the personal side

So, there’s this boy…

I don’t even know where to start with this one, so I’m going to start at the beginning, as that is usually the best place to start.

My first year at PRU, I had a great class of students.  It took us a while to get used to each other, but once things gelled, we had a good semester.  They were special, in part because they were my first class of students as an actual professor but, also, because they were pretty great.

There was one, though, that was just a little more.  True story: I saw him as I was walking across campus the day before my classes met.  Out of all those undergrads wandering around campus, I noticed him and thought, “Damn.”  Then, the next day, he was in my class and I was muttering “Damn” for totally different reasons.

I can’t explain it other than sheer physical attraction – and this is so completely out of character for me that I’m at a loss.  I certainly notice attractive men but there have been very few times in my life where I’ve had such an unequivocal response to someone.  In fact, I might be hard pressed to think of another.  The gentlemen in my life haven’t lured me across a crowded room; they were friends – or at the least, acquaintances – first and the attraction came later.

It was not easy having this young man in my class (it was hard to even look at him) but I managed.  And then, through a series of fortuitous circumstances, he ended up participating in a research study of mine. Then he was involved in a conference presentation.  Then we wrote a chapter together.  This was over a number of years, so we were in touch but not in constant contact.  We’d get together for whatever reasons, the air between us would crackle and we’d go our separate ways.

We always seemed this close to something happening but it never did.  I was his professor; he was my student; I was older; he was younger; neither of us was going to make the first move so nothing ever happened.  I didn’t know what he was thinking; maybe I was completely delusional.  I thought about him – not obsessively, that’s just weird – but I always wondered.

Then he disappeared.  I sent an email; he didn’t respond; and that was that.  Fast forward four years.

About two weeks ago, I got an email from him.  Talk about shocked!  He was sorry for not staying in touch; he had thought of me often; he was going to be at my conference; did I want to get together while we were there? Um, did I?  In all seriousness, I was delighted to hear from him.  I mean, he had been a big part of my early life as an academic, and I always wondered what happened to him.  For all I knew, he was married with three kids.

He is not married and he does not have kids.  And he is just as hot as he was all those years ago. When I saw him, my stomach just dropped.  It was like picking up where we left off all those years ago – and that pretty much describes the night.  We had a few drinks; we had dinner; we went back to my suite – and we talked the entire time.  There was just so much to catch up on, we never paused for breath.  And the whole time, the air between us was practically crackling.

At some ungodly hour, he finally said he had to go and picked up his coat to leave.  He offered a hug and I just looked at him.  You could hear the pieces clicking in my head: Do I say anything? What would I say? Am I crazy? Ah, what the hell… So, I asked him why he emailed me.  It had been four years, almost to the day; I really wanted to know what he was thinking when he emailed out of the blue.  There was a little stammering, he managed to get out that he had missed me, and I just looked at him.  Then something clicked in my head: now or never.  “We have known each other for nine years. You are an adult.  And you are not stupid.”

Reader, he kissed me.  Or maybe I kissed him.  I don’t know, I wasn’t taking notes.  There was just a moment to think “Is this really going to happen?” before I was saying “Damn” for an entirely different reason.  Oh, the attraction.  This boy makes me weak-kneed.  He’s an attractive guy, by general standards, but to me, he is just pure, unadulterated hotness.  I was never really sure if the attraction was reciprocated but I can say with certainty now that it was, which makes me feel slightly less crazy after all these years.  He indeed felt the attraction but he was as confused as I was as to what to do about it – turns out, it’s hard to shake the professor-student relationship.  Turns out, you can.

Well, fairy tales might end there but real life never does.  He left; we saw each other in passing a few times at the conference; and I could tell that he was running scared.  I can’t say as I blamed him; I was a little shaken and I’m a big girl; he may be quite a bit older now but it has to be a little disconcerting to hook up with your former professor.  Maybe I should have walked off into the sunset and left us both with a good memory.  The last time I saw him, though, I couldn’t help myself: “You have one chance.  You’ve had so many chances over the last nine years and you have blown every one.  Don’t blow this.”  He left that afternoon, with a hug in the foyer, and that was that.

