the Mammal Chronicles: April 2007

when it comes right down to it, ya lactate or ya don't.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Nostalgia

Yesterday as we were driving home from the conference, we decided to take a detour to drive through our old neighborhood. Our former next door neighbor had mentioned that our old building had been torn down and replaced with snazzy condos and we wanted to see what other changes had happened in the area. What'd we find? Not much. Oh sure, that old building had been replaced, but all the other dingbat-style apartments were still there in force.

While the first apartment we lived in was no longer, the second apartment was still there, though it did not look like the landlord (Miller and Desatnik, which seems to lord over the area of Los Angeles known as Palms) had painted it in the many years since we'd been there. I was sorry to see that the "Dollar Majal" next door had been replaced with a less brilliantly named dollar store. "Dollar Majal" is an issue of debate between my husband and I to this day: I contend that it is hilarious and a stroke of pure genius. He contends that it makes no sense. Exactly!

Also gone was the Thai/Pizza joint we often ordered from but in its place was, oh my dear god, a vegan delivery place! Clearly, we had moved too soon. Still around were our old veterinary hospital (still purple, yet more so) and our favorite breakfast place, which no longer had its outdoor dining area due to road-widening.

Since moving to Pomona, our walk-to and delivery meal options have significantly lessened, yet everything else is worlds better: we live in an adorable house in an even cuter tree-lined neighborhood that is perfect for walking the dog or strolling with our little one in a wagon to the park. No longer do we live in overpriced dingbats, no longer do we struggle financially to make ends meet, and I'd even say our relationship is better -- not to mention the addition of our uber-perfect little girl. Still, isn't it funny how nostalgia will hit you?

As we drove through our old neighborhood I couldn't help but long for those earlier days, the lack of vegan delivery in the envisioned past notwithstanding. This is what it will be like, I told my husband, as we get older: there will be more and more past to reminisce and feel nostalgic about. Youth is all about the future, age is more about the past. "You've always been old," he replied. Maybe so. As long as I am always old with you.

Alma Mater

I went to the regional meeting of my professional society this weekend. It was held at my alma mater. I hadn't been there in many years -- things have changed quite a lot: no longer is the program I graduated from housed in a dank basement but in what can only be called splendor. Ridiculously splendid splendor. Except, you see, for all intents and purposes, the program I graduated from is no longer. The faculty are there, a few straggling students are there, but it got swallowed up and digested by another department until it was all but unrecognizable. Then again, if it hadn't been swallowed up, it might have disappeared altogether.

Still, it was nice to be amongst people from my discipline again and hear presentations about their research. I miss talking about my field with people in my field. It made me realize though, how little actual research I have done in recent years. How do these people do it? I try to tell myself that after I have finished jumping through all the hoops to get tenure things will be different and I can focus on things I actually care about, but that may be wishful and deluded thinking. After all, isn't before you get tenure supposed to be the time when you are most rather than least productive?

My other fear is that disciplinary thinking is like a language: if you don't speak it you lose it. Lost on a campus with no disciplinary colleagues and teaching everything but my actual discipline, will I be able to fruitfully go back to it if I do have time to do so after I get tenure?

I know all this sounds like I had a horrible time, but it is really not true. Being at the event made me realize how much I really do love my discipline. What I do, both in the department I teach in and the department I administrate in, I enjoy and am good at, but this I love. Eventually I think, especially with regard to the administrative gig, I will have to decide if it is enough to enjoy and be good at something to the exclusion of the thing that will probably always own my heart. Being in the administrative position would likely take up any time I might have for research. The answer seems simple but it is not: there's a lot to be said for enjoying and being good at something, especially if they end up paying me more to do it.

The other good thing I came away with this weekend was that I had the first truly pleasant interaction with my ex that I have had in the last dozen or so years. That's pretty cool and nothing to be sneezed at since it is clear I will run into this man over and over again for the rest of my life. It was nice to feel that maybe we can finally salvage what we enjoy out of each other from the mess that was us being in a relationship together.