I am sitting in a new coffee shop in Bloomsburg named “Fog and Flame”. One of my students just teased me saying, “just what you need, another coffee shop.” I guess there is a lot of truth to the statement that I am “a creature of habit”. I actually write the majority of my dissertation in a coffee shop. I have the majority of my office hours in coffee shops, and I guess there is something about being in the midst of things, while being in my own world at the same time. What I am realizing more and more is that I love my alone time. I am quite happy to go home and close the door, and even among all the people here, I am alone.
It is the 30th of June, which means another year is half gone. It is amazing to me. This was an interesting year in that I graduated from high school 40 years ago, college 30 years ago, seminary 25 years ago, and left Michigan Tech 10 years ago, and I am in my 5th year at Bloomsburg. That is a lot of multiples of five.
As I look around the room, my mind wanders and I wonder where people are in their lives and what seems important to them. Each face is a story, a narrative, one which has so many layers. Last week as I sat at Caribou (another coffee shop) in St. Paul I wrote some notes about what I saw and overheard. I had met with my longest childhood friend and his wife that afternoon and was waiting to meet a former student and her new husband. I pondered at what point does someone believe that life has passed them by, or does such a thing happen?
In my notes I wrote (trying to think about the descriptiveness of the moment and something I want my students to manage) a woman in her 20s who seemed to be either studying or reading for pleasure. She was tan and attractive and sat there trying to soak up sun and manage her reading with sunglasses on. Her legs were alarmingly attractive, tan, long and sensuous. There was another group of people who were engrossed in a conversation about family and they seemed unhappy, maybe even angry. Again, I was surprised to find myself looking at the one woman’s legs; she also had amazingly attractive tan legs and the wedge sandals she wore merely accentuated that beauty. Yet, the tone of her voice and the anger in her furled brow made her rather frightening. Then there was me . . . . can I be classified as “late middle-aged” or has that passed me by too. I am graying, perhaps mostly gray, and while I had lost a great deal of weight after surgery last year, I could afford to lose weight again. That needs to be a goal of the summer.
I pondered the idea of life passing one by . . . has it passed Lydia by as she now longer knows or remembers the present or the past? What a sad and terrible thing to observe. As I consider my niece, who is soon to be 40, is that middle age? I think perhaps it is. What about Rachael, who is 16: what does she expect her life will be? What I realize as I listen to my iTunes (The Brothers Johnson and “Strawberry Letter 23) I am reminded of when I was a student at Iowa State University and waiting tables for the new IowaState Chapter of the Alpha Phi sorority. There was a member there, who to this day, I will always think she was gorgeous. Her name was Karen, but to be fair, I will not provide her last name.
As I realize I am half-way through another calendar year, I am also at the beginning or the end of so many other things, and then again, in some places. I am half-way through. There is so much to do before the end of the summer. I think I will be relegated to lists and checking those lists often. In the meanwhile, today will be spent getting things ready for the beginnings of a new summer session and for some new students, the commencement of a very new time in their lives. They are not in the place where it has passed them by, but rather in the place where they are hoping to not get passed by. It is my duty to try to help them succeed in managing that.
Thanks for reading.
(The Writing Professor)