Matilda

When I got to Ireland, I needed something to distract me from the journey that got me to moving to Ireland and from what yet lies ahead (bear with me, this makes more sense in a minute or two), so I looked through my landlord’s bookcase and found Roald Dahl’s Matilda. If you’re not familiar with the book, there is a quite popular 90ies movie too (although I suspect you’re almost quicker reading the book than watching the movie). Matilda is a peculiar child, she is very smart and gifted, for example, she taught herself to read at the age of three. At that age I barely learnt how to speak… For the longest time my parents suspected that I may be deaf because I wouldn’t have any verbal responses to anything they said, but truth to be told, to this day this is how I get to know people, I quietly sit next to them and try to figure them out until I feel comfortable and then I shower them with all the thoughts that have been bubbling inside my head. ANYWAYS, back to Matilda: Her family didn’t pay any attention to her extraordinary abilities. So, instead of trying to convince them that she was worthy of their attention, Matilda buried herself into books, not taking notice of anyone or anything else. This was her normal, one that she created, one that allowed her to cope with what was going on around her (now we’re getting somewhere…). As I inhaled the words of the book (I am not really a fast reader but once I’m in a story, good luck getting me out of it), I started to see the parallels…

Moving to Ireland has been (compared to moving to Norway) a pure joy and quite easy, actually. Now, to be fair I’ve done my research before (which I definitely didn’t do when we moved to Oslo), I knew where I wanted to live and found an amazing place to stay (with an adorable puppy who greets me at the door every evneing and then showers me with all her love). I’ve started my dream position, one that has already lived up to all my expectations and more. But with all the greatness, there is always sorrow. I won’t go into the details of missing my incredibly amazing (and handsome ;-)) husband, but of course, being away from him is hard. But that’s not even the most difficult thing…

Every few days or so I meet with the amazing people that put all their trust in me, believing that I could handle doing a PhD and contribute to a huge project that may lay the foundation of how we (as society) use the oceans in the next ten to twenty years (if you haven’t noticed from the way I phrased this, this is a pretty huge deal). This also meant that all of a sudden, without any prior warning, I’ve become an expert, people come to me for advice, they expect me to know my stuff, and here I am, mostly quietly nodding while in my head I am screaming on the top of my lungs, asking desperately “WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?”. People throw lingo and ideas and conceptual frameworks around and meanwhile my hand is cramping while I take notes, trying to make sure that I read up on all these things, just so next time I can actually contribute to the conversation, and yet, the very next meeting there is a million more concepts I’ve never even heard about… I walk out of these meetings feeling utterly exhausted, defeated, and gutted. Somehow, in an hour meeting I went from feeling decent about all the things I’ve done and read to feeling incredibly small… I let that feeling sink in and it sinks to the depths of my mental ocean.

Every night I come home, pet the puppy for about an hour, look into the fridge and realize that I am now in charge of my own diet (which if you know me a little bit, is a horrible thing, but I’ve been cooking every night, and have been reasonably healthy). Then I go to my room, lay on my bed and fall asleep. Every morning, I get up, still feeling exhausted from the day before and every now and then I manage to go for a run, then I take my shower and look into the mirror and then… There it is, that little glimpse of excitement, the smile on the lips, the happiness rushing over me: I am exactly, 100% where I wanted to be, and how often in life do you get to do just that and have that realization every single morning?

See, from the outside Matilda’s life looked miserable, while her family was out and about and visibly neglecting her, she carried on, transported herself into different worlds every day while reading, and (without spoiling the end of the book or if you’re lazy the movie for you) comes out on top. It took someone else for Matilda to see how amazing she really was, and that someone loved her to pieces in ways that Matilda probably didn’t know that she needed to be loved. She lived her normal, because that’s how you get through the tough times until everything gets better and believe you me, everything does get better, it always does.

I know though, that things will get even worse as I will move on, my mental ocean will throw some serious mental tsunamis at me (it’s just the nature of the career that I chose for myself and I am okay with it). There will be plenty more nights where I will have to cook for myself (which seriously is just the WORST), and there will MANY more meetings where I won’t know what freight train hit me and I will have to carry on and sort it out… But mostly, I will sit and read about anything and everything, making sure that I know as much as possible before I proceed with making recommendations for ocean life and use. I will bury myself into my room, read one book after another, one academic article after another, creating my own beautiful mind mental image of all the things I’ve read (don’t get me started on what my work space looks like at the moment, there are post-it notes and books and used coffee mugs all over the place and I’ve only been here for three weeks).

It’s just the nature of life, to have good days and bad days, to feel good about yourself and not so good, but the most important thing is to recognize that no matter how small you feel on some days, we all sometimes need someone else to recognize how amazing we are. So today, maybe don’t do the Matilda thing, but do the other thing, recognize how extraordinary all the Matildas around you are. Look around you and see if there’s someone who may need an extra smile, an extra nudge, an extra cup of tea and I guarantee you, they will thank you for it…

Roald Dahl’s Matilda

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