Going back…

Posting what I wrote on Wednesday, December 7th, 2016.

Two months and five days ago, I was also on a plane. I was traveling to Dublin to what would be my first experience as a visiting researcher. As I wrote in my previous post, I had all sorts of mixed feelings and a huge amount of expectations. It is no joke that time flies. Two months and five days later, I am on the plane heading back to Pittsburgh and I also have mixed feelings.

I am extremely happy to be back because I have missed my husband and I can’t wait to go back to our normal, daily routine. I have had enough of the data networks and wifi signals not allowing us to communicate properly and having to hang up several times during every call. I have had enough of being in different time zones and having silent mornings and going to sleep when he was just in the middle of his day. In summary, I’ve had enough of a long distance relationship.

However, I am nostalgic and sad for all that Dublin brought to my life and what it made me realize. It reassured me in my research. It made me feel like I can still adapt to different environments, complex situations and make it through them. And most importantly, it gave me back the joy of feeling part of a group.

Sometimes, a bit of external validation is what makes the imposter syndrome start to fade away. Discussing research with others makes us realize that what we are doing is important and that the perspective of others can help us step back from our research bubble and approach things differently. Also, it allows us to express what we have been thinking about for so long in a more compelling way, and perhaps convince ourselves that we are making progress and that we are headed somewhere.

At CONNECT, I met wonderful, welcoming people, and for that I will be forever grateful. I am not an outgoing person, but I tend to emerge from my cave when I feel comfortable. And that is what these people made me feel. I felt comfortable in the middle of this group of very smart, but at the same time very humble people. Profound conversational topics included our views on politics, the human mind, social fairness, soccer, teasing one another and our views of the world.  It was a heterogeneous group in terms of nationalities, but very homogeneous in spirit.

In Spanish, we have a saying that goes something like this: the person who says goodbye too many times doesn’t really want to leave. The fact that I said goodbye to these people in three different occasions might be an example of that. I have been saying thank you a lot in the past few days and I still feel that it is not enough. Sometimes people don’t know the measure of the impact they are making in the life of others. When it is a positive impact, it really feels wonderful.

I am now going back to Pittsburgh with a  heart that is 0.5% Irish, not because I want to brag about it, but because this experience has a especial place in my life. I truly appreciate this opportunity because it was not easy. It challenged me in personal and intellectual levels, but I like the person that is coming back in this plane a little bit more than the one who was leaving two months and five days ago.

I could say it’s not about the challenge, it is about how we feel once it’s done.


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