Over the course of this so-called sabbatical, I have been trying to figure out some of the sense of loss I am feeling, now that I am both moving towards and not moving towards having my next academic job. There are many possible relationships, linkages, and agencies among my choices and these feelings, so it’s hard to know what action to take, just as much as it is hard act towards knowing.
For those of you parsing my sentences, yes, I am trying to avoid using words like reasons and causes and failure (and should). For those of you wondering where my head is right now—I’m not sure. That’s kind of the point. I feel like I will lose something of myself if I start up a new path, but also if I start working for another university, as a teacher, communicator, researcher, or administrator. (BTW, for those of you in a third cateogry—i.e. people who find this online navel-gazing deeply frustrating—think ctrl/cmd-w or ctrl/cmd-q is your best action. W if you want to look at that cool YouTube video of two men and a steel wheel; Q if you’ve had it with the internet for now.)
A few evenings ago, as I ate some take-out from Ichi Sushi and drank a couple of glasses of g fifty, I was listening to CBC’s As It Happens. Carol and Jeff were doing their thing, and I was doing mine. Jeff got a bit ironic, as he tends to, and I drifted away from his voice, as I tend to. My eyes fell upon a printout of an article by Andrew Pickering entitled “Cybernetics”, published in 2015, but which some listserv or another only told me about recently.
In the gloaming of my apartment, at 7:20 pm on a May Friday night, the names of Donna Haraway, Bruno Latour, and Michel Callon popped off the article’s page one. (Later, I looked again, and saw John Law—wonderful John, of John and Vicky—cited there too.) I felt a rush of sadness, like I was seeing the backs of my friends, who were entering the door of a fabulous party, but one that I decided not to walk into at the last minute. I felt left out. I felt like I had left myself out.
To be clear, I don’t consider myself friends with these people, nor part of the world of academia that they represent to me. I don’t consider myself an STS celeb, an ANT cool kid, or a New Materialist cocktail party goer. (Hyphens, insert thyselves. I’m too busy being maudlin.) But I do consider those writer/thinker/doers to be my companions on a trajectory I’ve been arcing along, and I sense a distance from them as I contemplate new paths. Like when I left Korea along with its friendly ferments; I sense myself missing some reassuring scents.
Will my imaginary relationships with Donna and Bruno and Michel and John disappear if I go off and open a bakery or yoga studio instead of becoming a cranky sessional teacher and occasional food art collaborator? Moreover, will they dissipate just as quickly if I start teaching “ANTH 201: Food & Society” and “GEO 108: The Places of Food”, largely because I can’t make space for progressive transdisciplinary theory because I’m too busy body-checking undergrads through my institution’s revolving doors? Even if I get to make multimedia microbial performances with multispecies theorists, will I still feel my old friends around me?
No and no, and maybe yes. Of course the way I connect to the thinkers and doers of my past ten years will not stop being a part of me. But also, no, I will not sense their presence within me in the same way—new ideas and writers, and other practitioners and colleagues will wrap themselves into my brain and body. But then yes, maybe, if I keep messing with the mess from before as I move into the later.
My not-so-secret-anymore friends cannot free themselves from my imagination, but my imagination will wander, whatever I do next. If I don’t keep placing myself in their company, will I stop wanting to place myself in their company, and me in theirs? Will we drift, meet new imaginary friends, and develop other fake boyfriends? (John Law, wait for me!)
So I guess that’s part of the resistance to finding another cocktail party to go to, just as much as it’s part of the resistance to hanging out longer at this one. Never stay too late, I always tell myself, because by the wee hours of morning, one’s mouth always starts feeling a little too smacky.
I’ve lost and left so many friends in my life, and though I’ve also met and made many others, it still makes me sad. I’ve liked those friends a lot, and I wish I could just keep them all close, all cozy, all nearby for those times when I want or need a hug, or want or need to give one. I guess that’s what Google Scholar is for, yeah?