I realized on my evening commute yesterday that not only was this weekend the eighth anniversary of my arrival in Boston, but that this is the fourth anniversary I’ve celebrated since completing my graduate program at Simmons in May 2011. Which means I’ve now spent more time as a professional librarian in Boston than I did as a graduate student.
Thank the gods.
There were two things that almost broke me when I moved to Boston. One was the grief (still real, though muted by time) at uprooting myself from the social and physical ecology of my growing-up years and transplanting myself in a wholly new environment. It slayed me, emotionally, and was physically debilitating for most of my first year in Boston. I had panic attacks and couldn’t keep food down in the mornings, I struggled to sleep restfully without waking up in a cold sweat from inchoate nightmares.
Hanna likes to remind me on a regular basis how, during our early acquaintance, she thought I found her boring because I would fall asleep in her rooms on a regular basis when we hung out — it was one of the few places that read as “home” to my body and as a result I’d crash halfway through movie night (she still hasn’t forgiven me for snoring through the middle of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead). I know this sounds like some sort of trumped-up “soul mate” fan fiction trope but I swear that’s how it happened. I spent the next year getting up about two hours early for work so I could commute into the city with her, unable to face the task of getting from A to B without her beside me.
She found me confusing a lot. Until we figured out that kissing helping bring many things into greater clarity. But that didn’t happen until June 2009. We lived together for a year first.
Yes, our relationship did actually unfold like a story posted in response to some “last ones to figure out they’re already married” prompt.
The other thing that almost brought my graduate student career to a screeching halt before it began was how much I hated being a student again. Living in a dorm was expedient, moving as I did from the Midwest without any local intelligence and few contacts. Living in the dorm, even as a graduate student, felt like a bajillion steps backward into an earlier stage of my youth instead of forward into adulthood. In short, it sucked. It sucked so much. I chaffed against being a student again even as I rejoiced at some of the new intellectual horizons opening for me.
I’m grateful for the doors graduate school opened — the opportunity to do my oral history work with the Oregon Extension, the launch of my career at the Massachusetts Historical Society, the connection I made through graduate school with Hanna (and thus the home we’ve established together), the fact that people now send me free books and occasionally pay me to review them — but yesterday when I realized I had spent more time in Boston not in graduate school than I spent as a student, it felt amazingly freeing.
I am over and done with that part of my life. I made good use of it while it lasted, and I’m glad to have moved on. I am glad to be an older adult than I was then, the same person but with an undeniably different sensibility. When I was in my late teens, early twenties, even later twenties, I used to scoff at the people who described having been a different person than they were as younger individuals (some of these people were older than I am now — thirty-four — and some of them appreciably younger). I felt a great deal of continuity with my past selves for many years, and resisted age-based narratives of change. But these days I would acknowledge that I am embodied in the world in a very different way today than I was five, ten, fifteen, twenty years ago. And I think part of my job in this coming year is to figure out what that shift in embodiment, in how I move through the world within which I am now rooted, really means and how it will shape my living in this next phase of life.