It was 2018, when I first came to Amsterdam for a 3 month stay. It was the first year of my PhD, I was younger and naïve (I like to believe I still am young and naïve…) and I was not good at riding a bike. Now, after 4 years, I’m on the final year of my PhD, and I started commuting 20 km by bike.
My athletic self was left behind in March 2020, when I was practicing Kung Fu and even attending competitions. The pandemic struck, my PhD had an interesting turn of events, the pandemic continued in full power, and in April 2021, I was back in Amsterdam, to continue a PhD that was far from straight forward (like all PhDs, I believe). In the past 2 years, I became a couch potato, with some anecdotal yoga practices to compensate for my endless hours sitting on a desk, lab bench or, of course, the couch. However, last week, I started commuting 20km a day, on a Dutch bike with no gears, just leg power. I was used to doing a fourth of that, and I was surprised how, during the journey, I found myself thinking: “This is no different from my PhD”.
Sounds odd, but that’s exactly what I felt. Each pedalling was painful (especially after moving heavy furniture all weekend) and I was anxious because I was afraid to be late. The more I pedalled the slower I was getting, because my legs were getting tired too fast, and I was losing my momentum in crucial parts of the route (e.g., going down a bridge). Then I noticed that this was exactly what was happening in my PhD life, and I smiled at how ironic this was. I relaxed my legs and body, I looked around, and noticed the first signs of Spring. Pedalling was not painful anymore, it was pleasant, it was easy. The anxiety gave place to a sentiment of peace, and, when I finally locked my bike, I enjoyed my accomplishment.
Is that how all this is supposed to be?