I graduated with a master's degree a couple of months ago. Even though I have neglected this blog in recent years and I still don't feel like a real geophysicist, technically graduation marked the end of the Long Way to Go. My blog used to be an important part of the path I had started in 2007 and I therefore decided to conclude this chapter with one last entry.
I created A Long Way to Go at the beginning of my sophomore year in 2008, which however feels much longer ago after everything that has happened in these seven and a half years. Looking back at the very first entry, I intended to simply describe my way from a student to a geophysicist. I never had been a fan of diaries, but at that time I discovered a completely new world and I felt the urge to share my highs and lows with an audience for whom I hoped my words somehow might be helpful. I don't know how successful I was with that, but the blog certainly helped me to process my experiences. Further, I met some amazing people whom I probably wouldn't have get to know without it.
Those who have followed my blog over the years saw how I took a pretty long detour with my education and career. I finished in the top five percent of my program of the last three years, but due to the long time gap since my last exams, graduation felt much more like the belated fullfilment of an old duty than a reason for celebration. I could be somewhere else - maybe better, maybe worse - if I had kept my focus entirely on my studies, but I never felt like this was the mark I wanted to leave behind. I strive to leave places in a better shape than I came across them and I thought I could combine this idealism with an efficient progress towards graduation - and it actually worked quite well for many years - but in the end it just wasn't meant to be. Either way, even though most of my projects and their accomplishments appear more like footprints on a beach which get slowly washed away, I would go for them again without hesitation. I have come to terms with myself that their real value doesn't lie in a preferably long existence, but in the good memories of the people who experienced and enjoyed them.
I can't tell yet if I am going join the chorus of those who refer to their studies as the best time of their lives because I enrolled at university from Johann Gottfried Herder High School. My time at high school was an amazing and formative period for me because we constantly supported and pushed each other to simply become better. Unfortunately, I rarely found this healthy competition at Freie Universität Berlin and I'm not even talking about absolute quality but the desire for relative improvement, individually and as a group. I lost my romantic view of academia pretty fast, but it took me a quite a while and many conversations with students and professionals from other countries to realize that this wasn't about a single university. Complacency is omnipresent. In contrast to the often frustrating daily grind, so much more intensive and memorable were the moments with the few people who shared the desire to excel and achieve something by doing more than what is necessary. They brought out the absolute best in me and regardless of how many things have changed, I am deeply grateful for what I learned from them and achieved with them. I will remember that for good.
In retrospect, the toughest challenge in all these years was my exposure to the transient nature of friendships, family, love, and life itself. In the face of farewell all the nonsense on which we are spending most of our energy became completely irrelevant. However, two years ago after I had lost almost everyone who had been giving me strength and everything I had believed in, in the end I even lost the faith in myself and joy over what I was doing. I was just waiting for the final nail in the coffin and came pretty close to quitting the geosciences. I can't really explain what happened, but everything came down to a mixture of defiance and awareness of why I had chosen this path in the first place. My priorities have changed, but today I am glad I rediscovered my self-esteem and have continued to follow my personal long way to go towards all the things I still want to see and achieve.