I’ve been out of isolation and in Auckland, New Zealand, setting up the next stage of life. Finding a house to rent, essential furniture and appliances, and thinking about what the next stage of life will be. I loved my time at ONI. I was able to contribute to a genuinely positive mission, I worked on cutting edge scientific research, and it was the most powerful personal development I’ve experienced. I will miss professional life, but for the next few months at least I’ll be going back to school. Tomorrow I start studying Information Technology (basic computer programming) at the University of Auckland.
As I reflect on the last week of Managed Isolation and Quarantine, I realise that I have once again overestimated my free time in a period without formal work obligations. Despite repeatedly over committing to weekend activities and holiday to-do lists, I have not managed to learn to be conservative about my expectations of time off. When times are busy, side projects and nice-to-dos are easy to set aside, drifting lightly on their low import into amorphous blocks of time like these two weeks of hotel confinement. Having arrived here, the actual number of tasks I’d like to accomplish is overwhelming, and without clear hierarchy. Friends are kindly advising me that after an intense 3 years at ONI, a little seemingly unproductive rest is actually the most productive thing I could be doing, but those sensible comments pale compared with the guilt at not accomplishing what I set out to do. Perhaps next time I will remember this reality, having written about it in place of the topics I would have liked to explore given more time.
Today I’m writing from the tarmac in Singapore, surrounded by people making the journey from Heathrow to Auckland. We are unable to leave the aircraft, isolating to protect the locals from possible transmission of the UK strain. It is strangely familiar to be flying after more than a year; the same Android based entertainment systems, the same tray portioned food, the same cacophony of mewling infants to make sleep a little more difficult. The masks are new, as are the temperature checks, but overall it’s not that different to flights past.
It’s been a particularly strange transition. In some ways, it’s a very sudden change. Yesterday I was in Oxford, tomorrow I’ll be in Auckland, almost opposite sides of the world. The UK has suffered thousands of deaths and is under tight restrictions of movement, life in New Zealand is largely as normal with virtually no cases. Despite the geographic and social change, having worked from home and living out of a suitcase the past few weeks, the coming two weeks in quarantine is likely to feel much the same as my last two weeks in lockdown.
I will deeply miss the community I shared at ONI. In my last few days I was left feeling so deeply appreciated by my friends (who happen to be colleagues) that the words that feel most true are to say I feel loved. Perhaps it has revealed an over investment, emotionally and socially, in my work. I prefer to think of it as having had the privilege to belong in a community of people who shared principles, who inspired me to be better, and who were reliably kind in the face of immense challenge.
I am excited for the adventure to come. Moving is an opportunity to set new goals, find new friends, and attempt to amplify strengths and leave weaknesses behind. It is likely changing countries in the midst of a global pandemic will be the most significant part of this year for me, but I hope that it is just the beginning of something even more meaningful.