In a window seat on the train again, snaking along on the wall above the sea and into Wellington. This isn’t quite the red line on the metro. I have passed through the timelessness of 24 hours in airports and in flying metal tubes, and I have arrived into this dream reality where the plane lands next to water dotted with surfers and I spend my first day home with my friends and family, weeding, pruning and planting vegetables in a sunny and sheltered garden, the sea audible as a background thrum.
I am dis-oriented in an internal way not obvious until I sit down and have conversations with myself. In the
What are those tears about, I have wondered to myself and others have wondered along with me. I remember my first time in that student center six years ago, me dressed up in a smart blue suit bought for the occasion, anxious and watchful in my first academic job interview. I remember meeting these IET faculty for the first time, impressed by the intelligence, the passion, the creativity of these folks. On the plane the next day, I called Michael to tell him the news. If offered this job I couldn’t imagine not taking it, if only for the honor of hanging out with these people for the next 20 or 30 years.
I was back in the building several months after taking the position. I had planned and taught my first summer session by then, sold my
Over time, the building became less novel. I at cheep and delicious middle eastern food there during faculty meetings, emailed friends and students from the comfy chairs upstairs. I went to receptions to celebrate new faculty joining us, and others to honor faculty retirements. I wrestled seemingly-intractable academic politics, and celebrated the possibility of a new way of working together. I watched trees go down and new buildings go up. I felt anxious, sleepy, angry, delighted, exhausted, dispirited, proud, and loving in that space. The space became mine; it held me and my colleagues and our careers.
It is mine no longer. It is ex-mine. I think it is the loss of one particular image of how my life might go that I am mourning. There is a vision for my future that still lives in me, and I have to understand how to let that vision go. It is a death of a future I’ll never have, and I’m mourning the loss of me in that role as I mourn the loss of my colleagues and students in their roles in my life. Now I have to figure out who I am in the ex-GMU world. While in the US, as I was ending some connections, I was attempting to deepen others, to try and figure out how to hold on to who I used to be as well as who I am in NZ so that I can figure out who I am becoming in this bi-hemispheric life. The GMU thing is one piece of who I am now not.
Here today there is a bright blue sun in the sparkling air. The fields have become neon green with the constant spring rains in my absence, and they are dotted with plump and playful lambs. Spring wildflowers bloom, yellow, pink, purple, along the rail lines. The sea, hazy in the spray-filled northerly breeze, marks its steady rhythm. The voices I hear around me are unlike mine, the politics they talk about is unfamiliar, about an election next week about which I have few opinions and almost no knowledge (the NZ national elections are four days after the US ones). I am sleepy and disoriented in the familiarity of this train ride through fields and past towns. Now we’ll head trough the tunnel that drives through the mountains and comes out in