Stronger than the wind
Next week is the one year anniversary of the weekend that changed my life. So naturally I’ve been feeling a little nostalgic.
Last November I drove to Indiana to attend a music conference. There was nothing especially earth-shattering about it. But afterwards things started to happen. I reread last year’s posts about the conference to see if it was at all enlightening. (You can read about last year’s conference here and here, a little bit here, but the fallout extends for weeks). There is very little to grasp onto, except that as I walked out of the front door of PQV and lemming‘s house after they fed me dinner, lemming told me, “Remember, you’re amazing.” I laughed it off, but it felt like a blessing. And there’s no denying that since then I’ve felt remarkably blessed. So thank you, Lemming. I think of that moment often. Words matter.
Last year I felt like I was slinking into the meeting. No job, no degree, frustrated with the rut I was in, wondering if it made sense to keep going. I broke my rule of only going to conferences where I was speaking because I thought I needed to be around colleagues. And it was within driving distance in a city I used to live in.
It should have been a more relaxed conference for me than usual. I didn’t have any of the usual encumbrances. I wasn’t speaking. I didn’t have appointments. I wasn’t interviewing for jobs. I got to spend time with friends and soak it all in. But I was buzzing on all cylinders with all the social and intellectual stimulation from the first minute, so that by Saturday afternoon, as often happens, I was toast. But when I got home I discovered that somehow that weekend had flipped a switch. Since then, everything’s been different. And getting differenter.
This year will be quite different. I’m spending two extra days at the conference and even so, my calendar is already looking alarmingly full. I’m running two meetings, taking a number of people out to lunch and dinner and speaking twice, once about my job, once about my own work. Suddenly I’ve moved, as we like to say in the more anthropological side of my field, from the periphery to the center (that side is very fond of dichotomies and transitions). It’s a metaphoric move that mirrors the literal moves I’ve made (or am making) from suburbs to city, from amateur to professional, from theory to practice. Part of me is still feeling a little uncomfortable with it, struggling with changing my self-image. The other part is wondering what took me so long, because it feels so much like the right place to be.
This year I can’t afford to let my brain check out on Saturday. There will still be work to do. For one thing, I have to give a paper. For another thing, I don’t get off work until I fly home on Sunday.
I’m nervous. I’m still tweaking with my paper, which peters out in an alarming way toward the end. I still haven’t made all the plans I need to make. I have no idea, for instance, how to get from the airport to the hotel. I have no idea how I’m going to make small talk through all these lunches with people I don’t know. I still need meeting agendas and some more appointments. And I think I may have forgotten to order coffee for my meeting. Less than a week to go. Time to get serious.
And yet I’m also kind of loving this chaos. There are things to do. There are things to do very fast. It’s a bit of a rush. I’m not a daredevil in most ways, but I admit that I’ve always enjoyed the thrill of pulling the rabbit out of the hat just before the show falls apart. But it only works if you’re on very good terms with your rabbit.