Category Archives: Work
For the past few days, I’ve been feeling really deflated. There’s no zeal, no enthusiasm. Just utter and perpetual boredom marinated with bit of sadness. I try to shake it off with a jog or by posting positive inspirational stuff on my Twitter or Facebook. But the truth of the matter is: I’m in a funk. I have so much going through my brain that I just don’t know where to start solution wise. It feels a tad overwhelming and sorely exhausting. What gets me even more down is that there are people out there getting up from much worse personal conditions and still make the day productive.
When did the funk become my comfort? I remember being such a hobbyist, and I was so proud to tick things off my to-do list. Now it seems that every to do on my list is a bore mundane aspect of adulthood. I wish I had something exciting to write like: “Plan romantic getaway with Michael Ealy” or “Secure private beach in Fiji for best mate’s party” or heck even “Call the decorators in for my new Art gallery”. But instead my to do list comprises of dry cleaning, preparing lecture material, and needing to put in 5 hours work tomorrow. I love my job, but some days, I wish I had more excitement than a bit of heart tissue and an eyeball socket to microbiologically test.
When I was a kid, being an adult seemed almost inspirational. I sat counting the years till I would be 21 and could wear what I wanted, and have loads of sex with my uber-hot husband. There was even a point where I thought “when I grow up, I could be a superhero!” Delusional much? Adulthood is actually more of a drag than MTV lets on. The years tread on, and your dreams change to suit your current livelihood. No more “I want to be a successful singer/dancer/actor/painter”, it’s actually more like: “I want to be able to save 20-grand by the end of the year and get a promotion and maybe start an internet business”. Imagine being 8 and having that as an aspiration? It sounds absolutely dull. Where’s the fireworks? The ka-boom? The attention? If I had known the adult years would span more time that childhood years, I would have prayed for it to be longer.
I would love to say I’m going to plan some productive action plan for this weekend. The truth of the matter is, I’m waiting on a that perfect inspirational quote to drive me out of bed and churn out bucket loads of solid gold, class A work. Or perhaps I’ll quit being such a whiner and put some work in, without the need for The Secret. Who knows? Stay Tuned.
I like to think that I’m pretty smart. Not amazingly smart, just modestly smart. I can tackle certain solutions, then sit confounded at others. I’m average. And that’s ok!
The problem is my boss doesn’t seem to think its ok. Science demands more calculated and precise thought. Of course I know this, but when I’m put on the spot and have a furious boss waiting for an answer, I do the human thing. I panic. Or I lie. Depends on which area of the brain my mouth chooses.
I had a training session with my boss. It centred on diagnostically deducing bacterial meningitis and bacterial sepsis from culture plates. This is usually straight forward, except, along the way, there are calculations. Now, any normal person would reach for a calculator. In panicked mode, I attempted to calculate it all mentally. But in my defense, I hate being put on the spot. Staring back, I have no words and stutter.
“So do you think extra work should be done on this cerebrospinal sample? It has 19,680 red cells and 44 white cells.”
“Yes, I believe so”
“Because it exceeds the normal ratio of 500:1”
“Are you sure?”
“What’s 19680 divided by 500?”
“um, um, roughly 40?”
“Are you asking me?”
“Roughly isn’t an exact number”
“Nor is um. It’s actually, 39.”
This situation made me feel like I let down my entire profession. At that moment, I felt like I wasn’t fit to wear the overly snug lab coat I had on. I felt like black folk everywhere must be looking at me and saying: “Can we get rid of her? Seriously, you’ve let down your race!” In that failed mathematical moment, I felt like I needed to get onto the nearest street rocking an Angela Davis afro, a dashiki, a fist in the air and handing out pamphlets with horrible over political sayings like “There is Black Unity in Maths!” to prove my worth. Or Something.
I should have gained the courage and said something to save me. But instead, I took a verbal lecture, and then sulked. I went home and read like tomorrow was “Pop Quiz Day”. By the time I got into work the next day, I felt confident and heck, I rocked my afro. In my train of thought, if I felt great and confident, then the next barrage of questions won’t have me tripping and sliding into embarrassment.
“Come here, what do you think this is? It’s a mitral valve with bacteria growing only in air and CO2.”
Crap. It could be anything!
“One of the HACEK group?”
“Yes, your right. What would you do next?”
I got one question right, and the rest, I handled a lot better. I wanted to get on a podium and with a stern knitted eyebrow: “Brothers and Sisters, we have a breakthrough. We have seen the challenges and we have broken through!”
I was feeling great for the rest of the day. Hand me back my Science card. Heck, pat me on my back and watch me celebrate like Sally: “Yes, Yes, Yes, Yeeeeessssss!”
I still hate being put on the spot though.
