Goodbye Until Tomorrow

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Endings discomfit me.

The recognition that I will likely never return to a particular place again tends to evoke within me this slight surge of panic, this almost instinctual desire to reclaim my ownership over that place (or at least reclaim my control to be in that place whenever I want to be there). In other words, I hate to see doors close, opportunities disappear, and – well – moments lost.

So, here I am at the end of this summer internship. I am  debating whether to say “goodbye” to the ocean or to simply leave our relationship open-ended, as if to fool myself into thinking that maybe – just maybe – this space will remain within a brief drive over the freeway in the future. It’s cool, ocean. We can still be friends.

More significantly than ending my (brief) stay in a new city is, of course, ending my foray into this alternate Jenae reality, this life in the cube. I’ll admit that I did not reach as much closure as I would have liked at the end of this experience. I had somehow hoped that this internship would convince me one way or the other about whether I truly belong to academia or to industry. Alas, I still have a lot of questions about both of these spaces and about how I could contribute best to either one of them. These are things I probably should have figured out two years ago when I graduated from college. Alas, these are things I couldn’t have figured out two years ago when I graduated from college.

This blog may have looked like a lot of complaining over the past six weeks (and I’ll admit that I did not often feel as though the work or the environment was “right” for me), but I’ve come to grow more accustomed to the routines of the past few weeks. I’ve come to find ways to make the work day meaningful for me (even if that meaning was not necessarily derived from accomplishing work tasks themselves). The truth of the matter is that I could imagine surviving in a world outside of academia and being OK with it. Were I to enter a space outside of education, I would need to find a place where I truly felt at home, a space with a mission and a cause about which I felt strongly. For if I’ve learned nothing else, it’s that I truly have to invest emotionally in my work in order to feel that that I am contributing in a valuable and useful way.

Granted, that perspective is perhaps problematic; most people do not have the great fortune to “do what they love.” It’s one of those “echo boomer” adages, the assumption that every individual has this special mission and that, no matter what, each individual can accomplish that mission if she simply works hard enough. The fact of the matter is that I’m not special. I’m someone who’s pretty smart with a pretty organized brain who happens to have developed a few skills over time.

That said, at the end of this experience I am significantly more open to the understanding that I could find what I love in spaces that I least expect. Right now, that space is a writing classroom. But it could be somewhere else in the future and I’m willing not only to accept that, but to embrace it.

As a friend advised me recently, I would like to remain an “opportunist.” I would like to see the liminal moment that is graduate school remain this luxurious opportunity for exploration, not only the kind that emerges from sustained study, but from simply saying “yes” to whatever arises around me. I have the great benefit of flexibility upon my return to Davis; my days are relatively unstructured (aside from, you know, class and whatever. No big deal), and I can keep doing what I have been: keeping my eyes open, remaining mindful of my strengths, and acknowledging my weaknesses.

One of my favorite professors at UCLA once advised me to write two words on a sticky note above my desk: “Let Go.” The sticky note upon which I originally wrote those two words is long gone, but it’s perhaps worth recreating, if nothing else than to accept the closing of doors, the inevitable passing of moments.

Image Source: Exploding Dog

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