• The incredible light of a Sunday morning in December in Southern California;
  • Getting positive feedback on my work;
  • Snow-covered mountains seen from an airplane;
  • Being recognized for my work[1];
  • Late planes;
  • Presenting my poster for the whole of my poster session. And during a break. And during another break. And later on on the corner of a tablecloth;
  • The sound of the waves crashing against the shore, a few feet from us in the dark;
  • Giving up on sleep at 6am and go for a swim in an outdoor pool on a hotel roof, while giggling madly with a friend;
  • Hearing about great science;
  • A hummingbird;
  • Dancing a mix of salsa and west coast swing on music that's only appropriate for it in that it has a beat, in the middle of the sketchiest nightclub I've ever seen;
  • Having a professor I did not really dare bugging once more about letters of recommendation coming to me, apologizing about not responding, and offering to write them right away;
  • Sand between my toes;
  • Devising all sorts of new scientific projects;
  • Remembering that the best part about wearing make up is sharing lipstick with a friend. And hear her go "wow" as you're done applying it;
  • Sharing a bottle of Sierra Nevada with an old friend in the lobby of a hotel;
  • The aggression of slot machines, windowless corridors, and smelly food;
  • Lindy-hopping to music we hum in the street;
  • Tediously sitting through an entire afternoon of talks, courtesy of the report I was to send back to the department;
  • The barely contained cheerfulness of a friend, so happy to be back in California he gave up on such mundane things as articulating and talking about a single topic at once[2];
  • Laughing at reviews rejecting a paper of mine;
  • Being stuck in a windowless, disorienting casino-hotel for most of the day;
  • Catching up, many years later, with a guy whose path had once crossed mine, and getting along as if we had indeed been friends for all those years;
  • Jet-lag;
  • Being asked out, actually asked out, for the first time in... all that[3];
  • Discussing a project with a collaborator, kneeling in a corridor;
  • Taking pictures of surfers;
  • Napping whenever I can;
  • Telling a sexist guy to go stuff himself;
  • Stepping off an airplane and being able to give directions to people;
  • Sitting in inspiring keynotes;
  • Offering my somewhat skeptical shoulder to a guy complaining that the girl he likes is a "dude magnet"[4] and that he's too old to like her anyway;
  • Hours and hours and hours of awesome conversation (scientific and otherwise);
  • Being once more totally entitled to use the word "awesome" once per sentence in average;
  • Eating dinner on the patio, just like so many years before;
  • Compliments, of all sorts, mostly on my work, occasionally on my dancing;
  • Hanging out with a former roommate;
  • Spending more than one hour in front of the same exciting poster;
  • Attending the fifth holiday party organized by the grad students association—while being one of the rare people in attendance who were there for the first;
  • A shy smile from an adorable two-year old, over the cup of coffee I'm sharing with her parents;
  • Giving advice to a professor on the talk he's preparing;
  • Endeavour;
  • Sharing a bottle of bubbly with my favorite woman in the whole of America;
  • And, last but not least: being told about my dream job, and of how good a fit for it I seem to be, and of how nice it is that I apply, by the guy who opened the position; being told by various colleagues how great it would be that I get the job and move closer to them. Not daring to dream too much about it, but doing my damn best to prepare the most fantastic application I can.

Californian Sunset


[1] "Hey! You're that girl who wrote that paper?! Wow!" is a sentence I'd be happy to have heard only once in my life... and I heard it twice already.

[2] "It could be drugs. Do you think he does drugs? Nah, you're right, it's probably just the sun, the ocean, and his old friends. You speak faster yourself, actually."

[3] Spatio-temporal constraints made accepting impossible.

[4] He had a point. Girl leaves the room, five random guys follow her. I leave the room, there's a faint possibility one of my friends takes less than five minutes to notice.