2022: a year that everyone looked forward to after COVID-19. Leading up to this year, I made a list of things I wanted to do, and like most other people, only ended up opening it once or twice throughout the year. Now when I look back, I realize 2022 had totally different plans for me than I originally thought.
Unlike the exciting and busy year that I planned, most of this year was spent in moments of rest, roaming around empty corridors of Gilman Hall, lying on the grass in Keyser Quad or sitting in Mudd Hall sipping a hot matcha latte. Usually, these times were a necessary break after a hard day.
There were a lot of chaotic moments in 2022, like the times I fought with my best friend or had a rough day in the lab, the times I missed my family or thought that my parents really didn’t understand me at all. Sometimes my self-doubts would take over, and I’d feel like there was absolutely nothing I deserved in this world.
One of the most difficult moments this year was the day I lost someone deeply close to me. Having to experience this loss away from my family made it even harder to bear. We always know that death is the ultimate end, yet when it happens to someone we love, it feels so sudden and out of nowhere, like walking straight into a pane of glass or failing to find something where you usually keep it.
Exactly when you accept the fact of their death, you start to feel angry and want to blame it on everything and everyone. If nothing works, you blame Karma, and if you’re a really good person, you blame God.
It's seven in the evening, the sun is setting and I am roaming around the terrace as I recall my entire 2022. I can hear the cars below me, zooming by. I look at the sky — an expanse of orange, yellow, pink and purple — and watch the clouds float over my head. I wonder how all of us exist under the same sky and still look at it differently.
I see the birds return to their nests, and I put my favorite playlist on, with songs by Amit Trivedi, Mohit Suri, Coldplay and Prateek Kuhad. Finding a spot to sit, I lay my head back and let my thoughts recede from my brain.
I remember the first book I read in 2022 was Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, a self-help book that asks the question, “What makes you want to live?”
When I close my eyes and think about this question now, I have a lot of reasons, a few of which I’ve listed here:
- Reading. I thought of reading a lot of books in 2022, but I didn't. This year, no matter what, I am going to read as much as possible.
- I haven’t taken enough trips with my parents yet.
- My best friends are going to get a job, get married, win awards and have babies one day, and I can't wait to be there by their side.
- I haven't gotten a PhD yet, and I also don’t have my own research group yet.
- I've written too many letters to my to-be-lover, and I want to watch him as he reads each of them.
- I still don't have a house that smells like lilies, scented candles, coffee brewing and garlic sautéing on the pan.
- I haven't taken enough pictures of my friends and family.
- There are many more sunsets, beaches and mountains for me to see.
- I want to spend more time with my brother, sitting with him on the top of mountains with a dog, eating our favorite food.
- I still haven't made enough of an impact on the world. I want to make this world a better place to live in.
This year has taught me immensely about patience. I’ve learned the simple truth that taking walks with a coffee and a cool breeze in the air helps me more than anything to calm down. It doesn’t solve my problems, but it gives me peace in times of chaos and a little hope that I can try again tomorrow. My time spent in rest affords me the opportunity to reflect, and even if by tomorrow things are still not alright, I know I can do it again.
The sky can't talk, but it sure can listen. Hence 2022 repeatedly told me, when there's chaos on the ground, choose the sky.
Sudha Yadav is a graduate student from North India in the Department of Chemistry. Her column talks about the roller coaster ride of grad life, seeing beauty in chemistry and getting inspiration from nature.