I am headed back to Austin today after a long, relaxing break, and I can’t help feeling a little sad. Not that I don’t love living in Austin, or that I’m not enjoying the grad program at UT; I am, and I’m anxious to return. There’s a lot waiting for me in Austin: A move to a new apartment, the beginning of a new, exciting job, the preparations for a conference in Tampa I’ll be attending next week... but its never easy to leave home regardless of how much I might enjoy the destination.
I realized as I was trying to sleep last night, stuck helplessly going over all the various items on my to do list (the way you do when you’re slightly stressed, but not sure exactly what you’re stressed about), that I’m out of practice in dealing with the conflicting emotions involved in a return to school. There is something wildly different about returning to school after a long break versus returning to work (even if that work happens to be teaching in school). There is anticipation: each semester is a new and different animal. With the change of classes comes a change of work-load and responsibility that I always find my self both eagerly anticipating and dreading. There is also a certain nostalgia: Christmas is over and there is still the long stretch of January and February ahead before we can begin to think about spring. I find this is true, even in climates where late winter is one of the most pleasant times of the year. There is also the inevitable sadness of having to leave my family behind again. We are extremely close, the four of us, and no matter how many times I’ve done it, it never gets easier to wave goodbye to them at the airport. For people who grow up in houses that they can’t wait to leave, this can be hard to understand. It might seem as ridiculous as Michael Palin insisting to a stunned John Cleese that his dead parrot is merely “Pinin’ for the fjords.” To me, however, leaving my family behind is one of the most difficult things about the return to school.
Paradoxically, I think it is actually easier to be the person doing the leaving. Regardless of how much I might dread saying goodbye to my father and sister in the airport in a few hours, I would much rather be the person waving a tearful goodbye while trying to navigate the increasingly complicated security screening than the person being left behind. I discovered this last year when, in a strange twist, I stayed in Phoenix while Dad and Miriam left. I’m not sure exactly why this is, but I suspect it has something to do with all those conflicting emotions I mentioned. When I’m leaving to go back to school, there is always that anxious anticipation to temper the homesickness.
So here’s hoping that where ever you are and where ever your travels might take you, you embark on the journey with a healthy mix of excitement and sadness. May the road rise up to meet you.