I remember where I was a year ago, almost precisely. This is rare.
I was sitting in the foyer above the entrance to the restaurant at CERN, near the upper doors of the auditorium. There was (and for all I know, is) a collection on modular red couches, and the lights don’t turn off. It was some dark morning hour and outside the world was a snowglobe. Laptop drawn close, I was typing tentatively–punching out a sentence, deleting it, re-writing it; Every word had to be a convincing case for myself (bleh) to some faceless professor on an admissions committee. I looked up and realized I was surrounded by larger-than-life portraits of all the past director generals of CERN. I hadn’t slept, so thought I could feel their eyes on me. So many wizened brows, each of them white and male. I stood, found Carlo Rubbia, stared him down, and convinced myself it was only a photo. This is why I am here, I thought. Empowered, I sat again, and typed faster.
Later, I wandered back and forth across the whitening CERN campus, to our control room, to the offices, back to the control room… until about 5 AM, when I fell asleep on a camping pad in the office where the thermostat was broken and the heater ran non-stop.
I sat today (…and yesterday, and the day before…) solving the final for first semester Quantum Mechanics at Berkeley. It was hard. I barely left my house for two entire days.
Had you asked me when I woke up on the floor of that office (much to the surprise/chagrin of the owner of the office), where I’d find myself a year later, I wouldn’t have guessed here. Especially, since, mere hours after waking up on the floor of that office, I realized the one of the essays I’d submitted had mis-named an atomic transition.
I cannot believe a year has passed, maybe because even though everything is new, it’s still so familiar. What have I learnt? Mostly, that “JD Jackson knows more Bessel function identities than you (I) do.” Well, somethings will always be true.