Sunday, April 29, 2007

Hard to figure

It's really hard to figure out what's healthy in relation to ex-GF and I. I have been seeing her an awful lot. Certainly more than anyone else in my life. The week before last, for instance, I saw her four times. And we talk pretty much every day. We are each other's go-to person. And yes, in case you're wondering, the sleepovers have continued (intermittently). Still sexless.

Ex-GF has gotten annoyed with me for being so un-forthcoming about how I feel about this whole thing. In a quite profound role reversal, she has been the one willing to tackle the emotional dimensions of it all. She says she thinks that if I weren't moving far, far away, she would be wanting us to try again. And thinks that it wouldn't be a return to our old, conflict-ridden patterns, but that the separation has changed things.

I just don't know. I just don't. That's why I mostly say very little. All I know is that I care deeply for her, I love her, but I don't know how to figure out anything beyond that. I suspect she might be right that if we got back together we would be in a better place, but I just don't know.

Tonight we went out for dinner when she came to pick up Mr. K. (Our divorce-child dog arrangement is actually working really well for both of us.) I had been teasing her about picking up someone the night before...she hadn't, but I was asking. And so over dinner she said - quite pertinently - "hey, what if I did pick someone up? Would you want me to tell you?" Yes, I said. I'd want her to tell me. We're so close right now that omitting something of that "magnitude" would feel awkward and wrong.

But damn if it didn't make me really, really sad. It kind of triggered something, and I was morose and verging on weepy the rest of the night. I guess this is where I really encounter the danger of this kind of closeness between us. I don't know how we'll react in such a situation. I think I'd find it devastating, frankly. I think she would, too. It's more likely to happen with her than with me - I'm just not inhabiting any kinds of milieus where it could happen for me. And yeah, I imagine it only as this instant and really painful wedge driven between the two of us. Ugh.

For whatever reason, that put me somewhere quite lonely. Now that I am verging on making moving arrangements, etc., for this summer, the fact of my leaving Home Area is becoming real. I feel lonely thinking about it, frankly. And imagining ex-GF here, in this comfort zone, dating, is really sad.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A midweek weekend

I have had a mini-break, as they say across the pond, over the last couple of days. Even though I am fairly drowning in work. It has been divine.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon and evening with Faux-GF, who is visiting from last year’s Uni City, and she stayed at my place me last night. We had the most delightful evening. I swear I was high on…just…goodness. Our relationship was hatched over food and wine. It’s the foundation of our friendship, I’d say.

After having lunch at a delightful place I don’t go to enough – where I had vegetarian souvlaki, all dripping with tzatziki and homemade barbecue sauce!? – we came up to my current, new-old neck of the woods. I took her to the bakery to get loukoumades (Greek honey balls), that absolutely divine invention. She’d never had them before. Needless to say, we scarfed down our dozen practically on the spot. Then we went to the cheese shop at the bottom of my street, and selected five cheeses. Organic roastables and strawberries from the market.

Back at home, I opened up a bottle of very fine wine I’ve been saving for a long time – probably the finest wine I’ve ever actually owned. Oh my. The smoothest, earthiest pinot noir. Our cheeses were gorgeous. There was one – Vento L’Estate, it’s called – that is aged in wildflowers. People!!! It tasted like flowers!! I nearly expired, frankly. All that followed with roasted asparagus and eggplant, maple-balsamic-dressed greens, and strawberries.

Food is like drugs.

Faux-GF and I talk and talk…we relax into each other. We gush and effervesce about about our friendship. I miss her so much. Because we were there for one another all year, last year, teaching in the same department – and it was the first year of full-time teaching for both of us. Nobody else gets it, what it means to teach and relate to my students the way I do. Talking with her is deep, deep relief.

