Let me serenade you in a lab…(Am I endearing yet?)

♪♫♪ If you were here we’d laugh about their vacant stares, but right now my time is theirs…

Ever since summer started, I’ve felt a little direction-less because there seems a disconnection between what I know what I have to get done and what I actually want to do. I’ve been spending a lot of time lounging about doing semi-productive things that schooltime-Sarah probably could have accomplished much quicker…but even so, I must say that I have gotten a lot of things done that have been on my “bucket list” for quite some time.

In terms of “business” — that is, school, work next year, other important things — one big thing I’m happy about is that I got a research position! That’s kind of a big deal for me because it’ll be my first real research done here at UIC (I participated in summer research at Northwestern a couple years ago but I haven’t done any projects since then.) Although the lab work I did in the past, which revolved around protein expression in prostate cancer, was very interesting, I didn’t always find myself enthused to go to work every day. My time there was also very short, so perhaps I also didn’t feel as involved. As a result, I wouldn’t say that I’ve spent two years avoiding research per say, but I didn’t actually seek it out actively…perhaps because internally I was never really sure working in a lab is something I would want to pursue. I’ve consulted with my wonderful Honors College Faculty Fellow, former professor, and confidante Dr. Cohen (from the GPPA Medicine program) about my dilemma before, and she has always been reassuring to me that research is certainly not something I must do if it doesn’t interest me. But there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to forego research at one of the best research institutions in the country when there are literally opportunities at my fingertips all the time. I spent the last few weeks of school applying and applying for a summer position (often not getting a response at all…which is expected but still disheartening at times), and it was relieving to finally get the emails for some interviews. About a week ago, I got the news that I got a position with UICentre! I headed back into the city last week and already met the graduate student that I will work with this summer and she was very friendly and answered all of my questions and concerns. However, I can’t help but still be quite nervous because during the interview, it was made very clear that if I didn’t do a good job during the first month (which serves as a trial period or sorts) I would be terminated from the position.

“Nothing personal or anything,” explained the professor. “But lab work is just not for everyone.”

However, I’m going to bet on myself this summer and hope that I will be able to be a careful enough person in the lab…I know lab work may not be for me, though. I guess I will find out if it’s something I am competent in as well as something I would like to do this. As for what exactly I’ll be doing in the lab…I confess I’m not quite certain yet! Not very much was explained to me, but I was assured training would come. Here’s hoping that the first month goes well!

Now business aside…all the fun I’ve been having! It might be silly because I spend almost every day at home – I share a car with others in my family so don’t have access much – and often alone because my parents are work and my brother is at the library studying for his own exams. And yet I have been enjoying myself immensely by throwing myself into guitar. I’m afraid I kind of neglected my guitar throughout the school year even though it sat in my room all year long. I would always tinker on my keyboard instead because the piano is much more familiar to me. When I did pick up the guitar, I could barely struggle through a Youtube tutorial. A year ago, last summer, I unearthed my father’s old guitar which had been in the basement for 20+ years and I immediately tried to learn it. Sadly, even after taking a group guitar course all summer, I lacked the drive and time to get really good at the open chords. I could strum and pluck some music in front of me, but that was it.

Well, no more nonsense! I have started seriously practicing at last, and after strumming day after day until my fingers went from callused to numb, I can finally manage a few songs! I feel much more confident about playing several important chords now (namely C, G, D, Dm, E, Em, F, A, Am, and Bm), and luckily, the wonderful thing about guitar is that for many songs you only need to know 4 or 5 chords! Of course, the much more difficult chords are still, literally, beyond my reach (can my fingers even bend that way?!? Ugh, barre chords…) so I have a lot to learn. But just these two weeks have been a huge improvement! However, I am still working on getting my strumming patterns smooth by switching chords faster.

If anyone is looking to start guitar, I suggest finding some easy songs you know by heart and could sing in your sleep and just strum to the melody in your head. I found that to be the easiest way for me to be motivated to practice and get the chord progressions to happen more smoothly. For me…and this might be embarrassing…that song happened to be Ours by Taylor Swift, haha, much to my brother’s disdain for having to listen to me all day. But the song, like many T Swift tunes, only uses 4 chords so it was perfect to start with! After managing that, I started searching online for more and more songs and tutorials that I was familiar with. Now, I cannot stress enough that I really do not have a good singing voice…at all…but I can’t help but love it! So it’s been such fun for me to finally provide my own “backup” and sing to it! (I’ve never been coordinated enough to sing and play piano at the same time, ha.) Lately, my mom keeps coming into my room late at night as I’m still strumming and singing away, asking if I’m about to hold a concert or something haha. And I reply, nope – just having a grand time on my own.

Maybe one day if I’m feeling REALLY REALLY  brave I’ll post something on Youtube or something…but I never imagined I would be able to do something like that. I’ve always been very private when it comes to singing because I’m so self-conscious. But who knows? If I do though, I’ll be sure to keep you all posted and link it here too :)

Until I go back to school on June 15th for summer classes, I’ve got to enjoy the time I have…because then it’ll be back to a rush of classes, studying, and research every day. In the meantime, I’ll probably still keep strumming some old Swiftie favorites ♥

People throw rocks at things that shine / And life makes love look hard / The stakes are high, the water’s rough, but this love is ours ♪♫♪

(Ours by Taylor Swift)
Picutre of author

About Sarah Lee

Hi, I'm Sarah! I am a junior Neuroscience student in GPPA Medicine who is still trying to figure out exactly what I want to do in my life. One day I want to be fluent in Russian and explore Eastern Europe. In my free time, I love running, playing piano and guitar, and reading. I currently live in Courtyard residence hall as a Peer Mentor but my home is in Naperville.

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