As soon as I finish writing this, I will walk out the door of the Science building's room 3027 and probably never enter this specific room again. For over a year now it's been a place of joy, comraderie, and growth. It's also been a place of frustration, stress, and hard work. It's been a safe haven for me and an obligation, and I can comfortably say there's never been a single moment where I didn't want to be here. It's the research lab that I've trained in, and I've built memories here that will last me a lifetime.
It wasn't until I signed the last page of my notebook and slid it into my drawer that it hit me just how much I will miss this room. I'll miss the ancient computer that sometimes has trouble running the nanodrop 2000. I'll miss the whiteboard from the other lab, constantly filled with hilarious comments and drawings (currently there's a drawing of the moon with a person and a beaver on it, with the words "Beavers ARE Like Humans Because beavers DID Land on THE MOON :). Also a duck asking a kid if he wants some Quack.) I'll miss the gorgeous view overlooking the campus and parts of Denver, that on more than one occasion distracted me from my work. Most of all, though, I'll miss the people. It's trite, but I really will. I'll remember them all fondly, and while a couple are facebook friends now, I know it won't be the same as seeing them 3-4 times a week.
Most of all, however, I'm going to miss my mentor in this project. She's been a huge asset to me and helped me to grow from the ignorant, inexperienced student hoping to learn how to run a gel to the slightly-less ignorant, bit more experienced student who's leaving today. She welcomed my mistakes, and never once was irritated when I screwed up a gel or eluted a plasmid in 500 microliters of buffer instead of 50 (though for that one I think she laughed a little, and rightly so). She's the first college instructor that I really felt I could speak plainly with about things outside of academia, and she helped me grow in confidence as a student and as a researcher. I wouldn't have applied to Harvard if it wasn't for her, not because she encouraged me to directly, but because her confidence and support allowed me to feel confident enough to reach for the unlikely. She showed me that you can be brilliant and be human without having to sacrifice either, and I will miss working for her more than the view or the whiteboard.
I'm looking forward to the future, but it's sad to leave the present. Graduation is less than two weeks away, and is at once glorious and somber. Leaving this lab today is a microcosm of the bigger issue: soon I will be leaving everything that's been familiar to me for the last five plus years. It's hard, but it's time. I'm a different person than I was when I entered Metro. I'm more mild-mannered, less idealistic, more confident, more knowledgable, yet more aware of how precious little I actually do know, and most impotantly, more pleased with who I am. I entered this university seeking to change my life because I was no longer content with a career in a field that didn't hold my interest, because I wanted to make up for the foolishness of my early 20s. Even if I don't get into any of the graduate programs at any of the universities I applied to, I've met that goal. I look at myself in the mirror and I genuinely like who I am. I have great friends, a wonderful girlfriend who likes me even more than I like myself, and most importantly a future to truly be excited for. It's time to move on.
That doesn't make it any easier, though.