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5th January
2009
written by Steph
I always knew that today would be hard, since who ever enjoys the first day back to work after the holidays?  But I guess I didn’t expect it to be as emotionally eviscerating as it turned out to be.  The weather has been bleak, but the building where I work has never felt so empty as it does to me today.  I’m sure part of this has to do with the fact that classes don’t start back up until Wednesday, so there isn’t the pitter patter of undergraduate feet and their vapid chatter echoing down the halls, but I know that’s not really the thorn in my paw today. No, today I’m just plain sad because one of my really good friends here in Nashville has finally moved on to snowier pastures.  If you’ll recall, back in early December, Tony & I went out for a birthday/thesis defense celebration for a good friend of mine.  He’s since relocated to Chicago for a post-doc position, and while I couldn’t be happier for him, I am feeling a bit sad for me.  This is compounded by the fact that another friend of mine just finished up a post-doc in December, and has since made his way back to Australia.  So that’s two friends no longer just down the hall or up a flight of stairs, and in a building where there are few people to whom I genuinely enjoy talking, it’s a pretty hard blow. The thing is, I knew these people were leaving months ago, and yet somehow, their exodus didn’t hit me until now.  I suppose these partings have proven to be more sorrowful than sweet for several reasons.  I’ve said à bientôt to other friends before, clearly, but this time it’s different, as compared to at the end of high-school or undergrad.  In part, there is something to be said for being the one who leaves rather than the one who is left behind.  Before, either I’ve been the one moving on to bigger and better or things, or all of my friends were doing the same.  Additionally, almost all of my good friends are back in Toronto, and at the end of the day, that’s still the city I consider to be home, so there’s never any doubt that I’ll be back there and will see them all again.  But when people leave from one foreign city to go to another foreign city, it makes it all very uncertain when you’ll see them again.  Plus, what if you find out that you had one of those friendships that was really just one of convenience or proximity?  You know the kind: everything works when you’re in the same place at the same time, when you could drop by for a chat whenever it struck your fancy, or go out for dinner and drinks every now and then, but you’ve never been the type to communicate via email or the phone.  I mean, as distance increases it only gets easier to drift apart. And I guess it feels like all I do here at work is drift through my days, hoping to run into the small group of people along my course who make me drop anchor and enjoy my day and their company.  It struck me this year, that I am now genuinely close to being finished with grad school, and that means that a chapter in my life, comprised of five whole years, is nearing its climax and close.  It’s weird to think of how quickly time can go, especially when you spent time agonizing about how it never would.  I think I am also feeling the gap left by my friend because he was the senior-graduate student with whom I was paired up with on a project my first semester as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young grad student.  In a way, I can’t imagine graduate school without him, because I’ve never known it to be the case. I suppose the best way to summarize how I feel is to misquote Miranda from Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  If I may be so bold:
O brave new world That has NOT such people in it!

2 Comments

  1. taryn
    01/06/2009

    Aww, Stephie… i’m very sorry that you have lost two members of your Vanderbilt family. But i’m sure you’ll have some more conference/travel plans for Chicago, non? As for your other dearly-departed (whom i’m assuming is Dux, and whose proper name i can’t actually remember)… not much of a silver lining there, sorry. Boo.

    You’re absolutely right, it’s a lot scarier when the coming & going does not involve, at least on one end, an anchoring to a (common) home-town. I’d like to think that it makes you appreciate the time you do have with certain friends all the more, but from experience i’d have to say that it can often leave you wishing you’d taken more advantage of the time you had together. And you’re also right that it can result in the true measure of a friendship. But this isn’t always necessarily in a pass/fail sense; this is going to sound glaringly obvious, but distance can change the nature of your relationship. I have an English friend who, since heading back home after he finished his MA back in August, i actually feel much closer to now than when we were both in Montreal. Not being in the same program we used to see each other infrequently, but now that he’s gone we’ve taken to emailing and i actually think we’re in touch a lot more now! There have also been friends i was used to seeing multiple times a week, who pretty much disappeared off the face of the earth (whether or not i made a great attempt to stay in touch) once they graduated. But i think labelling those “friendships of convenience” is an awful term that really devalues them. It certainly shouldn’t be taken to mean that you weren’t “real” friends, but rather as an indication that we are definitely social beings and that regardless of your location or situation, you will always find people to befriend. Certainly if all these people have left the department, there must be an almost equal amount of new grad students come to fill their place! Though newbies are generally most useful a resource when it comes to mocking and loathing, if you actually look i’m sure you’d find one or two that are redeemable… 😉

    From my experiences in Europe, i’ve made some great friends with whom i’m still in touch, others with whom i’ve drifted apart since i left, and still more with whom i don’t think i was ever particularly close but who have turned out to be friendship’s version of “diamonds in the rough”. I think. That’s possibly the wrong metaphor (and “metaphor” is also possibly the wrong word too!). Aaackk!!! All of your literary critiquing has left me too self-conscious to write on your blog, dammit!!

    Here’s one true silver lining: though being the leavee rather than the leaver can be difficult, the slow-drip loss of Vanderbilt friends means that come less than two years’ time, it hopefully won’t be that difficult for YOU to leave Nashville! [subtext: please leave Nashville 😉 and Tony can come too, if he’s nice and brings the puppies]

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