Only it seems I gave him something to think about, because I got a text later that night to tell me he had thought long and hard about what I’d said and I was right: he had missed his chance too many times and he didn’t want to miss this one.  He didn’t know what that meant but he wanted to figure it out.

I don’t know what this means, either.  In all honesty, it’s a fling, a much-needed and well-deserved fling with a hot guy who thinks I’m beautiful (true!) and sexy (also true!).  How could it be anything else?  More importantly, why does it need to be anything else?  This may be totally out of character for me but I’m certainly allowed to have some fun with a good-looking guy – sure, most people do this in the 20s but I’m beginning to think I’m living my life backwards.  I don’t need to have a plan; I don’t need to have any expectations; I can just enjoy the moment.

Will I see him again?  I’d like to think so.  We’ve been texting since he left the conference (yes, I am obviously a 16-year-old girl) and it does appear that he would like to get together again.  God knows, I’m not objecting!  And, as pure serendipity would have it, after living across the country from me, he now lives two hours away.

A girl can dream.  And I’ve got some good material for those dreams.

the professional side

So, I am now, officially, the president of my professional organization.  Let the reign of terror begin!

I’ve been vice this past year, so this isn’t a surprise, but I was surprised at the difference in moving up.  I feel more…grown up, for lack of a better word.  People acknowledge me in the hallway; a random person introduced herself to me on the street because she knew who I was; I sat in the special seats during different events.  It’s very strange, people.

I’m only important in my little circle of academics, and I’m only important for the two years I’m in this position. I have no illusions of my actual importance, I assure you.  Still, it is strange for people to think I’m important. There’s this odd juxtaposition: I’m not one of the big names in my field but, because I hold this office, (some) people approach me like I am. There’s some pressure there, actually, to live up to the hype.

But I’m not trying to pronounce my awesomeness.  I’m simply trying to take in the fact that I’m truly the #1 in my organization.  It doesn’t feel real; it doesn’t feel possible.  I’m sure the amount of work that’s soon to come my way will help acclimate me, but I’m not sure I’ll ever quite believe it.

Sometimes, I’m just a little amazed when I consider the trajectory of my life.  I spent the first 18 years in a rural community, reading voraciously, knowing that I didn’t fit in but not understanding how or why.  Here I am, years later, with a PhD, relatively established in my career, holding a position of relative importance to me, being put up in a suite in the conference hotel because of my position – it’s just a little surreal.

It’s a good place to be, and I’m excited for the years to come, even if I’m a little nervous about being able to handle all the work that’s going to come with the office.  I’ve got good people to help me; I’m a decent multi-tasker; I believe in the work; and – let’s face it – it’s a little cool to be somewhat important.

taking it all in

Lots of information today.  Lots.

Staying attentive in an eight-hour meeting is not easy, people, especially when you feel like you’re listening to the teacher in the Peanuts cartoons.  I’m not trying to trivialize what I learned today or denigrate the people involved.  It was just so. much. info, and most of it was just outside my level of understanding. I understood the words but, all together, it was a little confusing.

I didn’t make a fool of myself (at least to my knowledge) and, honestly, that’s my goal while I’m here.  Take it all in; be pleasant and collegial; sound somewhat intelligent when called upon to speak.  Small goals here.

In other news, I’ve had to put out two little student fires since I got here.  It’s keeping me grounded: you can put me in a suite but I still have to deal with young adult angst.

I also got the sweetest note from the grad student covering my classes.  The students were discussing empathy yesterday; evidently, the instructor used me to get the point across that empathy is manifested in many different ways  – and he would know.  We had a contentious relationship when he was an undergrad; a few years out and he realized I was pushing him because he wasn’t pushing himself.  As he pointed out years later, “I didn’t know jack when I was in your class; I may not have known it but you sure did, and I figured it out pretty quick once I got in the classroom”  Anyway…

He wrote, “They think you’re tough; but even when pressed, not one could deny that they feel loved by you.”  Okay, seriously: that is one of the most meaningful things I’ve ever heard about my teaching.

the twilight zone

One of the benefits (or quid pro quo, perhaps) of my office in my national organization is having my registration and hotel room taken care of at the conference. Those things add up and, since so much of my time here is taken up by business versus the usual personal, I’m okay with it.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the door to my room tonight. My room has rooms! For the first time in my life, I am staying in a suite and it is pretty awesome: living room with a nice sofa and chairs, dining room with a table for four, bedroom with a king bed, bathroom with separate walk-in shower. I’ll be here a week, so it’s beyond nice to have some space to settle in while I’m here.

