A million things have happened in the past 5 days, and I haven't written about them. And I've decided, just now, not to feel guilty about that. Plenty for my future self to write about; the happenings will trickle out as I write out the projects they affect. And I'll be writing when I'm back in Indiana; one thing that came from talking with Heidi a few days ago was the insight that my prolific wordsmithing probably stems from a sort of loneliness -- the people who I need to share and workshop my ideas with will never be sufficiently concentrated in my in-person location, so the internet becomes the only place where we can keep the constant contact needed for those sorts of conversations.
But this week I am in Boston, and it is wonderfully comfortable, wonderfully... I know that this city is no longer my home, but it's the closest place I've ever had to one. My friends are here, I have family here, my colleagues are here, the highest concentration of people working in "my area" (in some sense of the word -- not by methodology or training or particular manifestation of practice, but by the domain of open source and education and with a certain mindset toward it) are here.
On Friday night I found myself sprawled on the floor of Hari's room, belly full of ice cream, lolling half on an unrolled exercise mat that Hari had tossed me for comfortableness++, him and Elsa firing social_life++ ideas to me after I'd expressed confusion as to how one went about building friendships in Indiana, which I am apparently not good at -- all my friendships come through work, and grad school work has so far been overwhelmingly individual. Sprawled on the floor of someone's room, staring at the ceiling, not worrying about looking stupid, feeling comfortable, feeling part of the flow; hanging out with Hari had been a random text message, Elsa had come by because Hari banged on the window as she passed outside, no agenda, just... friends.
Sunday evening I got sucked into an impromptu swing dance lesson (co-taught with Zach) in much the same way, then Jeff hijacked me for a Cabot's trip on the way to pika dinner with Matt, after which we talked until I fell asleep on his futon. Monday night was a long, long, multi-topic conversation with Heidi out in Springfield; I went back to Worcester this morning to hang out with Karl, then took Melanie on her first college tour (Wellesley -- interesting new perspectives!) and had dinner with Liz. I don't remember what evening it was when Brett, Ivy, and Sebastian got me playing Halo for the first time in about 4 years up in Brett's room (where I proceeded to be a terrible liability to anybody I was partnered with as I scrambled to relearn how to use weapons and shoot things), but that was fantastic too. Saturday, maybe. Saturday night? Too many things to hold onto. Too many thoughts in brain. Too many -- they will slip, I will forget, I need to make sure to do things I need to do.
I'm jumping around in time here. Tuesday afternoon was Dee and Deb, and Wednesday morning was presenting the open access policy proposal at Olin's faculty meeting (went well, more work to do now) and got sucked into delightful conversations along the way -- I2E2 with Sharon, engineering education geekery with Jon... Laura had an admissions tour group starting as I walked out of Susan's office (because every Olin trip must contain a Susan hug) and I sat down and answered questions for a little while. Being able to swing by to see Sebastian for a few minutes on my way back to my aunt's house and get a real good-night hug, and to have that sort of tiny casual thing be possible, that little luxury we've never been able to take for granted. Monday morning meeting at WGBH before I hit the road, two breakfasts at the Miss Woo diner car in Worcester because I wanted to try their (amazing) pancakes. Conversations with my aunt, summer planning with Melanie, seeing Audrey asleep at night when I come in to sleep on the air mattress on the floor (how did she grow up so fast?) and knowing that tomorrow I will see more people, be able to improvise.
That's a lot of it. In this city, I can improvise much faster and farther from a base here than in anywhere else in the world. I know it well, I know the people well, I know the patterns and the rhythms and they fit into and extend what I do. I'm in the midwest for skill-honing, thought-training, tool-sharpening... but the places I want to apply it and the people I want to apply it with are far too often out East here. So I work, and I wait, and I work some more, and I try to make friends, and I build my network (though that sounds way more calculating than the actual "wait that looks shiny I am now excited!" stuff that actually happens in my brain) and I soak up what I can joyously during the rare moments I can be here.
I appreciate Boston far more when I don't live in it, I am sure. I have been lonely here as well. I don't imagine that doing data collection here, or a postdoc here, or even moving back out here will magically solve all my problems and make me deliriously happy.
But this visit has made me very happy. I'm exhausted, run ragged, doing the sleeping thing extremely early tonight; I'm terribly behind on everything, but I am happier than I've been all semester, maybe all school year. Just the past six days. Because it's been constant flow and constant fit, constant friends, comfortableness, belonging. I miss that feeling terribly, and I know that I'll feel its absence when I go back.
Someday, perhaps, I will read this and laugh at the rootlessness in my writing. I wonder what this will look like from the other side of that transformation, if I ever get there. And if I ever have a student or a mentee or a kid who has the wanderlust burn in their veins, I hope they'll see this sort of thing and know that I drank (and possibly still do drink) from that flaming pool myself. I'm not all polished and coherent thought and manic work-output; I also spill out in a sort of tired lanky joyousness, and then I do collapse and go to sleep.
I think my fingers have run out of brain. I'll flop upstairs on the air mattress now.