Friday, February 22, 2008

First Post of the Year

Mid-February - such a delay for a first 2008 post. I've been distracted by family routines and drama and the new job. But I'm here now.

I lost my coat somewhere, sometime in January. The coat was a grey wool pea coat that my mother and I had purchased together at Nordstrom's, off the sale rack. The right-hand pocket was flawed in that one side of the satiny pocket had never been anchored to the thick outer shell of the coat. To use it, I always had to fish for the opening once my hand passed the slit in the coat. Every time I searched for the side pocket, I thought of my mom telling me, "We'll just sew it up. Easy." We never got around to doing that before she died. The coat got a lot of use. Whenever the temperature dipped below 60, I grabbed it out of the hall closet. For years that coat has been featured in family pictures. For years I've hidden in the coat, protected, comfortable. I thought of getting a new one, but new ones never felt as secure as the grey one with the big black buttons. My sister told me the coat was getting a bit...outdated. Sometimes when the house was particularly chilled, I cuddled beneath the coat. If I was unsure of the weather, I'd take it anyway. Even if the thing stayed draped across the back seat.

So, yeah, the coat is gone. For the life of me I can't remember where it could have been left behind.

I wonder if it got left at a faculty assembly, where I sat between my boss and a Psychology professor. Or maybe it was in a classroom, where I stood at the front of the room and spoke of outlining as a tool to improve writing. Maybe I left it in the room once I gathered my books and flash drive, before I headed out into the dark. Perhaps I simply shed the coat in the hallway outside my little office decorated with books and framed posters from my house. Perhaps I walked and shrugged off the drab grey coat, shrugged it right off my shoulders to show off the lacy blouse beneath, the light-colored slacks, and the platinum pendant swinging against my chest. It must have felt good to walk away from that heavy weight on me.

I know it must have felt good because I didn't even notice its absence for the longest while.

Today, I read homework and assignments and dialogued with students by e-mail. We're having a meeting on Monday afternoon to revive our department's student association. I'm working slowly on an accreditation report due in June. My boss is a lovely person, a former missionary, a lawyer, too. We have lunches together and she always smiles when I walk into her office. When she introduces me to people she knows, she says, "We're just thrilled to have her!"

During the winter intersession at the University I learned that a colleague knows my favorite professor from my alma mater. I realized in that moment that I was where I was always meant to be. In my senior year, I took a detour from my wish to get a doctorate in English. Law school. By walking away from graduate school, I knew I was walking away from an academic career. For many years I agonized about that decision. Dissatisfaction with practicing law grew and weighed down my spirit. The children came, the marriage dipped, I was lost in a fog of displacement. Writing wasn't good enough to quell the lasting ache of having missed what I thought was my long-lost opportunity.

When I heard that I was mere steps away from my English professor, I suddenly saw the full circle.

I shed a weight when I signed on to work at the College. I finally got to a place where I wanted to be. And it feels so good to be free.