Home Sweet Home

I’m home! (… I was stuck in this sentence for a while – since last night to be exact!) I arrived yesterday at around lunch time, and let me tell you, I have never been so happy to see the sun! After staying in England for a while you kinda forget that other countries actually have nice wheather! I was received with hugs, kisses, some tears (from my mother), and an all-you-can-eat feast. Here’s the thing about mothers: no matter how much weight you put on, you will always be too skinny for them!

“Why aren’t you eating? Is the food not good enough for you? Are you sick? You look sick! Anna, call your father we’re going to the hospital!”

Yes, drama runs in the family. Or maybe it’s just my mother? My father is probably immune to it – after 25 years of being married to my mom, he no longer gets affected by it. My sister, Anna, seems to have dodged the gene. And I am usually the reason for the drama! Everyone plays their part – team work! Luckily, mom is too busy with Easter preparations to put on the “prodigal son has returned” show, which always seems to amuse Anna. I don’t really care as long as she feeds me pancakes in the morning.

Anyway, today my sister and I are going to the cinema – her treat! She misses me, even though she doesn’t want to tell me, but why else would she come and watch a Marvel movie with me?

“Because you are not the only cool nerd in the family!”

So my sister thinks I’m a nerd… but a cool one! I have never been so proud!

– N.


The Return of the King

After two weeks of absence, I return glouriously to this amazing journal. Apologies in advance to everyone who was expecting to know more about my exciting life, but exciting things take a lot of time… Unfortunately, this was not the case for me. Nothing exciting happening in my life, except for the fact that I leveled up my arcanist to level 31 and my conjurer to level 6! It is fair to call it a great achievement!

I would very much like to say that my PhD has seen the same progress. However, unlike videogames, moving forward with your research is much harder! After the return of my supervisor, things got real. Luckily, I had written a couple of things down (beyond the title page) and he seems to have been pleased.

“I am glad you were smart enough to write something. This should keep me off your shoulder for a while, right?”

I smiled. That man can read my mind (it’s a bit creepy, I know!). We set up another meeting, so he can check on my experiments. Let me tell you, it’s like having your parents constantly asking whether you did your homework! I shouldn’t complain, though, giving my tendency to laziness, I really need this kind of pressure. A bit of stress to spice up my life! How awesome is that?

Anyway, I am visiting home for a few days, so I can spend Easter with the family. As tradition requires, we are having a roasted hog (at last, some real food…) and obviously attending the mass. My mother was very clear about the consequences my soul would have to endure if I missed the religious celebrations that day. I am unsure whether going to church this Sunday can grant me salvation, but it is worth the try!

I will have to work hard (have you noticed how many times I say this but never really do it? Shame on you, Nathan) to make up for all the partying going on at home. I am telling you, after being here for three months without visiting, it will be like the return of the king!

– N.

The other place

Guess what? I managed to do all the work I needed in order not to feel guilty for spending the weekend away. The experiments I was running in the lab this week turned out okay (although I had to repeat them a couple of times – I blame the computer, obviously), so on Friday I left work feeling free like a little boy, waving goodbye to my fellow colleagues. Well, that’s how it felt at least!

I hopped on the bus to Oxford that evening, after a crazy run to Parkside. Once comfortably installed on the window seat in one of the front rows, I put on my headphones and some light music (because I’m temporarily over my Eminem phase), and I closed my eyes. “Three hours is plenty of time to catch up on my sleep, and arrive fresh as a cucumber, ready for a night out!” Or so I thought… I slept for the whole time, but ended up at home after a pint. This means either my tolerance to alcohol considerably decreased over the past month or I was genuinely tired. “Maybe we’re getting old, man”, I said to Will (the friend who was nice enough to provide me with shelter), while I scratched my three-day beard. He looked at me, and replied, after finishing his beer,  “You’re definitely getting old, dude. I’m getting sleepy!” . At the time I was too tired to think about it, and right now, after a day spent sightseeing and a night at the club (this is how we roll), I just can’t be bothered. So… this must mean I’m still young and immature! I’m still me (and what a relief!).

Anyway, Oxford is quite a nice place (of course I know where my loyalty lies, but still). It has some sort of a city feel to it, more than just an University town. Beautiful buildings, nice pubs, and nice people too!

We had a fun night, loads of dancing (or attempts at dancing), and just hanging with the guys (yes, I was hoping for girls too). And turns out I can still handle my drinks quite well! I mean, it’s almost 4 a.m. and I’m writing on my blog! God, maybe I’m drunk…

I’m heading back tomorrow. Could probably stay for one more night if it wasn’t for, you know, work!

Here are some photos:

Yeah, I’m an engineer, not a photographer. But you get the point.

– N.