She left this morning, and I went off to meet my student, Alice, who’d wanted to have a celebratory, “I’m-finished-all-my-work-and-I’m-graduating” day in Home City. (Marks are calculated for the class she was in, and this feels fine now, whereas I’d never, I don’t think, have done it before.) She helped me pick out a pair of prescription sunglasses at the optical shop. (They are pretty fab. But I’m somewhat mortified that they are Gucci – I feel like Gucci sunglasses are such a cliché!) I took her to lunch at perhaps my favourite place in the city, the place that makes me want to weep, it’s so lovely. Know what I had for dessert? A passionfruit caramel tart. Yeah. I pretty much died.

We went next door to a little local clothing collective I always salivate over, and I bought this skirt that I just loved: (This is the front. The back has a couple of lovely little gathers, with black ribbons):

I am spending way too much money lately. This was on sale, at least.

I said goodbye to Alice and came home, ever so satisfied. What a whirlwind of wonderful food and company.

Then I spent a few hours revising and polishing my article, and just sent it off to the editors of the special journal issue. I am happy with it. I like writing about pedagogical issues, theorizing them. It brings everything full circle.

Sigh of contentment.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tuesday Bullets

I have actually been having lots of thoughts about more meaningful posts. But there's no time! Bullets it's going to have to be.

- Yesterday I went back to Dream Uni City for an exam. Then my colleagues took me out for a goodbye-thanks-for-everything lunch, and I had a drink with lunch, which is a very rare pleasure. Then I met a student who wanted me to look over something she's submitting for a scholarship. Bye, Uni City...

- After that, I got on the bus to come back to Home City for my ballet class. The bus had just gotten out of Uni City when the actually quite terrifyingly hard rain started...and the driver-side windshield wiper broke into pieces! It was all a little unsettling. The bus driver had to pull over onto the gravel shoulder of the highway, in the insanely pelting wind and rain - he really could see nothing. And then turn around and go back into the city for a new wiper. I admit to being a bit nervous on that drive.

- I just made two important phone calls that I've been procrastinating on for WEEKS - for no reason. And I feel like an idiot now, because had I made these two under-two-minute calls weeks ago, things wouldn't feel so crazy now. Jesus. Why do I do this?

One was to my old accountant - I cannot find my tax return from last year (oui, I really am an idiot), and needed to know my RRSP contribution limit ASAP so I could fill out my own return this year. They're just, you know, emailing it to me. I was caught up in worry that they would think I was an asshole for not going to her this year, that I just avoided this for weeks. What is wrong with me? Now I have to complete the return with the deadline looming, and all this grading to do. Sigh.

The other call was to a driving school. Some of you may recall that I'm a new driver - and though I had opportunities to drive last year on various long trips I went on, I haven't actually been behind the wheel since early September. I need to get the final part of my license (where I live, licensing happens in stages) and I need to learn how to do a couple of things I have never done...chiefly drive on the highway in the city. Merging in the city TERRIFIES me - oh, the very thought!! Why did I wait on this, too? I basically have about two months to get completely up to speed with all aspects - I should have gotten on this much before now. (I want to be entirely comfy before I go to Scary City so that I can have frequent rental car escapes.) Anyway, I have a lesson on Thursday, and suspect I will have them frequently over the next couple of months.

Anyway, this is a dubiously long bullet. All to say - stop procrastinating, bad self, when things are so freaking easy!!!

- Faux-GF is here in Home City! We are spending the day and night together, and she is staying with me. It is gorgeous and sunny, and I can't think of a happier way to spend such a day! I haven't seen her since the end of December. I am so excited.

- However. I have so much grading to do, overall, and so little time. The exams, of course. Worse - much, much worse - a good fifth of the final papers from my Dream Uni courses still aren't in. Because I've been so lenient with extensions. They're all going to flow in by the end of the week. I have to submit my marks on Sunday. NO more of this in the future, Hilaire. It. must. stop!!!

Anyway, off I go to call Faux-GF to make plans for how we'll spend our beautiful day!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Thoughts while grading

I'm very resolutely at home grading tonight, because I've been out too late and too debauchedly a couple of nights this week (am planning a post contextualizing that). Finishing up the grading of fourth-year seminar papers that's on my plate before an exam on Monday brings in more grading, and I collect several leftover papers I'm waiting on because I am an incorrigible pushover (even though I have vowed twice to stop that behaviour - sigh).