I used to volunteer at an Old folks’ home for 18months. Part was due to a resolution to do more good in the world and another part was me trying to fill the empty spaces of my weekend.
It’s the type of experience that renders you in absolute awe of the human body and its capability to endure. Another insight are the lives they led, the paths they took the wars and malice they must have seen throughout the years and the unhinged outlook they must have on life, death & relationships.
I remember loving the conversations. Well the conversations with those who weren’t beaten to a pulp by dementia and constant sleeping. To me they were amazing, to them, probably nothing but a tale to tell. They just smiled and said: “Let me tell you about the time…” and the time sounded as if it were on a different planetary scale.
So let me tell you about the time…
Rita said it was good to capture it all on film before it started to sag. She used to be a photographer and showed me some of her work. 1940s sepia shots with broody expressions on everyone’s faces. It felt like I was in a documentary. She showed me her nude shots. It shocked me. She was stunning. Young, pert, porcelain and curvy. But it shocked me. I didn’t expect a 70 year old to have a frisky past. Well, I did, but I didn’t expect her to show me. She said: “You need to capture it all, for yourself. Some days you need to look back and feel the nostalgia and the beauty you had at 20 or at 30”. I stared at the pages. Pages and Pages of the nude 20 year old version of this geriatric and then some of her lover. Boy, was he hung!
I believe in it. I’ve never taken an artistic shot, but I can see the logic in tasteful nudity. Beauty & art needs to be preserved. Why not preserve your youth? Sometimes I feel the longer I stay single and unwed (and un-laid) the more I feel like my young body is being wasted. It’s highly unfair that the prime of a woman’s sex life is in her 30s, yet the prime of her body is in her 20s. Biological bias much?
Then the battle goes in. Should tasteful shots be for yourself, your partner, or for a website like bigbootys.com? I should have asked Rita, but I don’t think she would know what to do if she was featured on bigbootys.com. Hundreds of scenarios play out in your head if your photos ever became public: partner being jealous, parents being humiliated, friends thinking you’re a harlot, losing your job, losing respect and ending up on bigbootys.com. It’s a hella of a lot to risk in the name of beauty & art. But if you have friends like mine, then they’d just advise you to cover your face and get over it.
Should I also mention the time….
Mable told me how much people’s mind-set has changed since she moved from Guyana in 1941. She had come to Oxford in her mid-twenties with her Aunt Velma. Like many black Caribbean immigrants she was bombarded with a chilling racist reality. She gained groundswork in a factory where her co-workers were predominantly white.
“One thing I remember is how cold and scared everyone was toward us. But I’ll tell you a funny story. One day I was careless, you know? I cut myself on a blade and I bled man, I was bleeding so bad and screaming. Everyone came and instead of helping me bandage my cut, they stood in amazement.” She laughed. “You know why? One said they couldn’t believe that I was bleeding red blood! Haha! You know I was scared and crying and they couldn’t believe my blood was red. One woman said, Look how I bleed just like white people.” That amazed me. At first I honestly I didn’t want to hear it or believe that level of prejudicial ignorance was experienced by this gentle lady. It was bizarrely too real. “The doctor eventually stitched me up, you know, but I still tell people that story. I never even used to see black and white talk like friends, now it’s an easy thing. Everyone’s easy, but I still know what it was like. I still know how they behaved. It’s still fresh man. Now, everyone’s changed. You know when my grandson married a white woman; I was a little scared for him. It’s that old history that I fear gon’ repeat.”
Mable struck me with her words. She smiled throughout and laughed at the minds of people. But that era was still so fresh and vivid in her mind. I wish more people were exposed to their tales, the power in their stories would make this generations trials seem so alien.
You ever have a moment when you are utterly misplaced? Disoriented and lost about how to actually target your to-do list? You stare at the calendar and time seems to be edging much more closer. The end of the month is here and yet you still have no strategic plan. Or perhaps you fear actually planning a plan. Does that make sense?
Now I’m thinking when am I gonna get my ass in gear. I have a lot to plan and little hours in the day to create a good brain storming session. Instead I get hurried ideas while trying to sleep and when I wing it by my friends, I get a guffaw. Several guffaws actually and a chuckle. I should know, I counted.
So I’m here on the 21st of February attempting to strategically plan. A part of me hates this side of me: planning and organising. Shouldnt I be more carefree? I’m young and hip. Arent I? I’m a jive turkey. But another side of me realises that i’ll be stuck here if i don’t plan an escape route. Then I panick and feel hot and flustered. I start to find excuses, like right now, telling you that in about 6.5 seconds i will be reaching for my phone to text someone. Then when that doesn’t work, I will be reaching for my vitamin water and read the label to pass the time. Then boom. 15 minutes has passed and I’m nowhere near planning. I should be slapped. Repeatedly. But knowing me, I would actually enjoy that and suddenly, there, I’ve drifted off into a daydream about me, Hill Harper and a paddle.