Happy day(s)

Today was a really productive day. I mean, REALLY productive! I don’t remember the last time I’ve done so much work. Turns out being lame pays off, and to be honest, it is not that hard. Maybe I always had it in me! And because I was such a good student, I’m going to reward myself with a Final Fantasy XIV subscription. I know what you’re thinking… Yes, a full day of work is worth a 3-month subscription for a MMORPG that will soon become an infamous black hole for my time!

Besides, my supervisor is leaving the UK for a while. As most academics, he has academic stuff to do, so he’s going to abandon me for a month. A month! The only source of social control I had in that lab is leaving me for four whole weeks. So, guess what? I will be responsible for myself. Isn’t that funny?

“I trust you’ll keep up with the good work, Nathan. Don’t make me embarrass you at supervisor’s dinner again.”

Mhmm, you should know you can’t trust me by now! I’m afraid I am replacing you by a bunch of gamers.

Sorry, I just can’t deal with rejection.

Hello from the other side

Remember I said I was drowning in work? Well, hasn’t changed a bit. Today was an insanely unproductive day. I didn’t know it was possible to pretend to be working for so long and actually do nothing. Why did I go to the lab?

Anyway, I have decided to make a weekend trip to Oxford to visit a friend who did his MPhil here last year (he moved to the dark side now – the place-that-shall-not-be-named-but-already-was-in-the-line-above).

This means I really have to step up my game and increase my motivation. So, no more Mondays! No more unproductive days! I fear I will have to be a lame unsocial person for this whole week… Or for as long as it takes until the amount of work I need to do decreases considerably. I’m telling you, it is possible!

No fun for me. Gym, work, home. And that is it! Oh, and rowing (slowly recovering from my knee injury). Oh, and dates are exceptions! A date is not considered fun anyway, it’s a basic need (like eating… wrong choice of words?).

This is happening. I’m on work mode starting… now.

– N.

Skype day

My favourite part of the day is those five seconds you have between when you wake up from sleeping and when you actually wake up (for reality). That brief moment when your brain hasn’t had the time to remind you of all of your concerns yet, and everything feels like paradise.

Those five seconds are the best part of my day. Except on Sundays, when I can make them last for as long as I want! That’s how a Sunday is supposed to be: worry-free and with as many pancakes as you can eat! Thankfully, I have the pancake section covered (I had about five, until my house-mate showed up in the kitchen and my good manners forced me to offer her some), but since I only got up at like half past one, it was hard to ignore all my worries and how little time I had to deal with them. This included writing my paper, preparing supervisions, and doing laundry. At least the laundry is done…

Today was also “skype-with-your-parents” day. This used to be every day of the week, but I quickly ran out of things to say and my parents thought I was going through a rough time (they worry a lot – go figure!). I had a long chat trying to explain to them how exciting things do not happen everyday and how there is only so much past recipes I can describe (my cooking skills haven’t improved that much). So now we have agreed on one call per week, of at least 30 minutes (dad’s a lawyer, so mum pushes him to make these agreements. “You are legally bound to this”, she says). Perfectly doable (and enjoyable too)!

So yeah, this Sunday wasn’t much of a Sunday. But with the amount of work I need to do, tomorrow will definitely be a MONDAY.

– N.

Why I can’t deal with girls (or feelings)

My mummy always told me “life is made of ups and downs” (and you know you can’t sink any lower after calling “mummy” to your birth giver  in your online journal). Some days you are great, other days you wish you hadn’t left your bed. You go high and low, and sometimes it all seems like too much to handle! But the worst days are those when you feel nothing.

No feelings. No anything. Just numbness.

I should know a thing or two about that – after all, I am a guy. We are said to be able to compartmentalize our feelings, and suppress them to the point that we don’t feel a thing.  Which is, to be honest, kind of ideal!

Let me tell you something though, when you see your ex-girlfriend with another guy, there is no way – I mean, NO WAY – you can suppress anything. And after months being numb, you suddenly have all these crazy thoughts in your mind that you cannot control and you find yourself sitting in your room watching 8 mile rap battles on a loop and eating chocolate cereal like they’re about to put it off the market and dr…

Wait, is this how it feels like to be on your period?!

Do I still have feelings for her? You might ask. No, I suppressed them a long time ago… To be more exact, right after I left her and asked another girl out. The problem when you don’t deal with your feelings, is that they eventually come up to torment you. And usually they are the worst kind of feelings – like regret.

Regret that you didn’t do things right. That you didn’t care for her well-being and about how sweet she was. Regret that you didn’t consider how she wouldn’t be able to suppress her feelings, because she was too genuine for that. And that you didn’t do everything you could to spare her from any pain. And after all this time, you regret not being able to see her happy with someone else without being selfish and envying that happiness. The happiness you deprived her from because you were too scared to deal with your own feelings.

Life has ups and downs, my mum said. I should be glad she found her way up again. Maybe one day I will too.

– N.

Okay, let me now get a magazine and make myself happy… Yeah, National Geographic always makes me feel better.

A letter to myself (save for later!)