A couple of things have been swirling in my head these last couple of hours, as I read.

One paper is by a top student of mine, with whom I've struck up a bit of a friendship (and am so glad it's the end of term so we can actually LIVE this - decidedly non-sexualized, in case you're wondering - friendship, and not feel constrained by the roles the academy slots us into). I can't recall ever reading a student paper that was both as original and as well-researched as this one. (Recall that I don't yet teach grad students.) I have a couple of students who are probably more stratospherically, weirdly brilliant than "Alice" - let's call her Alice because she reminds of Alice from the L Word. But I have none who embody scholarly rigor the way she does. In this paper, which was truly a pleasure to spend a portion of my Saturday night reading, Alice critically engages with the theoretically sophisticated literature on her topic in a way that I don't recall ever seeing before in undergraduate work. She is writing herself into a community of scholars, engaging and critiquing them with reason, confidence, and ease. And she is actually adding to that literature, making what I believe is a completely original argument that would productively contribute to the theoretical debates on this question. And opening up an aspect of the topic that has been completely overlooked - doing the first theorizing around it. I wrote on the grading sheet that I want to talk to her about publishing it. It would obviously fit in a grad student journal, if we can locate the right one, but I can even see it - revised a bit - in a regular scholarly journal. It's that good.

What's also interesting about this paper is that she wrote a very long one, because she got permission from me, the program Chair, and another instructor to turn in the same paper for both classes - as long as it was twice as long. Her thinking about this - she was talking to me about it as she devised the topic, so I'm aware of some of her thoughts around it - is evidence, for me, of her originality. Of her ability to make lateral, theoretical connections. Of course I said she could do the double-paper thing: I encourage and reward genuine engagement that results in seeing things anew, making connections between disparate classes/fields.

For the immediate future, Alice is pursuing journalistic ambitions. She is graduating in a month, and has been elected editor of the university newspaper for next year. She applied and was short-listed for (but didn't get, in the end) a radio internship. I don't know how presumptuous it is of me to have a conversation with her about the possibility of grad school. Yet I want to have that conversation. It's just tricky - as much as we have this budding friendship, the power dynamic that exists between us is not miraculously gone. I know - because she's said as much, and others have said it about her - that she looks up to me a great deal. I don't want that power to push her in a direction she's not comfortable with. I remember, though, that she has said before - nearer the beginning of the year, and with her characteristic shyness, skittishness, self-consciousness - that she kind of harbours a fantasy of grad school. So maybe I can think of it as encouraging a person with unnecessarily lacking self-confidence to do something she'd love to do, but is terrified she's not good enough for.* In any case, the conversation needs to be had very delicately, I think.


After reading Alice's work, I read a paper by another student. She was the student on whom much of my anxiety settled, in this singularly anxiety-provoking course. Older than I am, she has a kind of blustery confidence and brashness that freaked me out, and the fact that she was very obviously bringing it to the table in our crazy class was dreadful for me. She made me feel mousy again. Another student - a friend of hers - mentioned in passing (disclosing way too much) that this brash student...let's call her Mouthy...had "basically written off the class", presumably because of some of the other students, and the weird undercurrent of conflict in the course. This did not help matters - it made me feel smaller.

Mouthy is also pretty smart and well-read, and, I think, is rewarded - she's a strong student. That, combined with her mouthiness, confidence, and brashness, made me believe she was brilliant.

But in reading her paper - as in reading the numerous critical responses she's submitted - I can see that she's not all that. Sure, she's a good writer, and ultimately produces work on the cusp of A. But I see where I have been misled by her Mouthiness. I've kind of been bamboozled. Behind all the bluster there's not all that much. I really needn't have lost sleep over her the way I (literally) did. In fact, I should probably have exercised my authority to get her to stop bringing her damaging, dismissive tone into our class. But she cowed me.

