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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Personal: A Bit of Personal Resurrection; Blessings of Friendship; The Nieces Score at Wrigley 
25th-Apr-2009 01:55 am
Writing in Jackson Hole
My mind felt like it came back today. Talking to my sister earlier on the telephone (I couldn't get a hold of Dad to wish him a happy birthday, and checked to see if he happened to be out there), I used the image of a limp, washed-out rag to describe the way I'd felt the last two weeks. Not "sick" in an overt, fluish way, just weirdly drained, as well as all the coughing from this lung/throat infection.

Starting yesterday evening I just started feeling more and more refreshed. This was a bit of a shame, in a sense – too little, too late – since the Lloyds and the Harrises had wanted to take me out last night, and had canceled their plans and their babysitters since I was still feeling under the weather. I haven't had a face-to-face conversation with anyone in nearly two weeks, and that just feels bleak, so I really missed out on their company. Still, by the time I'd had a late dinner, I felt like I had regained 50 IQ points and so I threw myself into getting a couple of dissertation pages written at a good clip before hitting dual landmines of a NIRV (Nigh-Impossible Reference to Verify) and a WFNFR (Weird Foreign Newspaper Format to Reference).

Today we had one of those brief and welcome temperature spikes, a sort of tease of the upcoming summer, with a sunny day in the 80s. This was a good day for getting back on my feet. I had to replenish my supplies in the worst way, and so I was over on the East Side hitting the Metro Market and just enjoying the wild, warm wind that was enlivening the city. College students were out everywhere in force, probably enjoying the beach a bit, and making the bus too loud, but they did their bit for making the day feeling like a lively one. The feeling of isolation in the midst of such numbers, because of not having seen anyone due to being sick for so many days, brought back to me a curious note Professor Barnes had sent to me the other day, part of which read:
Next year will be ordered by the tasks of defending, job-hunting, and teaching. I will offer you another perspective on next year: it will, most likely, be your last year here in the midst of the emotional "communio" you have here. Think about what that community will mean for you after you've left (and it is no more) three years from now, ten years, twenty years. Take it in in such a way that you acknowledge its value, and in such a way that it might fortify you during those future years when there is nothing like it in your life. In other words, don't assume that you will find, or be able to build, another community later. Odds are you won't be able to (for internal reasons as well as external; for reasons of choices freely made as much as for circumstances beyond your control.)
I was so honoured by his boldness in writing that. Many people have remarked, especially this last year, what a gift I've been given in my friendships. This is true: I've had extraordinary luck or blessing in being able to find a circle of friends who are willing to open up, live their lives deeply and thoughtfully, and to share those lives across all our differences. High school was pretty good for that. College was better. Graduate school at Notre Dame even more rich, and Marquette has been just as strong.

I've wondered myself if I can make that happen again as a faculty member somewhere, or whether this has been dependent upon the student experience. Even my time as a professional was still partially built upon my Notre Dame circle, although I did meet some new and major friends in that time. So I'm left wondering. Without the security and pleasure of a "home base" in a marriage and family of my own, everything does seem increasingly precarious in that sense. Not that I lack confidence in the staying power of my friendships, which tend to remain as strong long-distance: it's just the possibility of a more quotidian loneliness, no matter how tempered by the strength and occasional enjoyment of already-established friendships then experienced at a distance. But it's no use to borrow trouble from the future, of course: we'll see what happens when all that happens. With those thoughts and feelings and speculations on the future, though, today kind of feels like an official foreclosure on a youth that has been wildly extended. How's that for overly-glum? I guess I'm still related to that freshman I remember: drama, drama, drama.

Leslie told me that she and Jim took the girls into the Cubs game yesterday against the Reds, having first-row seats right by the visitors dugout and on-deck circle. The girls proved popular, even in their matching Cubs jerseys, with (if I remember the order correctly) an umpire coming over to give Grace a game ball, and then the Reds third baseman giving Haley another one some time later. Then the Reds batboy came over a bit after that, offering to trade a nice, shiny new ball for the one given to Haley, with an aside to the parents that that ball had been pitcher Aaron Harang's 1000th strike out, and that they had wanted to give it to him, which Leslie graciously agreed to. Haley actually thought she was getting the better of the deal in no longer having a dirty, banged-up ball. Some of the people nearby started good-naturedly yelling to the Reds that "Sophie needs a ball" (the girls names are all on their jerseys), and that she was getting slighted in the typical youngest-child way. Leslie just thought that that was fun and funny, but as she kind of wondered if Haley had just gotten gypped out of an actual gameball, the batboy came over again and asked them to stick around after the game since they had been such good sports about the ball. Harang then signed and gave them his game bat, battered and oiled and full of character. The girls, too young to realize that that was the coolest item of the lot, thought that the bat could be Sophie's.
25th-Apr-2009 10:04 am (UTC)
That's a pretty pessimistic email he's sent you! Doesn't sound very nice to me. And it's not necessarily true. Life is full of progressions, and each situation can be as fulfilling and satisfying as the last. All good things must come to an end, but others will take their place.
25th-Apr-2009 10:48 am (UTC)
Eh, it might be pessimistic, sure. But mostly I think he was really encouraging me to savour a (perhaps) extraordinary situation while it lasts, especially as I'm wrapping up my doctorate. I don't think he quite knows how many times I've been able to find such fabulous groups of people, and may do so again, but I do think he's stating a commonplace in that it's simply much harder to find groups that you so strongly click with once you're out of a student setting. I know lots of people have trouble adjusting to life after college in just that way. But yes, I myself remain cautiously optimistic. :-) However the above entry sounds, I'm congenitally a "glass half-full" kind of guy.
25th-Apr-2009 05:05 pm (UTC)
Haha, oh, that sounds so much like me as of late in so many ways. But. I have also been extremely lucky in my friends wherever I have gone, and I have no doubt you will be, too, Mike.

While there might not always be a well-structured community around you waiting for you to leap into, you seem like the kind of guy who is fully capable of slowly and surely creating one around you, wherever you are, especially after you've discovered all the nice restaurants in town. :)

Also, if it is indeed your birthday as friede seems to think, I hope you are having a happy happy happy one in your extended youth, as you just put it, and may your youth extend even further before you become grey-haired and sagely and skip that awkward middle-aged bit.
25th-Apr-2009 05:06 pm (UTC)
PS - Sorry to hear you've been sick, but good to hear from you. Every time you are 'gone' for an extended bit I always worry you're having a major surgery. ...Now, why would I do that? ;)
26th-Apr-2009 10:49 am (UTC)
I've tried to give up that little hobby. That was a run of ill luck, so to speak.
26th-Apr-2009 10:48 am (UTC)
Thanks! (Yes, it was, thus some of the mood described.) It's curious that you describe your situation as similiar: obviously there's been a lot of detail differences, but I've been reading you with great interest lately as you think through all your stuff, and have been intending to finally write you some large response at some point, though I kept putting that off. Suffice it to say, I hadn't thought of it so explicitly, but I guess I sensed a sympathetic mood in your own self-examination.

And yes: we'll see about what community lies in wait in the future. I'm not really sweating over it too much.

P.S. – Why no ND application?
25th-Apr-2009 05:00 pm (UTC)
Am I crazy, or isn't today your birthday, too?
26th-Apr-2009 10:44 am (UTC)
Yes, hence some of the mood. :-)
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