I went to Chicago intent on falling in love with the town which held one of only 2 graduate programs in the country I was interested in. Pharmacognosy is the study of natural plants for medicinal purposes as I talked about in my Herbalism post. I’d been especially picky in choosing schools since my goals for grad school were well defined. I knew exactly what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it and that this place was the best for it.
The school flew me up there to tour, arranging the flight and hotel room, pairing me and the other two candidates with professors and students to spend a day in the life. They hosted a formal dinner for us and after we went out partying with the students, playing pool and talking about medicinal chemistry as only chemistry nerds can.
However, as I wandered the city the next day, morning light coming in across Lake Michigan reflecting on the metal structures of Millennium Park, I settled myself into the idea that this place would be my home for the next 5 years.
And I almost started crying.
Of all the breakdowns I’ve had, this one caught me most unaware. Granted a night of drinking doesn’t do wonders for your emotional state the next day but I’m not one to really break down in public in tears. I’m not really one to break down in tears ever. But still, I sat on a park bench, quickly approaching disaster.
I pulled myself together, had a coffee, rode around the metro to get a scope of the city, and tried to talk myself down from the cliff. Of course, I didn't know what it was specifically, but my body and I get along well enough that I trust it’s instincts about things.
It was the lack of green. No trees, no forest, no apparent wilderness. My standard stress reliever is to get in my car and drive through the back country where it’s only green trees and blue skies. To head out to some secluded spot where I can just lay in the grass and get some fresh air. Chicago had none of that. It was all office complexes, high rises, miles and miles of sidewalk and pavement stretching as far as the eye could see.
I hated it. I couldn't do it. I couldn't live here.
So I tucked my tail between my legs and headed back to Alabama. While touring the school I had asked the professor tasked with leading us how many people they planned to accept into the program that year. He looked at me and said, "Well, you three." indicating me and my two touring companions. I was so heartbroken to know the message I would have to deliver when they asked when I'd be registering. I told them I'd like to defer my enrollment for a year. Maybe a year off of school would change my mind, and I'd be dying to get back in it.
But it didn't I worked at Whole Foods in the vitamin department spreading my love of herbals that way until I got my present opportunity to go be in nuclear power. Sometimes I look back and wonder what life would be like if I had made the leap. Would I be done with my PhD now? Doubtful though possible six years later. Would I have traveled to Spain and the Amazon to research exotic plant species and cure cancer? Hopefully. I like my life now. It's given me so many opportunities to learn and do whatever I wanted. To travel and write and pursue my other hobbies. Still, I can't help but wonder sometimes if I made the wrong choice.