Postcard from Crail, Scotland

It seemed rather like bad timing – heading back to Scotland over the Christmas break JUST (and I mean JUST) when it felt like Basel was starting to…work. JUST when it felt like I was starting to build myself a new life in Switzerland, JUST when I’m starting to see everything fall into place…it’s Christmas holidays and I’m back on an Easyjet flight to Edinburgh, UK. A part of me didn’t want to leave, even for 7 days. Yet I felt strangely happy about it too: it took the thought of leaving to make me realise how much I was starting to love the place.

Turning Basel into “home” is utterly vital, but so too is knowing and respecting where you came from. Me and my small rural fishing community upbringing in Scotland – it’s who I am. It’s what I have to work with. I know I sometimes sound disparaging about how small/rural/backward/isolated Crail is…but I do love it. It’s a beautiful little place.

Postcard Perfect Crail.

At the moment it feels as if my life is up in the area. I’m waiting to hear back from grad schools about my PhD application. I’m due to wait until early March, which is the time when most schools mail out their decisions. That feels like a long time away.

If my first choice schools don’t make me an offer then it won’t matter. Not in the long term. I’ll sort out second choice grad schools – they might not have as strong an academic reputation, they might not have a professor ideally matched to my interests, they might not be in my preferred location. But I can work extra hard, do awesome additional stuff on the side, go for a top school to do my postdoc in. Et cetera. And 10 years down the line I’ll be where I want to be.  Sure, a rejection will upset me, batter my self-esteem a bit. But it won’t present any obstacles I can’t recover from or make my way around.

Crail looking much as ever. Looking just like it did in the early 1900s.

It’s just the waiting that’s killing me. Not knowing what will come next. Not knowing what my next move will be. It feels like my life is in limbo at times; suspended animation. Waiting. I had what I call “My Rising Water Dream” a few nights ago – which I’m pretty sure is the artistic dreamworld interpretation of my worries and uncertainty and looming deadlines. I don’t have the mental energy to start applying to second choice gradschools  now, not while the first choices are still undecided. For all the time it takes up and importance of getting things right, I need to be motivated. It isn’t urgent that I have a definite decision yet, thankfully. Maybe in two months I will be thinking about the ‘gradschool’ matter differently, or maybe I will have received a new piece of information or made a new contact that changes everything.

When it feels like I'm at the edge of the world

That’s part of the reason why I’m wanting to throw myself into Swiss life: to kick the feeling of suspended animation and work with what I have NOW. To get settled, keep busy, make new friends, travel, do bits & pieces to broaden my horizons and feel like I’m alive NOW. January and February are shaping up to be action-packed (skiing, a Winter Ball in Vienna, snowshoeing, chocolate tasting, partying, museums trips to give a few examples), thanks to the planning I did whilst back in Crail. Look at it this way: if the first choice gradschool applications don’t work out, there are 50+ other ways to get to where I want to, professionally. If I don’t cherish & savour my time in Switzerland…my life will never find a way to replicate precisely what I missed out on. One year in Basel CAN’T be replicated or mimicked or replaced 10 years down the line.

This I keep telling myself, holding fighting against the moments of fear. That there’s always a sunrise, if you can hold out through the darkness…

Sun Rising


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