I think of Mouthy and then I think of Alice - so smart, but so much the opposite. Quiet, self-deprecating, anxious. It pisses me off that bluster and bluffing are consistently rewarded in the classroom. Including by me, who should know a lot better, considering that I was a terrified mute all the way through university and grad school. Let that be a lesson to me.

* God, considering the number of pretty much mediocre students I hear are "planning" to go to grad school, Alice needs to know how incredibly right she is for grad studies.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

It seems that maybe I rock

Oh my goodness, I've just finished a draft of my article about teaching in the area that I research - well in advance of the deadline! It's only a draft, and I will have to do some revisions, but I think they're pretty minor. I also have to add a bunch of references. But still. Way to go, me!! I even think that it's not a bad article - it makes some original points (not because I'm brilliant, mind, but just because nobody is writing about teaching this stuff -- alongside the theory that I also teach).

It may be time for an afternoon drink!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Oh, my dream home...

I usually don't think about my dream home very often, figuring it'll never happen.

But since I moved into this place last week, I can't stop fantasizing about it. This is because of the kitchen here...a very large kitchen, with tons of space for me to dance around, and speakers wired in from the living room so that I can listen to loud music while I cook, and numerous work surfaces, so that I can spread my cooking out, making a bunch of localized messes. And a double sliding glass door into the backyard.

Tonight I had a friend over for dinner. I cooked delicious things, I must say, and the process was so much less stressful than it is in tiny kitchens.

This kitchen meets a good half of my dream home requirements. The other half is a large, square, covered porch that would be sheltered enough to act as a second office when the weather was warm enough. So that the rain could be a-pouring down, but there I'd be, tapping away at some article on my laptop, on my roofed-in porch. I spent time on a porch like this, sort of, visiting friends of friends when I was on a cycling trip with an ex of mine. (Not far, in the grand scheme of things, from where I'm moving - Scary City. Funny, then, that Scary City is so very, very far from the roofed-porch-office vibe...)

Anyway. Yay, dream homes. Hooray for big kitchens!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Things I just *love* about owning a dog

This morning I took Mr. K on his walk to his newly discovered (for him, not me) Happy Place. He met a dog there named Whitney. He's normally a bit picky about dogs...he always starts out interested (except with small dogs, in whom he doesn't even feign interest), but usually loses it after about 30 seconds. Not so with Whitney, though. He loved her. They ran around, hard, off leash for an hour.

Not long into their time together, Mr. K began humping Whitney. Again, this is a behaviour he reserves for the most special dogs - she must have been a real winner. He just would NOT let up. Whitney, being the submissive gal that she is, didn't let him know not to do this. Her person kept urging her, "Just say no, Whitney," to no avail. So it went on and on, with me calling Mr. K off over and over.

Toward the end of this time, I noticed that his "lipstick" was really out - well, another dog owner helpfully pointed it out, in one of those charming conversations you have at the dog park about dogs' penises. Yes, the penis was out of the sheath. I figured that he was just really into Whitney, and that it would go down soon enough.

We left and came back home. Four hours later, his lipstick was still out. So I started googling this phenomenon (using a combination of words that resulted in as many bestiality sites as vet help sites, which makes me think that maybe I'm going to take this post down in a few days!) and discovered that this lipstick condition can actually be serious. I even tried to deal with it myself, as suggested - but found that I didn't have the requisite liquids on hand (which just goes to show you, well, the state of my sex life these days...)

So I called up the vet, this shy, gentle man I love. He said, "Well, I'm around - bring him in and I'll lube it up and put it back in." Gotta love that formulaion. So off I went on public transit, hurrying to beat rush hour, when dogs are barred from the transit, and knowing I'd have to walk home for an hour and fifteen minutes in the rain for that reason.

Ah yes, the lipstick in transit. Mr. K, being the grown-up dog that he is, is very good on transit. So he sat down, helpfully putting his penis on display for all to see. A woman across from me pursed her lips, shot me a dirty look, and turned away from us for the remainder of the trip. Other people laughed. Some just stared. I wanted to disappear into the wall - which says something about the ways we take on our animals' "stuff" as if we dictate or can control it.

