There are places I remember, all my life,
Though some have changed, some forever, not for better
Some have gone, and some remain
All these places have their moments...
In my life I have loved them all.
I borrow haphazardly from a much loved Beatles song. Today these lines describe perfectly my swirling thoughts and emotions.
For the last few weeks we have all been gearing up for major changes in our lab lives. There have been massive clean-up missions resulting in the entire place looking far more cluttered than it did before, even though each time it really did seem like we discarded literally sacks of junk! We have discovered ancient stuff that not only looks unidentifiable, but smells weird and is awfully old-fashioned and outright filthy! There have been many adventures with mice, lizards, spiders and big black fat ants disturbed from their favourite haunts. There have been delighted cries at rediscovering a missing instrument or chemical or even an old greeting card. There have been spontaneous outbursts of laughter, cut-throat competition to test our abilities to be the best cleaners and junk-removers, many frayed tempers, much teasing and yet, good strong friendships and togetherness. Nothing tests you better than a situation where you need to work cohesively in a group even while maintaining your identity. And I must have some of the best lab mates in the world! We have learnt to leave aside personal differences and gel into a cohesive unit. It also helps that each of us has a definite sense of belonging; we feel it is our lab and hence we work because we want to, not because we must or have been told to do so. Hard work, perseverance, some essential planning and an incredibly involved and enthusiastic boss have made the change seem easier.
The change I mention is one of place and space. We move from our old, historical, dilapidated building to the supposedly fancy, new one. We move from a cluttered, yet much loved space to a bigger, stranger place. I have loved my old lab. I have learnt a lot here and met an awful lot of lovely people, fantastic seniors and current lab mates, who are more friends than colleagues. Doesn’t a place seem dearer if you have had memorable experiences and forged important relationships in it? It seems like I knew almost every nook and corner of the old lab. It was comfortably familiar. And as always, letting go of the known is not easy. But, I do like the airy spaciousness of the new place, the open plan and the light flooding in. It seems like a good place. I know it shall now take a conscious effort to make the new place seem ours. To treat it like a new fresh canvas on which to paint our individual strokes with many a flourish and much faith.
A new sense of belonging is priceless, yet letting go of the old one brings a tinge of tears to my eyes. It makes me want to store the memories of the last lab meeting, the last experiment, the last round of discussions in the old place. There is a feeling of sadness when I see the packed boxes, the dusty work benches and the empty rooms that echo eerily. But change is supposed to be a good thing. And we are supposed to be moving on to better facilities, more space and opportunities for greater coordination between the biological sciences. Even though it seems like a mammoth task at present, I look forward to the day when it feels like I could walk through the entire building in the middle of a dark night and yet not lose my way. To the day when I walk into the lab and it feels mine again. I hope we make it into our lucky new place and that we do some of our best science here in the next few months. I hope we charge up the space with our enthusiasm and energy. Amen. Or something like it.