Saturday, July 17, 2004

En Abyme

Ended a seven-year career at the U. yesterday.  It's been more like twelve years, really, considering I showed up back in '92 with a rusted Chevy station wagon, a few duffels of crap, a pile of books, and a basketball.  Time flies.

Now, I'm technically on vacation.  I've still got a few course development projects floating around, a house to sell, boxes to pack, a trip to NY next weekend, a mini-vacation at Drummond Island (Gem of Huron!), and hearty hunk of familiarizing and forethought for teaching and studying at SU this fall. 

Nothing much has wrapped up smoothly in these last few weeks.  We haven't hired my successor at work, which means all of the systems are rather in limbo--trembling toward collapse b/c nobody's at my desk to hold them up. I'd say it's like force and energy to a black hole, but I was relieved the other day to hear that Steven Hawking revisited his theories on the absolute envelopment of black holes into nothing.  Turns out it's not nothing, but something.  Radiation.  Histories.  Now we'll need a new metaphor for totalities of loss.  In the meantime, to the hole!

And no, I'm not drunk from celebrating the end (beginning!).  In fact, despite sipping down a few Corona's last evening at a kind, generous going away party, I left feeling kind of sober about my departure.  All along I'd been looking ahead, feeling happy about the switch.  But folks started filing in, eating chicken wings, smiling and laughing, and showing their incredibly warm, friendly best.  Before long, we shuffled to P.'s basement, where they played a documentary put together by M. and E., a flattering splice-mix made up of interviews of many of the people I've known, music, video of buildings (like Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel, where D. and I got married last summer, like the Breckon Sports Center, where Ph. hasn't missed a basketball camp in four years, like the ill-furnished offices and classrooms in Copley-Thaw Hall where I sat in graffitied desks while sorting out King Lear, Frankenstein, and Go Down, Moses all those years ago).  Which way to look, Gloucester?  

I'm not so much down as adrift, reminiscent, deeply affected by the scene of tribute, memories, folks saying goodbye like it's permanent and final.  Like I'm off to outer space.  Tinges of guilt come and go, too, from the everyday reminders that I'm stepping out of a stabilizing role in a place where stability is cherished, where a fair amount of my day to day work has kept things normal-seeming: web upkeep, news releases, photography, statistical compilation and reporting, hiring and policy development, compliance, drug testing, publication design, event coordination (halftime shows and such), work-study supervision, screening warm-up music.  On Monday?  TBA.

There's not much of a point to this.  It's all just to say that I didn't realize the scale of what I was voluntarily leaving behind in KC until everybody started gangpiling me with memories, hugs, sad faces.  Why blog it?  I want to remember.  There'll be time in the next few years when I'll want to recall July 17, the day I keyed notes about the 16th, when I'll want to jog fond memories of all the resilient friends and colleagues along the way.  I'll just click, click, and there it'll be.  Right where I put it.  And the video; I like to think I'll be able to convert it to .mov or .mpg, so it can fill a place here as well.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at July 17, 2004 11:24 PM to Under a Bushel

Great post, Derek. Ave atque vale, said the Romans. In the Army, each month we had "Hail and Farewell" parties for those leaving and those arriving. These rituals marking transitions are very powerful and very important. And the effort your colleagues put into your farewell documents the regard they have for you.

The nice thing about academia is you can always go home again. We're a peripatetic profession. I once told a livingroom full of Stanford professor parents who couldn't field a coach for their kids' soccer team that it was always difficult finding volunteers in communities of migrant workers. Some of them smiled.

Enjoy your break and pamper yourself. You'll need all the recharging you can get for your new assignments.

Posted by: John at July 19, 2004 4:28 PM

Thanks for the note, John. The office called just once today, my first day away from the place, and I guess that's to be expected. The next three weeks of recharging are beginning to look like full-steam-ahead charging. Today it was delivering our fourteen year-old Yorky to a pet rescue. Man, that was sad. Of course, we were worried that finding a new home for the dog would be wrenching for Ph. By the time we left the place of transfer (a kind of playground/foster home for animals), Ph. had two fliers for other dogs, and he almost forgot to say farewell to Max. Ah, the loyalties of a teenager!

Posted by: Derek at July 19, 2004 10:20 PM

Good luck, Derek. BTW, I like the new look of the blog.

Posted by: cindy at July 21, 2004 10:30 AM

Thanks, Cindy. It's been a tumultuous stretch; not even enough time for a to-do list, which explains how I get drawn into CSS redesigns when I *should* be doing other things. I'm glad to hear that you like the new look. I was playing around with the web developer and CSS extensions in Firefox and I got sucked in. Figured I'd better turn it loose, since I'd used up two hours fussing with it.

Posted by: Derek at July 21, 2004 11:03 AM