Today I’m headed on a fellowship to Israel, where I’ll spend a couple weeks reporting on fascinating sciencey things. So far I’ve been in two different airports, and I still haven’t left the U.S. But I don’t mind. I’d forgotten how much I love airports, just sitting and observing—the calm amidst the chaos. It reminded me of a blog post I wrote almost seven years ago when I was about to embark on my first international adventure as an adult. For my nostalgia, and your entertainment:
Airports are the perfect oxymoron.
They are the harbingers of tears while at the same time couriers of joy. They are as structured as they are chaotic, as full of hope as despair. They are an end and a beginning simultaneously.
In an airport, all walks of life gather with great hope, with great faith that a thin sheath of metal will hold true and deliver them safely to those waiting on the ground. In an airport, as in life, everything is a gamble, and the only constant is the understanding that nothing is ever constant at all.
But among the comings and goings of thousands there is a distinct aura of budding potential, which is why, despite my usual lack of moxie, I wasn’t nervous when I found myself sitting in the terminal of SFO, waiting for my own end/beginning.
On Oct. 14, I will officially be a visiting scholar at the University of Oxford, UK there to study geography. At around 3 p.m. that same day I’ll walk into my first class, of which I am the only member, prepared to argue the stance I took in a 2,500-word essay that my professor will expect to be without flaw.
I’ll be required to read dozens of books a week, and, consequently, I’ll make good friends with the research assistants at the Bodleian Library. My skin will probably get whiter — if that’s even possible — and I’ll develop an affinity for fish and chips as well as Yorkshire pudding. I’ll attend formal dinners dressed in traditional black robes and cheer on the rowing team when Oxford challenges Cambridge.
And there will be bad days: times when I’ll wonder why I traded a brilliantly sunny California for the wretchedly gloomy days of Oxford, times when I’ll question whether I can keep up with the intense workload plus the stress of being a foreigner.
Yet, even now, sitting on the plane, one train transfer and a short walk away from meeting my new home, I’m still not intimidated. In fact, I’m ready, ready for the essays, the reading, the new food — all of it.
Maybe I still have a touch of that airport optimism in me, but as far as I’m concerned, everything and everyone has potential, including me.