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Stronger than the wind

November 2, 2011

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.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. November 2, 2011 9:19 pm

    Well, you are, and this just proves it. πŸ™‚

  2. drgeek permalink
    November 2, 2011 10:42 pm

    And your imaginary friend would like to cross out the word “imaginary”. πŸ™‚

  3. November 3, 2011 7:24 am

    I’ve been applying the old truism about how everybody likes a good listener to the occasions when I need to make small talk. It’s worked almost every time, the exception being when I was seated directly in front of the band and next to a deaf old man.

    You treat your rabbits, right, they’ll come through for you.

  4. November 3, 2011 9:09 am

    Have fun!

  5. November 3, 2011 10:35 am

    Lemming has been a source of comfort to me, so I’d say she’s pretty darn amazing herself. And I’m thrilled I’ve been reading your blog long enough to remember this time last year πŸ™‚ Go go you!

  6. November 3, 2011 10:44 am

    edj3, I couldn’t agree with you more about lemming.

  7. November 3, 2011 1:40 pm

    It’s been thrilling and even inspiring to watch all that’s happened for you — or really, all that you’ve made happen — in this past year. Lemming is right, you’re amazing. And it feels contagious — watching you make all these changes has made it seem just possible that I can make a few changes myself. Go Harriet! (And I would love to see you, but will understand if you need to collapse instead.)

  8. drgeek permalink
    November 3, 2011 1:59 pm

    I can recall that my own final year of Ph.D work included an acceleration of pace. One particular turning point in the road to change occurred for me at a conference as well. I’d had the first major research chapter of my dissertation accepted as a conference paper, and went to the conference alone. During the course of having lunch the first day, I ended up eating with someone whose work was quite similar to mine, but who I had never met. He told me that he didn’t referee my paper because he was out of the country at the time, but he’d read it and thought it was pretty good. That did a lot to allay any fears I had about how my paper talk would be received and was a major boost in my belief that I could finish… and soon.

  9. November 3, 2011 2:16 pm

    I’d bet cash money that the rabbits (is there ever one rabbit, anywhere? I think not.) in your magic hat ADORE you! You’ll kick butt, I just know it, because there are butts out there that only you can kick. Okay, so I’m pushing the metaphor a little too far, but it still works.

    I love those switch-flipping times in life. What you’re describing, with the flipped switches and everything being different and getting differenter, reminds me of those time lapse movies of the blooming of a flower. May we all be so lucky to bloom so beautifully. I’m so happy for you, and for your generosity in bringing us all along on the journey.

  10. November 3, 2011 2:34 pm

    Funny how those things can happen. You can’t see where those tiny steps will lead until you look back. Glad they led you to such a good and happy place.

  11. November 4, 2011 9:49 am

    You can do it! And you’ll be great.

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