Being a microbiologist gives you an odd perspective on things.
In the beginning microscopy work was amazing, challenging, and a great way to investigate.
Some days, I’m pleasantly surprised- oh! Look at those white cells!
Other days: oh it’s another Staphylococcus, great (!)
Today however, was different.
Today I delved into Semen analysis.
It was a new avenue.
10 samples to work through, all magnificently different.
Don’t laugh because I’m dead serious.
I really enjoyed was watching the sperm whiz around.
Everything about them was remarkable.
Initially, they just swam around haphazardly with no particular sense of direction. I know this will be silly, but if the sperm were knowledgeable things, they should have at least stopped swimming and organised themselves in a straight line under that microscope lens. What’s the point in swimming if there’s no ovum to get to?
The chilled out sperm that only swam along at 2mph looked bored and out of place. But in a fucked up way, they were the smart ones; they knew not to waste their energy zapping around like the others ‘cause frankly speaking, being in a tube isn’t where the party at.
Maybe I’m reading it wrong and their all constantly training for the vagina-thalon or something. I mean, really, outta all those billions of sperm, the fastest one is the one that will make world a better place. My friend used to pat me on the back and say: “Well done on being the fastest!” It’s a cold, cruel, cramped space in those testes and honestly, their just looking to make it in a bigger world. I wonder if they have dummy guides on “how to succeed at the breaking that egg”.
The most comical sight were the abnormalities. Yes, I know it’s insensitive, I mean they are one half of a baby. But at a cellular level, those sperm cells know how to make good farcical comedy.
Two-headed, two-tailed, bent-head, three-tails: they were just a huge amount of weird sperm swimming around. Groups were clumped together, some bumped uglies, and I swear, I watched one stop, itched its tail with its snout then move on. Even from a cellular level, men know that a good itch needs concentration.
Even the dead had a part. From an anthropological view, if a human sees a dead body, they run and take action. Sperm will just swim over, around and push its way through. Talk about barbaric. No sympathy for the dead; which is what’s expected. They aren’t programmed to think about anything other than “get to the egg homie!” but still, most of our cells operate with some form of decorum (except for cancer cells ‘cause they just look to bulldoze, pilfer, pillage and rape–bastards!).
Throwing the sample away always puts a cartoon image in my head. You know when you’re a kid and you see microscopic stuff talking and having a conversation. Though you know it’s completely silly, you kinda have that idea in your head for a long time. In the sperm’s case, I always feel the scene would go something like:
“OMG, where are we?! I can’t breathe!”
“Help! Help!”—whizzes and panicks.
“For fuck’s sake, stop swimming and let’s think of a plan!”
“We’re never gonna make it! I wasn’t BORN to do this!”
“Get me to the EGG man! Just get me to the fucking egg!”—faints and dies from shock
All die from chronic asphyxiation.
The alarm clocks wakes me.
I get up cursing it and hoping that 8hours hasn’t just gone by.
I look at the clock. It has. Damn—another work day.
I get up, head to the bathroom and stare at the mirror.
For some reason, I smile. I want pancakes- to hell with calories.
Its 6am I make and devour said pancakes and I feel a hell of a lot better.
Pancakes have healed me.
Today will be great. I skip out the door. I feel very Madeleine like.
I walk to my car.
Penalty fine for parking.
I scream. The neighbour laughs. I huff.
I walk into work.
The security guard stares at me:
“mmm, babylove, yuh lookin’ sweeeeet tuhday”
“how yuh get so sweet so eh? Mm! looking like a ripe yellow banana”
I don’t blush.
I walk, trying to strut.
20 yards and a no wet floor sign later someone grabs me from behind and my Naomi Campbell reign ends.
He was falling, so obviously he needed a partner.
The shock takes me by surprise and I’m on the floor slipping across trying to manoeuvre my way up.
I’m ready to scream, but I apologize to the guy (and I don’t know why).
The guy looks at me, He’s cute and I begin to imagine a pathetic romantic TV episode.
He says: “thanks for humiliating me”.
I reach the breakroom. Make a cup of coffee and the cleaner becomes chatty.
She tells me a story and her mouth become akin to a hurricane: gusts of wind and rain.
I look at the clock: 8am.
The cleaner is still talking and laughing; now her mouth bellows spittle like a frickin’ seastorm and some lands on my face.
I wipe. I keep smiling.
I’m too nice.
For some reason, I expected a Disney prince to walk in and slay the wicked spitty cleaner.
Someone has to want to rescue me.
I take a sip of spittified coffee.
I walk away; hoping that down the corridor a frog will jump in my throat and give me reason to escape with a sick note.
8 hours left.
Lawd Fadduh Gawd.