At the vet, I waited for a while. A famous Canadian actor came in with his big, old dog. When the technician called us, her way of doing so was to cock her head, give Mr. K an ironic come hither look, and say to him, "Are you ready?" When we got into the examining room, I noticed that the entry in his chart simply said "April 16 - penis". Absurdity piled upon absurdity.

As it turned out, my pathetic attempts to fix the problem had actually helped a bit - the situation wasn't so dire by now. The vet did his thing, fixed it all up, and just let me go with no charge, advising me to "try to keep him from getting aroused" for the next day or so...

Ah, the joys of dog ownership...

Monday morning apprehension

Oy. I'm tired. Mr. K spent his first night here last night - he's still going to do the divorce-child thing, spending roughly half his time with each of us. And last night he just couldn't settle. We went to bed at 10. He began pacing and whining at midnight, and kept it up until 7am, when the alarm went off. I might be adaptable, but he sure isn't. I have to remind myself that this will pass - he did this for the first few nights at A's, too. But damn, I hope it passes quickly. Poor guy. I don't know what to do about it besides giving him rescue remedy.

I really needed a good sleep because I got to spend the whole weekend dancing. How fun is that? If there is anything that brings me absolute, unadulterated joy, it is good dancing. And all weekend - that's a true luxury. I don't think I've smiled so much in almost a year.

This week feels daunting, though - I must nearly finish the article I'm writing, and I am behind where I wanted to be in my paper-marking. In fact, the next six weeks or so - until the end of May, when I go to Congress - feel daunting. I must be smart. I must elaborate the two-part theoretical scaffolding of my book, on what feels like command - for my Congress paper, and also for a panel proposal I'm putting together for Big Conference in the fall. It feels like a terrifyingly tall order, to be that intellectually together...

If only the frickin' sun would come out and the temperature would jump a few degrees, it would feel so much more manageable...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Things that are making me happy

Things that are good include:

- Blogging and the connections it affords! Today I had a lovely walk in the rain - followed by a warm-us-up coffee - with Tiruncula and her dogs, who are visiting Home City. It was a short meet-up, but really just lovely. What an incredibly friendly and smart person - a pleasure to chat with. Yay for blogging and the way it gives us these moments with strangers we'd not otherwise have the opportunity to encounter.

- Today I hit the 1000-views-of-my-Blogger-profile mark. Wow.

- I am working! Writing! Marking! The writing is way more important, of course. I have returned to this fun and important (to me) paper after dropping it for too long when things became brain-sucking on the teaching side after Reading Week. They extended the deadline for the special journal issue, and I'm easily going to meet it. I'm at least three quarters of the way there (plus revision time). I can't get over my productivity in this new (to me) study. I've downloaded that egg timer thingy. I write and write. I feel like a scholar again!

- I am so pleased about my adaptability. If I am condemned to perpetual moving, I am also very lucky that I can settle in almost anywhere. My initial whininess about this new space I'm living in has passed - I feel, in less than 48 hours, completely at home here. Hooray!

- Oh, funny twists of fate. This morning after my walk and tea with Tiruncula I went to the uni library to chase down plagiarized sources from two student papers (grrr...what a waste of precious time). One of the books I looked at was so intriguing that I checked it out of the library. And by the time I got home I had decided that it is perfect for adoption in my first-year course next year, about which I was already starting to worry because teaching the Intro in my discipline is, well, challenging. So I've already ordered myself my own copy - it is just a fantastic collection. Imagine that - the slog of cheat-chasing turning out to be so productive!

- I rented Half Nelson last night. What a great film - I've been thinking about it all day. It was particularly satisfying to me because of my weirdly over-invested relationship with students; the teacher in it, played by Ryan Gosling, is also over-invested in a way. Granted, I'm not a crack addict like he is, and my students are not eighth-graders. But still. I liked seeing a non-sexualized representation of that teacher-student relationship right now, in the wake of my courses ending.

