I’m a person who enjoys the simple pleasures in life — clean sheets, good cups of coffee, the smell of a new book, hot showers, a big bowl of rice and daal, the occasional morning off… And at this time of year, I appreciate those things even more. I take an extra five minutes to brew the real coffee. I wait for the moment when my muscles unknot underneath glorious hot running water. I think my bed is the best place in the whole world. I love my Sunday mornings off and I cherish them the way some people cherish diamonds.
So, you can imagine that I was deeply unimpressed on Sunday when I was walking towards the subway and, without bothering with little things like asking permission, my brain started to recite the signs and symptoms of pulmonary thromboembolism.
“Piss off,” I said. “Are you crazy? You’re not supposed to be working until one o’clock this afternoon!”
“Right ventricular heave and increased JVP,” it replied.
It’s almost ridiculous to think that I could have forgotten what it was like, this time last year. I remember the things that I did — all the nights of getting the last subway home, and living on pasta from Little Italy and coffee from Peckhams, and photocopying pages of immunology diagrams at midnight, and standing in the middle of the (empty) atrium and getting two verses into I Am What I Am before I realised exactly what I was doing. All of this, yes, I remember. It’s the relentlessness of it all and the utter physical exhuastion that comes along for the ride, that’s the part I had forgotten.
I don’t think I’ve ever worked as hard as this, and definitely not for as long as this. I worked hard for my BSc finals, but it was a lot easier to ‘question spot’ for them and, anyway, a big chunk of my degree class was based on coursework. And twelve thousand words of dissertation on a month-long antibiotic resistance experiment that failed spectacularly is hard work, but it’s a different kind of hard work.
In some ways, it feels a little bit good. I’m plugging away and making inroads and there’s knowledge in my head now that I didn’t have three weeks ago, and if I pass this exam, it will be because I have worked my bloody arse off. I crawl into bed at night and crash, and, for seven hours, I sleep the sleep of the people who have totally earned their sleep. But in other ways, I’m just so tired. In my revision timetable, I have a day off scheduled for next week (except for PBL, I still have to get up and go to PBL) and it’s like this enormous shining beacon on the horizon.
Did you know that one of the symptoms of total sensory deprivation is a reversion to childlike emotional responses? That’s us. The highlight of our day is getting a tick on the list of PBLs that have yet to be revised. And scrumpling up a piece of paper with a long long pathway that we just learned and scribbled out from memory, and then throwing the piece of paper at the wall? That comes a close second.
26 days. And counting.
This incoherent mess of a ramble is brought to you by a day of gallstones and hypersensitivities and stomachs, and, you know, it being two o’clock in the morning.