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.