Today is my last experiment, and tomorrow I develop it, analyze it, and leave lab for good.
Leaving a lab is sort of like leaving an apartment you've lived in for four years. Instead of food in the fridge, you have reagents and solutions in several fridges as well as up to five freezers of different temperatures. Going through these can be kind of depressing, since I wrote the date on them, and some of them date from 2003. 2003, for God's sake!!! There are also emergency supplies (such as a real necessity for research, aspirin) stashed around, a lots of random things with crazy memories attached to them.
Case in point: We have a small troll doll--the kind with the crazy hair--that has been our lab mascot for years. It dates from a time when I was on my way back from another facility about 20 miles away at 1am, having just finished an impressively boring 6 hour experiment. I realized I was starving, which made sense, because I had last eaten at lunch. So, I stopped at McD's and got a happy meal. Inside was this crazy troll doll and I thought, you know, this is the perfect mascot for our lab. Why? Because things like this make a lot of sense at 1am.
There's also the white mouse stuffed animal that one of my best friends left on my desk when I found out my mom had breast cancer. My giant microbe collection (don't laugh--they're awesome!), my Wonder Woman pez dispenser, green tea, and my Far Side cartoons... you know, the random crap that got me through the day.
Packing these things up gives me the finish I didn't get--it is graduation from grad school. Am I happy? Ecstatic. But a little sad. It's hard to leave something you've been doing for four years. I'll really miss the people. Okay, some of the people. Some of them I'm hoping to see soon, and some of them I'm hoping to see in prison, or perhaps cornered by bears.
The weird thing is that I don't really have a place for this stuff any more. Where does it go now? In a box, I suppose, with the rest of the souviners from previous stages of my life.
Except the troll. That stays, because I had to leave a few people behind that are going to need a mascot.