Saturday, July 29, 2006

Reflections on the Then and Now

I have just returned from a rather short trip home, and like many of my travel excursions, either back to the US or elsewhere, it made me think.

I must admit that I am surprised to no end that this year, my year as an MA student at the University of York, is nearly over.

So, what was going on in my life one year ago now?

I was working at Plimoth Plantation, as I had been for two and a half years. It was hot, like all summers in New England are, with the added bonus of humidity to make the air all the more close and uncomfortable. I would drive into work every morning from my apartment in Bridgewater, Massachusetts in costume--to save myself to the trouble of dressing when I arrived--and I would pull into the closest free space available to begin my walk to the Mayflower II, sitting in its usual place at the Plymouth waterfront. I would literally work from break to break, deal with the little problems between staff and staff or staff and visitors. I would have one or two great conversations with informed visitors and three dozen slow-moving, elementary ones. By this point, I would usually be suffering health problems from the heat, regardless of how much water I managed to consume.

I lived in a two floor duplex with my landlord occupying the other half. It was rather bare by this time because I had originally moved into it with my boyfriend, Matt, with whom, our relationship did not work out. He had been living on the Cape in his parents' house for about two to three months by this point. I was fully stocked with bedroom and study furniture, but the dining room was left completely unused, save my own bookcase, and the living room had only the couch he left behind at my behest and the television unit. I was never lonely because I had the company of my four cats, and I was always excited to come home to them. I opened the side door to find all four of them waiting on the other side of it in the kitchen. Even though Matt was no longer a part of my life as he had been, his lack of participation when it came to housecleaning had fully prepared me to take on the responsibilities in his absence. I used to spend my evenings after work cleaning up any mess immediately visible, talking to good friends online, and then I would end the night before going to bed with either a cool beer or a chilled glass of wine, cat company also included.

Earlier in the month a year ago, I had lost an old friendship through imprudence and the desire to find something I wanted in a place that I shouldn't have been looking. To this day, it is lost, and to me, fully so. I do not mourn for it, regardless of how hurt I was, as much as I am disappointed in my own actions. I think that if it were me today, I would not have been foolish. I was fortunate in the end, though, to gain a very close relationship--closer than to any other person--with someone who has taught me more about myself, about the person I wish I could be, than any other in my life. I hope that in some way, I have lived up to his high opinion and expectations of and for me. I hope he knows how hard I have tried and continue to try, and if he is able to see any positive change in me if he were to look back on the person I was and the person I am now, then I am more blessed than I can imagine.

How did I see going off to England? I didn't like to think about it. It was an experience I knew I had to embark on--I knew that I would only lose certain fears and insecurities if I came here and pursued this. It's been difficult trying to balance a personal growth experience with focus on academic obligations, but I think I have balanced that out fairly well, but not without a hitch now and again. By this time, I was counting the days, hoping that a month and a half was a longer space of time than it seemed to be before I would have to leave everyone and everything I knew and enjoyed to come to a place I had never seen before with people I had never met. As much as I liked to joke at work about how much I looked forward to leaving, I was still hopelessly nervous about it and I was afraid that I wasn't up to the task at hand.

Although I have been home on and off since coming here, so far, this has been successful in a number of ways. Nothing has been perfect, but I have gained a great deal and will be happy to see the experience right to the end. What the future holds, well, that's not as much of a concern anymore. I'm sure in another year, I'll be looking back again and seeing myself as I was "then" and reflecting somewhat differently on what that means. Until then, well, at least to make sure "then" comes along, I'll take the rest of it one step at a time.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A Self-Indulgent Moment

So, what have I been doing?

I know, I should have some amazing story to tell about flying around to Spain or ending world poverty or writing the novel that will eventually win me a Pulitzer Prize and make me more wealthy than the author of Harry Potter.

Unfortunately I do not.

How's the foot? I thank you all for your kind inquiries. It is getting better. I am no longer in pain, which is very convenient for walking around but it is still rather swollen. I can feel it sometimes, especially when it gets damp--which is always here in England. However, the good news is that I am not hobbling around like Tiny Tim without the added bonus of infantile cuteness and a page-boy cap.

Essentially, I have been working on my dissertation--God help me. My supervisor requested a "chapter" to be completed by this week, which it was. I passed it in and am now awaiting commentary. I have been putting my efforts into creating "mobile research", which, for those of us who were taught how to record quotes from books by notecard as opposed to database, means a lot of peeling through books page by page, picking out a good quote that illustrates a point I think I will try and make, writing that quote down and then giving it a bibliographic reference. Yes, very dull. That is why I am very proud of myself--I have gone through all of my old research--42 separate sources--in two days creating a huge catalogue of cards for the next chapter, and am only in need of a few more sources to finish the whole thing off.

Why create the mobile research lab? Well, for travelling purposes of course. Given my very dull life of late, I am pleased to announce that will soon change. I am going on a rather ambitious trip to Bath and Cardiff starting on Monday that will take me to a lot of the neighboring sites within the vicitinities of those cities. I am very excited. It will certainly break the monotony of being here, in my room, surrounded by papers, photocopies, index cards, pens that leak all over my desk chair (thankfully, I have another chair I can use....). After that, I will travel back the US for a week or two.

I'll have a whole new lot of travel experiences to share soon, which will far outdo this next-to-pointless and self-indulgent blog post.

And I get to see my KITTIES!!! I miss their company---including Miss Harriet, who has fully recovered without a trace of the illness we thought was going to end her life only months ago, and Phoebe, who apparently, with no training at all and no encouragement (and no belief, on our part, that she could accomplish this), can now use the toilet.

Well, back to the boredom, with promises of something more interesting soon.