|The heart with a mind of its own.(Be present.)||The mind with a heart of its own.(It's past.)||The dream that is your waking life.(Go there now.)|
Come up to the lab
Yesterday I was talking about the lab I work in and how I almost never write about my labmates the experience of working with them. I feel compelled to say that generally I don't write/talk about it because I'm almost always trying to escape an experience while its happening. That's not meant to be a joke. Its all leftover crap from childhood and growing up with an abusive alcoholic father. It was once all about survival, but now what's left is an inability to stay connected to an experience while its happening. I have to leave myself to keep anxiety down and I have to greet new things with anger because otherwise I might get hurt. (Thanks, dad.)
So, this morning as I was filling tip boxes to be autoclaved (which is boring and repetitive and takes a lot of time and in non-foreign labs is generally done by some lackey work study student who gets paid $6 dollars an hour) I was thinking about the lab and my place in it. Of course, being the only non-chinese person in the lab (besides the PI who is from texas, which everyone knows is a whole 'nother country) is quite strange. It's that thing in reverse of when someone who isn't from America and doesn't speak English comes into a room of Americans in America and all the Americans try to communicate in that American way of all "let's be buddies! let's be pals! where are you from? can you drink the water there?"
Me? Over the the year I've worked here, I've gotten used to the minimal conversation. I've gotten used to my sandwich and chips lunch being a novelty. I've gotten used to not understanding the subtext of interactions between people. I've gotten used to the fact that my ego is useless here. But I'm not the same person I was a year ago in part because of this.
I used to send out to the Universe the vibe of "teach me patience." And the universe was like, "No way. Not you. Where did you read that word? In a dictionary?" and I was all, like, "C'mon you stupid universe. Teach me patience." And the universe was all, like, "Okay. You asked for it. I'm going to make you better at handbuilding that throwing when you take up pottery which means that you'll have to spend days instead of minutes to produce one piece of work. And I'm going to make getting your degree take a year longer than you thought it was going to. And, oh, by the way, how about working in an all Chinese lab with eleven other people where you don't speak their language and where they don't speak your brand of slangy Americanglish? How's that for a lesson?" And I was all, like, "Whatever."
And now, here I am in a job where my schedule must necessarily mold itself to the grueling schedule of ambitious Asian grad students with a bit of the tedious growth patterns of bacteria thrown in for good measure and where a simple machine that takes four hours to do its job with no help from you must be watched for those entire four hours. Take work that is often boring and repetive and mix it with some math so confusing as to be hieroglyphic. Take a year of things like that and remove the normal chattering away for hours to pass the time and what you're left with is this kind of low-level frustration meditation.
But there's this thing about the Chinese and frustration. In the year I've been here--and I'm talking 50 hour weeks with twelve peope in a lab built to hold maybe six-- I've seen perhaps three or four incidents of frustration. (One was tonight when Zaphod said to himself under his breath in English, "I'm so tired of doing this.") The Chinese, they don't like to lose their cool. So when I get frustrated with an experiment and I want to kick something and I think, but wait, here in Little China, you don't get to kick things. You don't get to yell, "This sucks. This is taking too long. This never goes right. Am I an idiot? What am I doing wrong?" I mean, I guess I could do this, but I don't because the last thing I want to do is spook the Chinese or ruin America-Chinese relations. I don't want to have to deal with knowing that they are talking about me in Chinese behind my back.