Midnight in Manayunk

309441-frederikaIn approximately 10 minutes my friend’s birthday celebration would begin. I decided to wait until the SEPTA 61 bus had passed all the way through Manayunk before disembarking and walking back. I used to get off at the Leverington/Flat Rock Rd junction stop all the time. Briefly, I detoured down onto the canal towpath – it was the first step of my regular morning bike ride commute at one point. On the other side of the canal were the old industrial sites that once powered Manayunk. It was peaceful and silent. Making my way into Manayunk I passed all the familiar restaurants, bars and shops that I loved to frequent. Lights adorned the trees, and the pavement was packed with people ready to enjoy their evening out.

Manayunk was exactly as I remembered it.

It is strange that something can make you so incredibly happy but also hurt so much at the same fucking time.

I think that if I had received a PhD offer from my top choice Philadelphian university, I would be living back here in Manayunk – the same district where I stayed in 2009 & 2010. And why not? It’s a fantastic place to stay.

It always comes down to this – did I do the right thing? If the universe turned around again, would I do things any differently? New Brunswick is a depressing, dull town. Although I can see trees from my bedroom window, I feel trapped on the university campus all day, every day. My research project has grown into an overwhelming obsession – I work around the clock on it, pushing to get results. The work is slow – this week the result of one reaction took my project 2 steps forward…another result set me 2 steps back. I second-guess myself – am I working efficiently enough? am I working hard enough? am I mismanaging the project and holding it back? – cycling through all possible emotions within the course of 5 new experiments. I am clearly a person who enjoys this level of obsession, otherwise I don’t think I would be doing it.

Walking through Manayunk reminds me of all the things I have given up in pursuit of this PhD, all the things I wanted to reclaim from the 2009-10 years…but realised that I couldn’t. I’m back on the Eastern Seaboard, back within a 90 min radius of Philadelphia…but I can’t turn back the clock to 2009. And the PhD in all its messy, obsessive, emotive glory is what I want to dedicate myself to.

I sat on my burning desire for 3 whole years – 3 years between leaving the USA and coming back. Another desire burns as I work late on weekends in the lab, or start setting up reactions at 7.30am on a Monday morning. I will pass through whatever Hells this PhD can drag me in to, in pursuit of later payoff. The reason I obsess over my project is because I seek the publication, and that will strengthen my CV when it comes to finding postdocs and jobs. It will give me the freedom to move back to somewhere like Manayunk, I hope.

Eventually there will be progress. I just have to keep the faith.

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