New, unknown, places

I arrived to Dublin, Ireland on Sunday, very early in the morning. After an entire day of traveling, there I was, sitting on the airport food court, having a cappuccino and thinking how the time zones had just taken away 5 hours from my day.

I came to Dublin to start an internship as a Visiting Researcher at CONNECT Centre, which is part of Trinity College Dublin. Of course, I was not only tired, but I also had a hundred thousand feelings trying to make their way through my head and chest. I was sad, excited and nervous, all at once.

I was sad because I went from spending 80% of my day with my husband to being 100% alone. All I could think of was: “how wonderful would it be to be living this adventure with him!”.

I was excited because I have always loved traveling and one of my favorite feelings is that of discovering a new place and learning all the stories a city has to tell. On top of that, I was coming to Dublin as a visiting researcher. How cool does that sound? For me this is beyond cool, because it is my first time as one.

I was nervous for all the reasons above. Because my support system had stayed in Pittsburgh; because I didn’t (and still don’t) know if I will be able to fulfill the expectations of my mentors; because the phantoms of my impostor syndrome still follow me around and because, all of the sudden, that weird sensation of being the new kid in town came back to me. I started to wonder how, in every trip, I managed to learn all the things I needed to know in a new place. Sometimes, even when I didn’t speak the language.

I then remembered that my personal “motto” was always to do what I needed to do without letting my feelings take over. Not because I am stone-cold superwoman, but because in those situations I knew that if I let my feelings speak, I would fall apart. This situation was no different. I knew that at some point I would have time to have a good cry and let everything out. However, this was the point where I needed to be objective, do what was next on the list and keep walking.

It is not easy. It is hard to lift your head and walk when your heart is racing and your thoughts are flooding your brain. You watch how people come and go and everything follows its course.  All you want is to ask the world to stop for a second; to let you pull yourself together. But as everything else around you, you just have to move.

Looking back to those feelings, I came to realize that this doesn’t only happen when traveling to an unknown place. These feelings are indeed very similar to those experienced when entering “unknown” research areas: writing/research crises, completing milestones and all those overwhelming episodes one experiences during the Ph.D. life.  In these cases, I have realized that if I let all my doubts and concerns speak, I freeze. It’s like looking at that huge monster I talked about in a previous post. However, the only way to tackle the giant is to break it down into pieces and just look at what is the current task. That is when progress happens. It is not about ignoring your feelings; it is about allowing your body and brain to prove yourself wrong, to show you that you can still go on, that you can still move and that you are as eager as ever to learn. And all of this happens just one step at a time.





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