With a little over three months remaining before I move into the newest phase of my work, I find myself experiencing two distinct lives.
The first consists of my usual teaching and professional commitments, each made more significant by its finality, as in “this is the last time I’ll…[insert activity].” At the University, this manifests itself through commentary from two extreme groups of people: those who overly dramatize my leaving and those who calmly assume I’ve already left (and are surprised to see me still around). In the middle, one finds a lot of amazing, sensitive individuals—which is why I’m spending an unusually good deal of my free time in one-on-one conversations with students, university employees, staff, and colleagues. Through their respective narratives of day-to-day trials, travails, and triumphs, I continue learning, even as I begin the necessary process of separation.
At the same time, I’m experiencing a genuine—not virtual—“second life” of philosophical musings (even more than usual!) and practical preparations. Away from school, I’m reading everything I can get my hands on about Armenia and surrounding areas, I’m making slow, steady progress towards a rudimentary vocabulary, and I’m pursuing all the legal, domestic, and Peace Corps-related tasks preparatory to living abroad for 27 months. While I have resigned myself to “expect the unexpected” (and 40 years of teaching does help equip one to do just that), I am under no illusions. The vast part of my future is still unknown; the story yet to be written in a slow, steady manner over the ensuing days, weeks, and months.
Meanwhile, having briefly discussed the concept of “flowers for the living” with two freshman classes today, I will—closer to term's end—reinforce to them a core belief: that one of the ultimate purposes of a teacher is to make oneself obsolete, in the sense that the student no longer needs them to teach a particular skill or body of knowledge. While some sense of dependence may be necessary at first, I’d ultimately prefer that my students stood on their own two feet.
I do hope it happens.
Meanwhile, the energy, exuberance, and kindness continues to flow from most all quarters…