- Dudes, the new album by The Great Lake Swimmers, Ongiara. Oh my god. I have been listening to it, like, five times a day; just got it a few days ago after hearing one song and suspecting that the album was made for me. Seriously - it is killing me. So sososo gorgeous. If you're looking for new music and you lean, like me, toward alt country and various acoustic and neo-folky goodnesses, this'll be it for you. It has a Neil Young circa 1977 - Comes a Time - feel. But way more opaque. Very happy.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Another move

Well, I've moved yet again. Yesterday evening A and I moved my things from A's place, after three months, to my 3-month housesit in the home of my PhD Supervisor.

I was feeling a little low yesterday as I spent the day packing. (God, it's amazing how much stuff I am carting around, even while most of my possessions are in a rented storage space...) I am so so so tired of feeling ungrounded. I'm a bit of a homebody, and it's been almost two years of upheaval, of feeling split between multiple places. And since my breakup, with most of my things in storage, I've felt my lack of my own space very keenly. (As an only child, I confess to being a bit of a space hog.)

When I got here last night, all I could think about was how much my things mean to me, and how much I miss them. This is a huge, beautful house, and very homelike, as A pointed out. I'm grateful for that. But its hominess isn't my kind of hominess, sweet as it is. It's a pine-and-pottery, relentlessly cottagey aesthetic. It's not a way I'd ever choose to decorate - it feels like I've walked back in time thirty years. And I found that there had been less space cleared for me than I expected, so it's going to be hard to make it my own. It's an odd feeling - as if I'm just holding a place. All the kitchen cupboards crammed with their food, for instance. A quarter shelf for me here or there. It feels a bit like I'm squatting, and I was, truthfully, a little dismayed by it last night. Got a little depressed, too, thinking about how I have to pack up my stuff and move yet again by July 4 - and I'm not even sure where I'm going at that point, since I hadn't planned to leave until the very end of July. Most of my stuff will then go to the storage place, and I might actually be forced to move to Scary City almost a month earlier than planned, for simple lack of a place to be, in Home City. Ex-GF has offered, but I don't think that's a great idea. My mother would happily take me in, but I'd poke my eyeballs out living in that suburban hell again, and with our fraught relationship. Ugh. We'll see.

Anyway, enough whining. Soon enough, I'll have my own place again, to decorate and mess as I please. And to stay in for at least a couple of years, thank goodness. (Although I have a very happy life, I sometimes feel like its one curse is being forced to move over and over again - I've lived in about two dozen places in my 32 years. No more, please!!)

Ultimately, I am so so so happy to have this whole big house to spread out in, being the space hog that I am. I envision a few months full of lots of solid, focused work, lots of time outdoors (there's a lovely deck and backyard here, and also I will be running and walking the dog a lot), and lots of wine and food. I want to entertain people at the beautiful dining room table! I want to drink cocktails! I am planning a little trip to the liquor store today or tomorrow, to stock up on my supplies, including the requisite gin and tequila.

And I am working in my Supervisor's study, which I think will help make the "solid work" portion of the spring happen. She has cleared off the desks for me, and some bookshelves, so I've set it up to feel more like my space than any other room in the house. And I can't help but hope that some of her very efficient and brilliant working self - all distinguished and famous - will rub off on me, and I'll have a summer of productivity and...smartness, moving back and forth between the two desks in this calm, blue room, a skylight over my head:

Monday, April 09, 2007

Time off from spectacle

Though I'm really having a hard time wrapping my mind around the end of this year, and I'm grieving a bit, one thing I won't miss is being the centre of attention. I am oh so happy to have time off from the spectacular status of professor.

As I've mentioned before, I am pretty introverted - or was, at least until I started teaching. Teaching changed me, to some extent. But there's something fundamental about me that is shy, still. So where I've learned to be pretty comfortable in front of a class, things like giving speeches, making toasts, being in skits, are definite no-gos for me. They bring up a kind of primordial terror in me, and I won't do them. (This means I disappoint, often...It is sometimes rude not to give a speech, like at your 30th birthday party or your surprise Happy PhD party, when people are giving you cakes and clapping and chanting "speech, speech!" And you refuse to say more than "Thank you." Ah well.)

