In the end it was both difficult and not very difficult to bid farewell to the UoH chapter of my life.
Truisms apart, it will always be an integral component of my academic career, and as I said at a small function at the DST auditorium on campus a few days ago, I truly value the various opportunities that I have had to try out some ideas in academic administration, to try out some ideas in academic management, and the opportunities to try something different. Of course, given the sizes of the relative entities, getting an organization as large as a forty year old University to budge is much more difficult than to make the corresponding move oneself. Also given the fact that my personal motto is not (even if it does occasionally seem that way) “As my whimsy takes me“, I found it easier to adapt and change. And of course, change I did. The avoirdupois part is visible enough, as is the difference between the before and after photographs of my receding hairline, but the real changes are hidden elsewhere.
When writing to a colleague, I chose to call this segment of my life Schubertian. Not so much in the vision romantic or grand, but to echo the alternate title of his Symphony No. 8, The Unfinished. In the mid 1960’s there was also the wonderful(ly funny!) P D Q Bach’s take on Schubert in his Unbegun Symphony. In the days before the internet, the staples of graduate student evenings included Richard Schickele, Monty Python’s Traveling Circus and Tom Lehrer, but these have all not aged nearly as well as one’s memories of them… So some of it nods to the unbegun, and some of it to the unfinished. But this is not a time to take stock, and time alone will tell.
I was most apprehensive that the emotion of the moment would be too much- I am bad at goodbyes, and unrelated memories often have a way of intruding inappropriately, but in the end, I was glad that it all turned out to be fairly matter of fact. People spoke, I like to think factually, and said some nice things. And there were some who did not, but not in the way of the AIB roast (I wish!) or other such, but some irrelevant and very tangential remarks. But the moments pass. And in the end the drama of the last few minutes made it much easier to let go, what with the florid display of emotion over a matter that was, again, irrelevant to the moment. And again, the moments pass. I don’t particularly hold these instances to be characteristic of the UoH. There were enough messages that I got that were more in keeping with the ethos of the University and the values that we hold dear. Or having seen so many of these displays over the past several months, perhaps I should say that there are values that we should hold dear… One cannot but help noticing that as the national mood swings to a state where there is zero tolerance for petty corruption, the local expression of support that evening was for an act of simple and outright fraud. But let the courts decide that.
One of the more difficult things about letting go is that one returns to a life less variegated, a more monotone existence where the mornings pass into afternoons and evenings of a sameness. Having worn the trappings of office somewhat lightly, or so I thought, I felt that it would be simple to be back in my office at the JNU. But… the diverse nature of a typical working day at the UoH cannot be matched by the texture of my typical working days at JNU, given that I’m not even teaching this semester. Its far too early to tell whether it is just that I miss the bustle of it all. These initial moments are all too self-conscious…
Anyhow, what I hope to do on this blog is to write on stuff that I care about. Mostly education related, I suppose, but also other things. Travel maybe. My blog of the past three plus years was too focused on matters central to the UoH, so its time to let that go. And simply to move on.