Today was my coming out party as I think about it, my debutante ball. (And I have way too many gay friends to not know the typical meaning of coming out, and I’ve been wondering what closet I’ve been in that I might be coming out of…) I’m not sure whether it was Robyn who called it this or whether it’s Michael and Rob who tease me at home about it, but this seminar I did today at NZCER felt like my attempt to say, Hello New Zealand, I’m here! So, on this last day of my 36th year, I had my first coming out party in a conference room in a hotel in
Robyn and I have been planning this since I started this position in January. For the first several months, I agonised over what I might say that I was going to do in the information flyer we sent out. And then for the next several months, I agonised about how I’d design the 3-hour seminar that I’d advertised. I haven’t been so nervous about a teaching event since I taught at Harvard—was unexpectedly nervous about this, considering it’s whatever I wanted it to be and just a time for me to play with. There’s a way it felt almost self-indulgent, even, to have someone sponsoring some nice hotel event for me to hold an audience of important strangers captive.
This morning I got up in the dark and joined all the other business people on the early train to town, packed and speeding through the magnificent countryside without a glance up from whatever Important Paper they happened to be reading. Once I got to
So, how’d it go? Well. Very well. The crowd of about 40 people was made up of colleagues from NZCER (about 1/3 of the audience) strangers from the Ministry of Education, teachers’ unions, a handful of universities and schools, and other educational places. And B, the lovely woman selling us the house on the hill, came too. The crowd was quieter than a crowd in the
And there were people saying lovely things about how important these ideas are to the whole future of the country, and how fantastic it is for New Zealand that I’ve come here and how long am I going to stay (I DON’T KNOW) and what do I do on the three days I’m not at NZCER (I DON’T KNOW!!). They were enormously flattering in their low-key Kiwi way and, perhaps better yet, it was fantastic to engage with these ideas on what is now my home soil.
As I stood at the front of the room and walked around listening to the engagement of my colleagues and sector-colleagues, I began to think, Hey, I AM here, I AM among people who do what I do, and for whom what I do really matters. And maybe new relationships will come out of this, and maybe there’ll be follow-up emails (I’ve already gotten an invitation to do a keynote at a conference next year). And maybe I’ll be less anonymous, maybe I’ll feel more known. It’s amazing how important that feeling turns out to be, the feeling that I am someone because I see your recognition of that fact in your eyes. I am known, therefore I am. I have lots of theories to explain that connection (taught one of them today) and still I am surprised at how strongly it matters, how in-my-gut it all is. And, to be known in the city and then take the train home to my cottage by the sea—that might be as close to a description of pure bliss as I can imagine (if only those of you reading were here too).