Anyway, so lately, after 26 weeks of classes, I was feeling really, really tired of being stared at and listened to. Really just sick of it. And starting to develop a kind of skittishness about it. For about the last three or so weeks of classes, I couldn't stand to hear myself talk anymore - I'd have to fight with myself before class. And on Wednesday night, for my last Theory class, I had prepared a mini-lecture, as I usually do, to be followed by discussion. But I got to class and looked at my lecture notes and just could. not. do. it. I didn't lecture at all. I just asked questions and facilitated a discussion instead. The thought of being the spectacle yet again exhausted me.

A few hours before class, I'd had an eyebrow-raising little encounter with a couple of students that uniquely underscored that spectacle; it may have been been what ultimately stopped me from lecturing that night.

I had run into two students I'm fairly close to, at the student-run cafe at lunch. These two are inseparable and hilarious. They endlessly amuse me - and others - with their witty, whiny repartee. (I actually told them in all seriousness that they are exactly like Alice and Dana from The L Word, which certainly set them gleefully a-twitter. It also means they're destined to be lovers!) So I was sitting with "Alice" and "Dana", and the conversation turned to the dinner my class had gone to the night before - they'd both been there. There had been some emotion when students were leaving - and one in particular had cried as she walked out.

Dana: When J started to cry, did it make you want to cry, too?
Me: Yup.
Dana (excited, voice rising, wearing crazy smile): Oh my god, I wish I'd been looking at you and I could have watched the tears come and you try to fight them off!!


This is precisely why I'm happy, on one hand, for the year to be over. Because I seem to "have quite the fan club here," as one of my students put it to me the other day, I feel inspected. I didn't realize the extent to which I was under benign scrutiny until recently. Possibly it was because they knew I was leaving, it was the end of the year, and they felt they could afford to drop some of their cultivated nonchalance, since I wouldn't be around next year - and some of them are graduating, anyway. Whatever the reasons, I'm delighted to be able to make a couple of these relationships - those with whom I will stay in touch - more reciprocal, less public, less spectacular. And to be relaxing into anonymity again.

Friday, April 06, 2007

An ending

Yesterday was my last real day at Dream Uni. I have an exam to go back for in 2 1/2 weeks, and an exam at Satellite Campus, as well. But yesterday was the last day of hanging about my office and the campus, of lunch at the organic, student-run not-for-profit caf, teas at Tim Hortons, crying students. (I've had about ten of those in the last two weeks.)

It was a week of very few boundaries. I'm not much about formality to begin with, as you've probably gathered, but I do usually try to dress the part, and usually project a fairly reserved - though still open to them - demeanor. But allowing myself to let down my guard helped me, I think, to cope with the loss that I am feeling, which is so huge I can barely confront it.

My Tuesday night seminar went out for dinner after the last class. We had a lovely time - almost everyone came. Fifteen of us around one long table. One made a toast to our class. A couple of students cried when they left. A number urged me to join Facebook so they could keep in touch with me that way, at the same time warning me against the time-suck it represents... (If only they knew how much of my time is sucked by blogs...) After everyone else had left, it was just I and the four students I am closest to. I wanted to stay all night in that warm, comfortable room with them. Funny, smart, sensitive them. Instead, one drove me home and I pretended nonchalance and then walked into the house and sobbed.

The next night was my last Theory class. I ended the class with a flurry of handing out graded papers and the exam questions. A strategic move, to distract me and them from the occasion. Then I went out for a drink with a few of them - a couple of the queer kids had asked me to go out dancing after class the week before, and I'd said no. But I asked them if they'd like to go for a drink this time to celebrate the end of the class and help me stave off my sadness.

They talked about the class - how much they'd learned from each other. How much they respect each other. Listening to this conversation, I thought, see, I am right about these folks. They are extraordinary. Recognizing each other's greatness the way they do. Critically reflecting on this experience. Transcending the narcissism that the university can suck you into.

