This afternoon our group, the Terrestrial Ecology Group at the Technical University of Munich had the first session of its annual ‘postdoc retreat’. The idea of the retreat is to revisit our group’s vision and mission, by first discussing what a vision is and what a mission is. Some people think that what is a vision, is actually a mission, and vice versa. At the end of this fruitful and enjoyable discussion, the conclusion is always the same. Let’s come up with something for now. Deciding whether a mission is a vision – or a vision is a mission – is for next year. The rest of the meeting was spent on discussing our research.
For our retreat, we met on Zoom (how original), and this meant I retreated into my office. It’s a bit of a contrast from last year’s retreat… which was spent in my home office. I’m not sure if it is a real improvement, but at least the internet connection is much better, I can put my shoes off and stick my feet out the south-facing window, without too many people noticing. I don’t mind having retreats in my office. I have a nice office. Having said that, I hope that we can next year have a retreat somewhere nice, because a change of environment can be quite inspiring and productive. During my PhD we went on annual writing retreats to places out of reach of the institute and with little else than nature in the close surroundings, and every retreat I returned both refreshed and with a more or less finished draft manuscript.
Today’s session was closed with a social event. It was not much of an event, other than that some of us were scavenging through the remains of former celebrations in the refrigerator, mainly in the form of beers or wine. The result was a bottle of white wine (apparently from Würzburg, a city of which I have only horrible memories). We all shared a glass of overly sweet white wine. It was the first time in 1.5 years of being at this University that I actually consumed alcohol with colleagues.
Most of the people that know me today would not think this of me, but I used to drink a lot. Like, a lot a lot… In the area where I grew up, it was sort of normal to down half a crate of beer per person, before even going to the pub, and more than that was not unheard of. It was not because we were alcoholics, although ‘by the rules’ I guess we were. It was more because it was the norm. All of ‘us’ teens behaved that way, and we were not even the worst. We were regularly joined by some of my friends’ parents. No one thought anything of it. Between age 14-18, I spent so much money on beers that I could have probably bought a reasonably nice new car, or repay my entire student loan in one go. In contrast with most people, I guess, my alcohol consumption went down by quite a bit in my early student days. My first experiences with anxiety in those early years at university led me to have regular health check-ups, the first of which revealed highly active liver functioning, which, in hindsight, made total sense. No drinking on doctor’s orders for six months, and all looked much better. The ability to drink in those amounts never returned. Getting together with Heike, growing up and later becoming a father (in that order) have further decreased consumption. I now mostly drink water, tea or coffee, and for alcoholic beverages, my preference goes to alcohol-free beer, water, tea or coffee.
I sometimes find it quite remarkable that I even have a functioning brain cell left… It is something I now ocassionally think of and label as quite bizarre and not something I’m necessarily proud of. You can’t change the past.
An interesting side-effect, a sharp contrast to how I behaved in the past, is that I cannot drink for shit. Seriously, half a glass of wine and I feel pretty wasted. Two sips and I feel the alcohol running through my brain. I cannot remember me being affected like that before (maybe I did lose some brain cells). At 7 PM, I call it a day, and walk home. Head in the clouds. One small glass of wine. Now, two hours after finishing the wine, I’m already experiencing the hangover, including a throbbing headache. I should have known that drinking this Würzburg white wine would be bad for karma.
Fucking booze. I can’t handle it anymore.