It’s a little disconcerting, though. I’m not really this important or wealthy. Talk about imposter syndrome…

headed out

I’m on the shuttle to the airport, headed to my big conference cd the next week. It’s definitely a big one this year, with more meetings than I can count, a panel presentation, and several necessary dinners. I’ll have a little time for fun, and it will be nice just to see people in the hallways but it’s going to be even more exhausting than usual.

Random: This shuttle sucks. The suspension is shot so it’s shaking to the point where I can barely hold my phone. And I’ve got over an hour of this.

Packing for winter conferences is so tricky. I’m inside most of the time but not all. It’s freaking freezing all over the country – 16 degrees here now. The conference location is definitely better than that but still damn cold for most old the week. You never know if rooms are going to be stuffy or freezing; you need decent walking shoes; you want comfortable clothes if you’re out and about for 16 hours.

This year I also have to pack for a little more notoriety. I’m the incoming chair of my professional organization so I’m going to be in front of people more than I usually am – literally, since I have to be on stage sometimes. I’m never a sloppy dresser at conferences but I’m usually casually pulled together. Throwing in more snappy outfits this time – and the shoes to go with them – meant a much larger suitcase than I usually pack.

Random update: My teeth may literally fall out of my head before we get to the airport, between the incessant shaking and the driver’s inability to miss a pothole.

i might have a problem

I’ve always been a fairly money-conscious person.  When I was younger, I didn’t have much of a choice: I didn’t have any.  Trying to live on a teacher’s salary teaches you frugality pretty quickly, which was quite useful in my poverty-line grad student days.  Now that I have a better salary, I don’t overdo it; every month, the bills are paid, something goes into savings, the credit card is paid off.  I have no debt, aside from a mortgage (and now a car, but I haven’t had a car payment for 10 years), since I paid off my college loans last year.

Lately, though, I can’t seem to spend money fast enough.  I’ve replaced my garage door, added several good knives to my kitchen, replaced most of my professional wardrobe (including shoes), gone nuts with new makeup.  Then there are the things I needed to buy; I had to replace floors in two rooms this summer, a garbage disposal isn’t cheap and, while I didn’t need a car, I don’t think it was out of order to finally buy a new one.

I did need some new clothes, too; losing as much weight as I have (yippee!) means nothing in my closet actually fits me anymore.  I could manage with my “regular” clothes; working at home in yoga pants doesn’t require precise measurements.  “Work” clothes were a different matter, though; I was down to one pair of trousers I could keep up and a few dresses when school started.  So, yes, I did need some decent threads.

I seem to have acquired expensive tastes for all my accoutrements, however.  There’s something to be said for only buying things you really, really like and for buying better quality items; I’ve tried to follow that mantra for the last few years now.  Lately, though, it’s like I’m not even phased by prices.  A sweater for $70? Sure.  New foundation for $50? Why not.  Pair of knee-high boots for $150? Makes sense.

I’m not an idiot: I realize this all started over the summer when SG left.  I suppose this is all wrapped up in me trying to reclaim my life, in doing things for me as opposed to someone else, in affirming that I am still an attractive woman in contradiction to SG’s loss of affection.  And I have to say: I look damn good. Not feeling like a frumpy cow means I don’t look like one, either, from attitude as much as clothing and makeup.  I’m assuming a new role in my professional organization this month, too, so I’m a little more self-conscious of what I look like.

I need to call a halt, though.  I’m not made of money; I’ll likely have no employment this summer; I start car payments next month.  Enough with the purchasing of lovely things.