing before he continued on 🙂

I still have a healthy dislike of queues though. So I got out my ereader and decided to wait with checking in until the border control queue, arising after the ticket control, was gone as well. However, the British are determined to introduce people to their system. As soon as I had walked past the ticket control and French border control, I walked into a massive queue for the British border control… With no way around it! Like a good British citizen, I just sighed and accepted this fate.

Then, the person in front of me dropped her laptop on my foot and I quickly pulled my foot back. She grabbed the bag and asked whether it hit my foot. In a flash, I thought that she can’t do anything about it hitting my foot anymore anyway, right, so I just said no, it didn’t. And actually apologised for not catching it for her. With the result that I walked into the train wearing a stupid grin, because I was fully aware of ridiculousness of the situation. Getting hit by a laptop and then apologising. I think I’m perfectly well adapting to the UK.

And that was also when I realised what the core of my recent breakdown really is: I too easily adapt to different environments and expectations. Drinking a beer less because I know my ex didn’t like it; going to visit a museum because my dad wants it. Apologising for nothing because that’s what the Brits do. Going for a postdoc because that’s the expected path in academia. I realised I should start making up my mind about what I want. Which is pretty scary: what does make me happy?! My family, my friends, my work, my hobbies? Not so easily answered, but at least something I can work on.

It’s kind of funny though. I’ve been telling people they don’t have to do a M.Sc. or a PhD if they have some other job in mind that doesn’t require it anyway. I’ve told friends to get out of their relationships if they’re not happy with it, no matter what the priest may think… I’ve been telling people to stop worrying about expectations of others and live their own lives. I never really realised I’m doing the same – I always assumed I’m doing the things I’m doing because they are want I want to do. I actually could have realised this way earlier, when one of my friends started called me ‘chameleon’ because I always adapt pretty quickly to new surroundings, people and expectations… Guess a bit of forced time alone & some introspection isn’t all that bad after all 🙂


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