Classes end, the first big snow falls, and things go quiet all across campus. Every sound is swallowed up by wings of my white until only the scrunch of my boots on the sidewalk is left. Alone in the windless, silent calm, trudging across campus because I can’t stand being in my room even a moment longer. Tempting is my bed, swathed in blankets; time-sucking social media calling my name; the bag of chocolate covered almonds left open on my roommate’s desk.
But home here is a big square table in the physics department, scrawling out equations with cold hands and restless legs. I spend hours painstakingly crafting sentences and propagating uncertainties for a lab report, then switch to a project for my linear algebra class, manipulating code in R until the plots I am producing look the way they should. I sit back, grinning to myself. All that’s left is to debug. I leave that until I meet with the rest of my group later in the afternoon, letting them sit there openmouthed as I make a few small changes and knit the markdown file to an HTML page. They all thank me profusely as we’re packing up. “I can’t believe you did all of that so quickly,” someone says. I shrug it off, but it feels good. It feels like I know what I’m doing. I stare petulantly at my CV and wonder if adding R to my list of skills is a bit premature.
You remember what you love. Today I remember the surge of satisfaction I felt when my calculated best-fit equation drew a neat line directly through a set of data points. I remember numbers lining up neatly in a spreadsheet, ready to be transferred to a lab report. I remember the appraising look my astronomy professor gave me when I held tight to my notes at a physics seminar rather than turning them in for extra credit. I remember floating in the kind of quiet that only comes from an empty building and feeling more comfortable in my own skin, in my own skull, than I have for days.
$ echo “hello, world!”
hello, world! ♦