Sometimes, motivation comes from the most unexpected places. On Monday, it came from the undergrad sitting next to me on the bus- at 10:30 pm, after I’d been in lab for 13 hours. I’m typically not one to engage in conversation with strangers on the bus, and especially not at that hour of night. But after a few nonchalant responses to this particular stranger’s questions, I decided that he seemed nice enough and that there was no harm in chatting with him during the remaining 5 minutes of my bus ride home. Little did I know that this short conversation would actually put a whole different perspective onto my day.
The beginning of the conversation was menial small talk. And then, the question that would spin the whole conversation: “Where do you work?”
I mentioned that I work in a research lab, specifically studying cancer immunology (which I subsequently explained). Immediately he was engaged. “How’d you get into that kind of research?” was his next question. He seemed truly interested, so I explained to him that when I used to work as a day camp counselor, one of the little girls in my group was recovering from brain cancer. [I'll have to post the entire story on the blog here at some point.]
“Wow,” he said. “That’s huge. That’s like, bigger than you, bigger than me, than any of us- that’s really important work you’re doing. That’s really great.”
And that’s just what I needed to hear, after 13 hours in the lab on a Monday. Quite honestly, during my day to day work I rarely think about the implications of my research outside of whether the results might help me get funding or a decent publication. It just took the stranger on the bus pointing them out to give my day a much brighter perspective.