Sunday, October 25, 2015

American Girl

"Well, she was an American girl
Raised on promises
She couldn't help but thinkin'
That there was a little more to life somewhere else
After all it was a great big world
With lots of places to run to"
- "American Girl" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

It's October 25th. It is October 25th, but my brain refuses to accept it. I'm now in Oregon, and the outside temperature is the warmest I've encountered in 2 solid months. I'm wearing short sleeves and crop pants while everyone else pulls on thick socks and extra jackets. If it weren't for the cheesy blow-up Halloween decorations in people's front yards or the ubiquity of pumpkin spice lattés, I would have no way of knowing that it was already mid-autumn. My world is covered in crunchy gold leaves, but my skin still thinks it's summer.

Coming home is always hard, especially after long trips. The first time my jet-lagged body woke up in the early morning in my dark apartment, I had to remind myself where I was. It feels as if I've traveled to another planet, in another universe where time runs on a different scale. Thankfully, I've had plenty of friends around to help me transition back to life in Coos Bay. Caitlin, my labmate, picked me up at the airport, and I spent my first day back at OIMB doing nothing but catching up with other students. For the first time in a long time, I have friends at my institute, so it felt good to see them again.
Daniel and the Blonde performing at Seven Devils Brewing.
Photo by Jesse Borland.

A group of us went out on Friday evening to an establishment I affectionately call "The OIMB Extension Office." Seven Devils Brewing Company was started by an OIMB graduate and her husband, and the staff is dominated by current and former OIMB students. It's the go-to hang-out for Coos Bay's young, educated population. On Friday, there happened to be a band playing classic Americana music - folksy, almost bluegrass. I found myself explaining to our Portuguese post-doc what bluegrass was, and only then did I realize how quickly I had slid back into American Kirstin - just 24 hours after landing in Oregon, I was sitting in a microbrewery, listening to Appalachian folk music as if it were no big deal. I hadn't felt the gears shift this time, but I guess it had happened all the same.

In the coming months, I plan to explore every side of American Kirstin, mostly because I'm going to be stuck here for a while. Now that my Svalbard settlement plate experiment is finished, every data point that I need for my dissertation has been collected. All the numbers I need are on my computer, so as of right now, my sole responsibility is sitting in my office, analyzing data, and writing papers until the day I graduate. I have no more field trips planned, no more experiments, no more cruises, no more trips. It feels a bit strange and even sad to admit that, but of course I can't exclude the possibility that something will come up. You never know.

For now, I'm going to settle in to Coos Bay and enjoy the time I have left here. I'm going to establish a regular work schedule and give myself plenty of rest. I'm going to wear skirts and earrings to the lab and actually feel like a woman. I'm going to invest in relationships, invest in my institute, invest in my town. And who knows - maybe I'll rediscover American Kirstin.

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