Commencement is always a bittersweet time; graduation day is the easiest part of my job. Show up; wear silly hat; sit on stage; look happy; take pictures; hug anybody who doesn’t run away with sufficient alacrity.
But graduation also means that many of the students I’ve enjoyed getting to know move on, as they do, naturally. Nonetheless, I have always had this weird feeling as a professor, watching it all happen: they come, they light up the place, they go. And, of course, next year there be will more, and they will be wonderful in their own ways, but they will not be these students, right here, the ones who made me care about them, and who then left. There’s no escaping a feeling of being stationary as a professor, or as a teacher I suppose, where you do what you can for people at this stage in their lives, and then they go on to new things, while you stay, keeping on keeping on.
I am also watching my cohort of graduate students, my contemporaries, move on; I’m having those awkward conversations with people feeling me out, trying to measure their progress against mine: have I have submitted my file for promotion? Have I done this? That? This other thing? The answer is: “probably not.”
In addition, there are those who are moving into administration, important jobs, all of which sound like rather a lot of ghastly meetings. Trying to move into something like that simply to feel like I am moving strikes me as a very, very bad idea. Shouldn’t you be called into something like that?
I could also move universities, but precious few seem to have better programs than my beloved USC; there are snootier universities, sure, but I really doubt there are better faculty, and I’m not sufficiently into status hierarchies to move (even if anybody wanted me, and so far, they seem to be fine despite the absence of Lisa in their spheres). Thus that, too, would feel like moving just to move.
My book project is taking forever, and I hate that, but I also don’t. It’s a big, ambitious piece of work, and it deserves my patience, even if the struggle to get the ideas right feels like a modest, almost monastically boring, application of everyday craft, not the big, difficult battles I have enjoyed fighting in years prior.
I’m re-reading City of God right now. It took Augustine 15 years to write it. I’ve decided to translate the key books discussing cities and politics for my own learning. That will probably take ME 15 years.
The question becomes: what do I next? Do I fade off into contented academic pottering like my Augustine work? Or is there something else? I toyed with the idea of going after a journal editorship, but after chatting with a few folks, I decided I wouldn’t be much good at that.
I was also thinking of going back and getting another PhD. Agent Spencer on Criminal Minds had 3 by the time he was 22. I’m behind!
Today’s agenda is painting, weeding, reading, taking a dog in for her dental. And I’m grateful for it.