As the perfect summer days slide by, I’m beginning to notice with mild dissatisfaction that I’ve been on autopilot. Have you ever habitually smelled or tasted something, only to be jolted out of the reverie by some unexpected new sensory feedback? Just about every day in high school, I drank chocolate milk with lunch; consequently, when I unconsciously brought golden apple juice to my lips one day, I was shocked by the thin, acidic taste. “Bleh, what happened?” was my instant reaction. It took me a couple moments to remember that the cafeteria had run out of milk.
With too much unstructured free time, I need to be awakened from my routine. In a few weeks just about everything in my life will change, so why am I merely going through the motions of summer? I’ve gone on a fair number of outings — but there must be more to the typical day than waking up, going to work, procrastinating advanced standing exam studying, and going to sleep. There must be more to pre-college summer than thinking about buying dorm supplies and counting down the days until my FPOP. When analyzing tuition and meal plans for my parents becomes the most interesting thing to do on a Sunday, something is wrong.
So one morning, I got up and did something different. Instead of drinking chocolate milk, I had some apple juice. And instead of slinging my blue backpack over my left shoulder and going to work, I grabbed my tote bag and went to Six Flags. My close friends and I had an indescribably amazing time twisting, looping, and pretending to fly on the Batwing coaster.
In celebration of magical changes — past and future — here are a couple other things I’m doing differently.
At the lab, I tried to make and recycle my own lab consumables. My mentor says that summer interns like myself have been spoiled — at our government labs, reagents and supplies can be bought instantly with the flash of a credit card or ordered online without a second thought. My mentor regales me with horror stories from his days as a young PhD student in a university lab when he salvaged defective equipment, was constantly making protein gels and materials from scratch, and had to wash out and reuse pipettes. Since I’m never sure when he’s joking, I decided to prepare for the probably unlikely possibility that I will have to pinch pennies to the extreme at a UROP: I washed out, wrapped, and re-used pipettes for a day. I also attempted to make an SDS gel (a thin, film-like material used to detect the presence of proteins), but the finished product could not compare with the nice, neat, fully-functional ones manufactured by biotech companies.
At the blood bank, I donated platelets and plasma instead of blood. The phlebotomist slid two gleaming steel needles three inches into my elbows. The benefit to a patient in need is probably the only reason a perfectly healthy person would sit for two hours with catheters taped to forearms and twin blood pressure cuffs, connected to an evolved centrifuge selectively taking components of blood and returning the rest with a mixture of anti-coagulants and saline.
Other moderately atypical things I’m doing include buying a Macbook Air instead of a Dell, mixing green and red grapes together (inspired by an old episode of Glee), and getting my waist-length hair cut. I’m looking forward to the Freshman Leadership Program FPOP and to moving in with some awesome roommates in Baker House. To the upcoming plethora of new experiences at MIT, here I come!