My first (proper) meeting took place somewhere an hour and 45 minutes train ride away. I was dressed to impress in jeans and a button up while my supervisor was dressed casually in shorts with mismatched socks. At this point I was reminded that I had, in fact, chosen to pursue a life of tweed, elbow pads and socks with sandals.
It was always present somewhere at the back of my mind that I would do a PhD. Despite all the doomsayers and bleak prospects, I had still managed to miss the clue train and signed up for another three (let’s be honest, four) years of study. Some friends knew it all along and sighed their sympathies. Others would bawk a little, to which I replied that I was a glutton for punishment. But I always appreciated multiple perspectives, it stops me from becoming complacent with my own. Like this one student who shared a room with me while I was looking at leaf hairs of a beach daisy under a microscope. She hated her project and dissuaded me from doing a PhD as we did our small talk. Over the course of small talk my internal dialogue went as follows:
Firstly. You chose to work on snails that required the TLC of daily visitation.
Secondly. You’re putting vials of desiccated snail poop through a spectroscopy machine with a look of abject boredom on your face. Dig deep and remember what you’re doing.
Now I may be bright-eyed with naivete, and perhaps I’ll one day become so disillusioned with my own project, but the small talk taught me a few things. One, work on something that really excites you. Two, don’t work on moving, living things that need daily feeding and can die at any moment.
Which brings me back to my meeting.
It was probably absent-mindedness that made me forget that the further from the coastline you go, the hotter it gets. So as we pull up to the lab, I’m fidgeting a little, edging away from the solid slice of pre-noon sun filtering in through the car window.
The meeting with my other supervisor proceeds swimmingly though, with me dutifully taking notes and sharing ideas of what I could be doing, most of which were met with agreeing nods. A good start.
At some point, we take a small trip to the study site.
Now both my supervisors clearly had their wits about them, as they wore shorts and a short sleeve shirt, chatting amiably and pointing to the large ring structures that look out of place in the Eucalypt forests. Meanwhile I’m simmering a pace behind them.
At least I looked good.
Though my suede shoes were really not liking me.
The day finishes quite quickly after that. With a final skype meeting with a collaborator where I took notes for things I had no idea for. But it provided the necessary illusion.
Smoke and mirrors.
All I had left that day was to catch a train home. Another hour and 45 minutes. Of course my supervisor made every moment count and typed up a letter in that time. I slept, because the sun always makes me sleepy. And I figured that I’ve committed a few faux pas at that point with my dress, that one more one less wouldn’t hurt.
But before I dozed off in the warm carriage, I couldn’t help but to remember that my other supervisor wore sandals.
At least he wasn’t wearing socks with them.