Thursday, May 04, 2006
It's very strange to live your life without getting attached to any of it. Most people like to think of themselves as hard-headed, rational, practical. It comforts us to imagine we control how permeable we are. What goes out and comes in needs monitoring, as if love and satisfaction are scarce emotions, and precious. If you are an adjunct, you need to not have an investment in your students, the curriculum, or the university where you teach. It helps if you try not to notice how beautiful the trees are, all in bloom, or the pockets of hot perfume they create as you walk to class. Even better if you block out the feel of the sun warming your skin and hair as you cross from your car, and stop yourself from admiring the steps down, across, then up that negotiate a dip in the landscape next to the hockey fields,stop yourself, too, from lingering on the vast parklike places gleaming with new greens and yellows as far as you can see.
Every spring the blossoming trees amaze me. I always forget about them in the summer, fall, and winter. Especially winter. I think it's because you forget how to smell in the winter, since the air is so cold and there's nothing there, except maybe exhaust, or mud, or maybe a little ozone. When the blossoms come, the rows of ugly buildings are bathed in creams and pinks and delicate gold braid, and the dirtiest sidewalks and roads become sweet pathways littered with delicate crushed petals. Their appearance tears at your heart because you know you can only love them today, maybe tomorrow at most. They are supremely undependable. In a matter of days the wind will rip down all their lacy finery, and the hot green shoots of summer will uncurl their naked little fists in every tree,all up and down the block.
When you get to class, and you have a particularly fun discussion that day about sexism in the workplace, or beauty culture, or docile bodies and working out, you have to remember you will never see these students again. You have to enjoy the conversation just for now, and then let it go. There are four more weeks, and then the quarter is over, and it all ends for good.
So you enjoy them. They say funny things that make everyone laugh. You bond with them about the difficulties of gendered self-presentation in the workplace. You like it that they like the assignment they are working on. You grow fond of them, because they are learning, thinking hard, strategizing how to use what they have learned in the world. You notice that they are more comfortable, more open, and that those awkward pauses in class have disappeared. This intimacy is so beautiful, and so fleeting.
Then class is over, and you move into the hall, out the doors, onto the sundrenched grass once more. The air smells like blossoms, heated with an undercurrent of cool wind, as if somewhere out there on those green fields the ice is still melting. Keep walking past the blossoms, past the flowers, past the muddy fields. Find your car and drive away, across the city. Say goodbye every day, a small goodbye for now, the first goodbye of larger ones that will come later, inevitably, no matter how much or how little you try to feel about them.