Dear Nathan,

This is your younger self. Remember me? I was you yesterday, or about a week ago…? I come from the past. So I am you…? Who you were before today! Whatever, you get the point! I am here to provide you with valuable and wise advice from your past life experiences. Like that time I told you not to sleep with your ex’s friend… Remember that? Now you do.

This might be slightly more serious though.

I know how you have been  feeling lost and how you are struggling to find the motivation to keep working (or to get out of bed even). You have assumed a long term commitment with this thing called “PhD” (probably the only thing you have committed with in your life) and you do not want to disappoint everyone who believed in you. Remember though that things never work when you try to live up to other people’s expectations. You should set your own goals. You should find what moves you and pushes you to achieve them and go beyond. Who cares what they think? You don’t want to be as good as them. You want to be the best you can be.

You know, although the PhD is a big part of your life now, it is not your life! Your life is much bigger than a thesis. Damn, your life could be a whole collection of books (seriously, it could! Plenty of drama there to inspire a few romances/thrillers)! The pages of your dissertation will get lost in all the other amazing stories you will write (like that paper you are trying to submit… you best get cracking on that! Actually, that was a metaphor. I know you are pretty emotional right now, but I hope you got that). This is just a chapter. One chapter. If you fail… Well, that is something for your future self to deal with! And he will be much wiser that us, so he’ll be fine!

Besides, you have written – what? A chapter already? No? Like, half maybe… Okay, 275 words, that is great progress! And you are doing your experiments – give yourself a little pat on the back for the hard work.

I am truly sorry you are feeling low, but this needs to stop. We have been on that path before… You are not a pretty crier.

Love (kidding – we don’t have that!),


P.S. If you want to shed some tears (in an extremely manly way, obviously), do it alone in your room. Hug a pillow, maybe!

P.S.S. Also, don’t write letters to yourself. It’s creepy, man.


Commitment Issues

It’s been only a few weeks since I started this journal and I’m already neglecting it. This says a lot about me like “I have commitment issues”.

Yeah, this is true. I have commitment issues. There I said it. And there is no way I can deny it… However, I can still try to give incredibly logical justifications for my flakey-ness. So, here it goes.

This has been a crazy week. I mean, all weeks are a bit crazy when you are a PhD student (we work hard and party harder – that has consequences), but this one was particularly difficult. I had a meeting with my supervisor (whom I admire and respect, and hopefully is not aware of the existence of this site… as most people), who for some reason decided to ask me if I started writing anything. What does he mean ‘writing’? I’m a second year PhD. Aren’t we suppose to start writing like… on our fourth year, when we are struggling to find extra funding and figuring out what to do with our lives? Yes, we are. You can’t just start changing these implicit deadlines. What am I suppose to do now? Write? Palizzz.

To add up to this funny request from my supervisor, I hurt my knee during training last Thursday. Can this get any worse? Yes, it can. I had to endure a long massage given by a man. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very confident of my sexuality. Slightly more confident when I have my clothes on.

That came out wrong. Mhmm. You get the point! (And to be clear, I am very confident with my clothes off… Just sayin’).

So, between the emotional damage caused by my supervisor (if you are reading this, I forgive you!) and the physical injuries caused by rowing, there was not a lot of time (or motivation) to write.

As you can see, many plausible reasons for my inability to commit with this site (that will change though! I don’t want to disappoint my one follower). Maybe next time I can tell you all about my inability to commit to relationships. Yep, I have issues. The kind of issues that get you laid, but not usually more than once with the same girl. BAM.

I am a sad person.

– shameful N.


PhD and the journey through academia

When you are close to becoming a PhD student, you might think to yourself that you have reached this stage in your life where twenty years in school actually mean something. You are given a purpose. Damn, you might even be given a desk! You think you have freedom. That you are in control of your life. And of your research. You think you own it! I mean, you probably only have to see your supervisor every other month, right? You most likely believe you are no longer at the bottom of the academic food chain.

Well… Don’t be fooled – you have never been lower in this harsh academic hierarchy.

That is the thing in academia – and life, really -, there is always someone on top of you (probably not as often as you would like, but that’s a different story). They have power and, obviously, they can use it. And even though you will find people who will help you and genuinely care for your success, you will also – most likely – find those who see you as another brick to step on so they can go higher in their own careers.

Not only you have to deal with all the real academics above you, there is also a sea of other PhD students craving for approval and success. You see, behind their smiles and shared pains, most of them are just wondering, in their little smart minds, how they can use you for their own benefit. And you either accept it, and make your way to the top, or deny it to yourself and lay on the ground waiting to be stepped upon by others.

Wait – this is starting to sound a bit like conspiracy theory. Oh well. The sooner you realise it, the better. Academia is a tough, tough world. Everyone is fighting for a place that might not even be there!

(Apologies to my supervisor! If you are reading this, you know you’re awesome!)

– N.