The catalyst for my first blog may have been a woman I met on my plane to Chicago, but the truth is I’ve be travelling for four weeks now and I’ve had several life-changing encounters already. It seems only fair then to take it back to the first.
The first stop of my Round-America Trip was the all-singing, all dancing New York, New York where I ate and drank my way through two weeks in the city, at least that’s what it felt like anyway (It was my birthday out there so I was allowed). However it was upon my arrival to Washington DC that things ceased to exist as I knew them, at least in my mind anyway.
We’ll start with the Cancer research clan. As it happens the week I spent in Washington was also the week the capital city played host to the largest cancer research convention in the world. This meant circa 20,000 researchers (maybe more) were in town, staying in hostels and hotels all over the city, several of which were in mine. The makeup in my hostel consisted of 2 guys from Canada, 2 girls from France and a guy from Argentina (at least the ones I got close to anyway, I’m sure there were plenty more). The combined intellect between this group of people was commendable, several were working on their PhD’s, most had already finished theirs and were based in research labs. They stressed the importance of the convention was to present their research and findings that they’ve been working on for years or more, to provoke interest from pharmaceutical companies and seek investment in their research to take it to clinical trial stage (pretty important then).
Get a few drinks down these highly impassioned scientists and in no time you’ll be discussing the biological makeup of a cell, how it reproduces and more to the point how cancer cells defy that. Don’t even get them started on the debate of preventative medicine versus cure medicine (you’ll be there all night, literally).
I learnt a lot from these fantastically educated people, why you shouldn’t rely on antibiotics too much every time you get ill, not to OCD wash your hands as it legitimately makes them dirtier due to the 5% of germs that antibacterial hand wash can’t kill & how they reproduce even stronger, how the immune system actually works, new vaccines that prevent cervical cancer that aren’t yet widely publicised (which you can get for free in Argentina), the list goes on. I won’t bore you with a list of scientific facts, fascinating as they are (I’ve always been a science dork at heart), that’s not how these people changed my life.
My biggest takeaway came from the lab worker from Argentina, this time I know his name but for fun and to continue my previous blogs theme, let’s call him ‘Meraki’ (Meraki – to do something with soul, creativity or love. To put something of yourself into your work).
Meraki was slightly older than I am, and certainly far wiser as I was about to find out. He was in my hostel for 4 nights of my stay there, each of which we all spent on the patio (not just the cancer research clan there were several of us), drinking, debating and conversing in general. Many people were interested in my story, mainly because I’m a 24 year old girl from England that packed up her cushty life and career to travel America on her own (we’ll go into more detail on me another time).
Meraki was especially interested, he asked a lot of questions which I was happy to answer, the child in me that asks ‘why’ that one time too many enjoys meeting people equally curious. I loved hearing him talk about his research, he delivered the news with such passion that I believed in him, even though I have no actual knowledge of his research nor have I ever seen it, his eyes lit up to such an extent whenever he spoke about it, I had no choice but to believe him. I congratulated him on this innate and rare quality, I continued that he was ‘lucky’ to be doing what he is passionate about every day. To which he asked me ‘And what are you passionate about Sophie?’ I was slightly stunted. Its the first time I’ve been asked that in a while. I think my response was something along the lines of ‘I guess that’s what I’m here trying to figure out’. He proceeded to ask when I’m happiest and I showed him the journal I carry around with me and have written in every day since the start of my trip. He urged me to start writing a blog there and then, but I don’t think I was ready yet. I needed Sanguine for that.
Meraki proceeded to offer an insight into his quality of life…
Life in Argentina is very different. We don’t have as many opportunities as in the westernised countries, the government lies about our average salaries to make us sound better than we actually are, giving us less benefits, but the truth is it is still very much a developing country. The one great thing about the country is that education and university are free, so we can choose a field we enjoy and better ourselves. Many of my friends chose the corporate world too (id told him I was in a corporate role previously), and they are doing very well in their fields, they have fancy cars and briefcases and a better salary than I do, but every time I meet up with them they are unhappy and moaning about something.”
I asked him what he meant by this and I can still hear his Argentine accent in my head all the while speaking effortless English..
They drive a fancy car and carry a fancy briefcase to a job that they hate, and every time I see them they have complaints about something. I do not have a car, because I cannot afford one. I ride my bicycle to work, with a rucksack on my back, to a job that I love, and i have no complaints. I only make enough money to get by, but I’m one of the few people I know that can say they can’t wait to get to work each morning, I love and am fulfilled by my job every day, and I would do it even if I didn’t get paid.”
Smack me in the face why don’t you, I felt close to tears. How does this stranger I barely know evoke so much emotion in me? Is it because I envy his life? He earns 1000 dollars a month which even in Argentine pesos is not enough to get by. And yet he is the happiest, most fulfilled and grateful person I have ever spoken to. Thank you for the life lesson Meraki; ‘Allow your passion to become your purpose and it will one day become your profession (and you’d do it even if you didn’t get paid)’.
I guess the lasting thought of this blog should be; What are you passionate about? Are you working in that field? I’d love to hear your thoughts if this inspires anyone.
Also please comment if you liked it and I will message ‘meraki’ and let him know how many lives he’s touched 🙂
Photo below taken in Boston downtown of a plaque dedicated to Bill Russel, Boston Celtics Captain who ‘redefined the game of basketball, leading the Celtics to an unparalleled string of eleven championships in thirteen years’.