Hello on the last day of Spring,
Currently I am sitting outside Panera waiting for a former colleague, a treasured friend, and one of the most intelligent people I know to join me. I met them my first fall at Bloomsburg, and we have managed to stay in touch for all the time I have been at the university, in spite of their leaving the academy and now living almost entirely on the other side of the country. To maintain a meaningful friendship takes work, intentionality, and perhaps most importantly, an honest foundation from the outset. It will be nice to spend time with them.
Pondering what constitutes a friend is something that has caused me pause throughout my life, but even more so in the past year. Certainly those who have known me all my life have a different place, but how many of those who knew me since the single digits of my existence are still actively part of my daily world. As I go through the Rolodex of people, I think there is one. Seriously, one; and ironically, we did not grow close until perhaps 10 years after high school. There are the Facebook connections from childhood, and some for whom I am very grateful, but we are not friends.
If I consider my early 20s, there are two people, and one is still beyond special in my life. The two together remind me of the time I struggled mightily to figure how who I was. If it were not for their family, I am not sure where I might have gone. The group of people perhaps most important to me, though not really friends per se (and this is not the case across the board) are what most will refer to as their Dana family. The people at Dana I was closest to as a student are not really the closest to me now. The Dana people I closest to, in my estimation, were the people I acquainted with my senior year. That is more because of the changes I went through while I was at the University of Iowa. In fact, I am perhaps more connected to come faculty and others. As our lives transform, we alter preferences. We reimagine our own lives in a manner which at one time would have seemed unimaginable. Much of my life seems to be that as I reflect; and yet there are profound differences. I have had an oxymoronic week. The exchange student who began the year with me and was required to reassignment is leaving. The period of time since he left has been a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences. It has been a time of pain and growth for everyone. Over the last five days it has been a privilege to meet his mother and sister as well as his life-long best friend and the friend’s mother, which has been a friend to the exchange student’s mother for a quarter century. Trips to Jim Thorpe, Ricketts Glen, a swimming day, movies and meals have often some nice insight into his past 10 months. Conversations with the friend’s parent have been profound, insightful, stimulating, enjoyable, and even humorous. What a wonderful, albeit unexpected, joy. My hope was regardless the possible stress from the last 4 months I wanted to make sure the fetching contingent had a good time. It has taken some thought and patience, but I am thankful for the discipline I learned as a young person in the Marine Corps. It has served me well on a number of occasions and probably will into next week. It is amazing what observation can accomplish. A little critical thinking and analysis, as I tell my students, can do wonders.
I am grateful for another visit in July when Anton and his family will come to Bloomsburg. There are a couple of other trips on the horizon, but some planning yet to accomplish. Letting go of something is often related to a person and realizing what it is and the difference between the something and the someone can be difficult. It is tremendously or profoundly troublesome when emotions affect our thoughts. Age and experience should make it most possible, but that seldom translates into simplicity. I remember my father telling me after my divorce that those we love the most can hurt us the most profoundly or deeply. That is most certainly true. From time to time I have noted that my anger is most often felt when I hurt by someone I love. And yet, life without love would be devastatingly sad. Sometimes I wonder what it means to truly love someone. Is it that I am either merely mystified or that I am intrinsically incapable of this concept or feeling? During the visit, through conversation, observation, and perhaps even some transformation, I believe I have a much clearer understanding of many incidences, of responses (or lack there of) or even some genuine appreciation for what happened during the past year. The cultural differences were more significant, and those specific differences are so engrained in both cultures that even foundational elements of our daily practices did not seem logical. Perhaps I needed more understanding from the outset. On the other hand, some of the differences were worth chatting about. Some of the questions were never articulated on either side.
However, the reality that shone through this past two-week period is the differences that exist, in spite of familiarity. What is it that creates such a disparate process or reaction? Culture is certainly part of it. And the historical underpinning of that culture also shown through, and yet, in spite of profound similarities, the differences were as extreme as those resemblances. It is not about right or wrongs for me, it is about trying to comprehend. We are such amazing creatures in our humanity. One of the things I have had to spend considerable thought on is how to let go. It is possible to value people or experience too greatly? It is possible to feel some need that creates some irrepressible desire to keep us holding on to that which could do us disservice? More simply, is it misguided loyalty? And it that loyalty to person or event or to a concept?
Perhaps it is appropriate that I continue this post on Independence Day. The reality of my life is that I have few personal obligations, and that has been more true than not for over two decades. The concept of letting go, of moving on, has been something I have done pretty well. That is not necessarily something to be proud of, just so you know what I am thinking. There have been some exceptions, and I am grateful for both people and circumstances who or which have caused me pause. It is always good to be pulled out of one’s pattern. I can think of three or four people who still create an interruption of sorts in my daily practice or plan (if I can call it that). Perhaps yet another irony: none of them are American (well, one is, but I think I identify her as more from her ancestral homeland than from the States. I ponder how that has happened. What I know is there is so much more out there; so much that is more critical thinking, careful analysis, and yes, globally aware. Please do not think I am disavowing my patriotism or my citizenship, in spite of my current disillusionment with many significant things. I think the Founders of the country would be appalled by our current national persona, but I am still an American. Perhaps it is my age; perhaps it is my appreciation for yet another country and people. There is so much to learn; and learning is what rejuvenates me, what inspires me. This past two weeks I have been in spired to work and learn even more, even imagine other possibilities. While there is moving on, and to a degree letting go, the last 11 months have taught me a great deal. It has sometimes been joyful, sometimes painful, but investing in another person will create those situations. As with the first experience, a person came to me as a boy and leaves as a young man. My life is better for it. The meeting of cultures and others these past two weeks has been something I will forever remember. Each one of them has given me something important. I am blessed by all of it.
Thanks as always for reading