"The strange silence
Swallowed by a vicious, vengeful sea...
In the deepest depths I lost myself
See myself through someone else"
- "Black water" by Of Monsters and Men
Wearing tan slide-on shoes and a bag slung over one shoulder, I made my way down the sidewalk on Boat Basin Road. The fog was thick. So thick. Cut-it-with-a-knife thick. It occurred to me how eerily quiet it was. Fishing towns are usually full of chatter - sea lions, gulls, bells, whistles - but tonight there was nothing. Just the silence and the fog.
Peering over my shoulder, I could see the amoeba of students heading the other way down the sidewalk, on their way back to the lab. One of them was walking backwards at the head of the crowd, pretending to be a band director. The rest seemed unaffected and continued their casual conversations.
Every once in a while, I'll have a moment when I realize something simple but profound. I'll see something or hear something, and a switch will flip in my brain. Then in one magic sentence, I'll be able to express what I've been feeling for a long time. It happened tonight as I watched my friends move down the sidewalk. For a second, I actually felt like I was in It's a Wonderful Life and was observing a world without myself in it. I don't mean that in a bad way - not in a bad way at all! - but in a beautiful way.
I am no longer a part of OIMB.
The simplicity of this statement is self-evident, but its profoundness requires a little explanation. You see, I think a lot about communities, why they exist where they do and not where they don't. For the longest time, I felt like an outsider at OIMB. I failed to connect with my fellow graduate students or be accepted by them. Only since my return from Norway and especially since the Atlantis cruise have I really embraced my identity as an OIMBer. Now, in one moment, it disappeared.
Although it might not be my OIMBness that's the issue here. It's the observation that life goes on without me. I mean, of course it does - I'm just one person, and it's summer field season besides. People are busy. But get this: the OIMB community goes on without me. And that is why my heart was warm.
There have been more friendships among the OIMB grad students in the past year than ever before. There have been more group dinners, more birthday celebrations, more sincere congratulations than my first two years made me believe were possible. It is so important for graduate students to have each others' backs, because let's be honest, our families have no idea what our projects are about.
I take no credit for the quality of the OIMB community, but I delight in the fact that it now exists. And that it continues, marching backwards, into the fog.