Then yesterday, I spent the afternoon in a kind of Twilight Zone. A student had asked me to meet her for lunch at the student-run cafe - it was its last day of the year. I went and chatted with her. Another student of mine - my very favourite of the lot - was playing music there. I sat for 3 1/2 hours, as students wandered in and out, sitting down for a chat for a few minutes here or there. We had a random coversation about our favourite vegetables. And we talked about our discipline. It was the perfect balance of light and serious. What I love the very best. I had lost a lot of my lightness. My students have reminded me of slightly different ways to be, this year. So I just basked in that.

But now, it's really the end. I have papers to grade and emails to answer, and I'll see one group of them in the harsh light of an exam. But it's not the same. I realize now that it's over to what extent the year was characterized by its own particular temporality - probably at least in part a function of my insane schedule. That's what I notice most right now, as I confront the loss this represents. The way time will feel without it/them. And I guess that's easier - the generality of that sentiment - than imagining what it is like to not see some of these really precious people again.

Of course, I am going to see some of them again. I am seeing one on Sunday night in Home City, because she's written an absolutely stunning essay and I'm nominating it for a national prize, and need to work on small edits with her very soon, before the deadline passes. Another one has asked me to help edit an essay with her - she wants to submit it for a cool scholarship - so we've made a date to do that. And there are at least two others whom I will see because they will become my friends.

But it's not the same. Whew, that's sad.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

I never imagined I'd see the day...

...when I'd have to write on a student essay, for a third-year Theory course, "The Jenny Craig website and Kirstie Alley aren't appropriate scholarly sources."

This is for this student, by the way.

Christ on a bike.

Monday, April 02, 2007

A recent decision

Remember how I mentioned a few months back, when I was negotiating my new job, that I would be buying a condo?

Well, I'm not.

I did in the end find a realtor who would deign to work with impoverished little me in the ridiculously hot market I'm moving to. And I wrapped my head around the ridiculous fact of the condos there not accepting dogs - I got used to the idea of living without Mr. K, of leaving him with ex-GF.

But as the real search approached - I would have started it in earnest in the next couple of weeks - I felt increasingly nervous. I just didn't feel good about it. It was a confluence of too many factors: money, my being in debt, my being an idiot with money overall - all those related factors were near the top of the list. It's true that I can rent a decent place for a couple of hundred dollars less per month than a mortgage and condo fees would cost me. There were other factors that were just as important, though...the fact that I would be doing this alone, in a place that I really don't know, and doing it from afar. Plus, my doing this was conditional on my borrowing the closing costs - $3000-5000 - from ex-GF. She insisted it was fine, but I was concerned...All of these factors were giving me knots in my stomach.

My mother, who had already generously given me her half of the loan I was taking from my parents, was very patient with me. She told me to go with my gut. I fought with my gut for a while, and then gave in. No condo for me. Not now. Maybe next spring, when I'm in a better then I'll know the city, I'll have a sense of the market, I'll have a sense of whether I in fact want to stay there longer than the 2-3 years I have in mind right now.

Each of the "elders" to whom I've announced my decision not to buy has been amazingly supportive, and even relieved. Last week, I had dinner with my former PhD supervisor, and when I told her - she was the first I'd told - she was delighted. She said she hadn't wanted to rain on my parade when I'd announced to her that I was planning to buy, but that she had been concerned. It was amazing - her relief was palpable. My father was also relieved, though he said he'd still have been prepared to give me the loan - and will be, when I do decide to do it. Even my mother, who seemed most excited about the whole thing, said she thought that it was probably for the best.

Whew. That was a close one. So now I'm already starting to scan rental ads, just to get a sense of the rental situation out there. It's all a bit dire. There are few rentals in the one area I'd like to live in. But then I saw this small house, available soon. Good lord, how cute! And though I don't plan to move until August, I'd be willing to pay rent on this place for three months before that in order to end up with a sweet little cottage in the area that would make me happy. After all, I'm housesitting for the next three months, and not paying rent...So I've made an inquiry. Even if nothing comes of it, at least I know that there is some potential there.