Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bittersweetly

Cactus in Bud

May 18 2013 002

 {Yeah, I don’t really get it either.  But it’s an owl!  Sitting on a chair! 

The cover of my new small work notebook!}

Friday was my last day in the lab, or at least my last paid day in the lab.  I had been anticipating the day with a mixture of relief and dread.  Relief to be at the end of a long journey that had started out so hopefully and was ending sadly.  Dread to be facing another day of the tedium of cleaning out my lab spaces and to be the center of attention during a farewell cake ‘n’ coffee hour that my boss had organized.  It felt novel and bizarre to be leaving on such unsuccessful terms.  The day marked the first time in my whole life that I was transitioning out of a Big Thing (school or job) and into…something.  Something that has yet to be carved out, defined, polished.  Into the unknown.

I walked into the building on Friday morning with angry tears welling in my eyes.  It’s hard to not be angry about how things have turned out because I worked so hard and was so very loyal to my project and to science.  But I didn’t want to be a blubbering mess, so I took a few deep breaths and headed up the stairs to get my day started.  And it turned out to be a not-so-bad day after all.  I spent most of it moving from station to station, from the freezers to the Fly Room to my desk and back to the freezers.  There was just so much to do: papers and files to be sorted, documents to be scanned, data to be pushed from one computer to another, tubes to be tossed or saved according to their future value.  I’m actually not quite done with all my organizing, despite having worked on it over the course of several days last week.  The volume was too much.

By the time the cake ‘n’ coffee hour rolled around, I was happy to take a break from organizing.  The whole lab showed up, and we ate crumb cake and drank espresso.  Everyone had signed a card for me (so sweet!) and my boss gave me three books, including this beauty:  

Vegeterranean

He made a little speech with a vague reference to what I might be doing next (which is…? more about that soon, dear reader!), and then I made a little speech.  I told the lab how much I enjoyed working with them, how I could not have asked for a better postdoc lab.  I rambled about science and taking risks.  I only cried a little bit, and I’m very proud of that.  But mostly I wanted them to know that despite my leaving, we were still colleagues, and that they were special to me.

Then I returned to the never-ending task of my clean-out and went for a quick run around campus (marathon, I am stepping up to the plate for you).  Paul picked me up for a celebratory date, and we headed over to swanky Veritas for some wine.  Sitting inside the fancy wine bar, Paul looked right at me and said, “I don’t like this place.”

Um, what?

Yes, my sweet boyfriend, who is usually so mellow and happy about life, took out the claws and made a big swipe at my beloved Veritas as we were sitting there.  So much for enjoying for ambiance!  Paul called it pretentious (which it is) and overpriced (also true) and poked fun at the people, all pretending to be rich and fancy for an evening (accurate?).  And yet…I enjoy going to Veritas every once in a while.  I probably won’t be going there again any time soon, given my unemployed status, but was it really necessary to be so brutally honest at Veritas, knowing that I wanted to be there?

Perhaps it wasn’t necessary, but it is a price that Paul and I pay for the honesty that makes our relationship mutually satisfying.  The conversation about Veritas was just the first of several difficult topics that we tackled.  It was the kind of evening where we walked right up to the edge of the cliff, looked down, and asked ourselves, “Why are we together?”  Paul talked about fun and novelty, and I suggested maybe he should date a rollercoaster instead.  Because I don’t date for fun and novelty.  For me, the reward of a serious relationship is knowing and being known by another in a loving, profound way.  I date for keeps.  

And yet, of course fun and novelty are part of the joy of a new relationship!  Paul and I are still in that early stage where we’re probably annoying everyone else with our constant touching and warm-fuzzy feelings.  What I see beyond our shallow New Relationship Energy is a shared desire for companionship.  I feel that there is something deeper at work between us, an orientation toward the future that I’ve never had before, at least with a romantic partner.  It’s a happy, optimistic feeling for me.  I’m willing to struggle through uncomfortable conversations about detachment and what it means to miss (or not miss) someone if it leads to a deeper understanding of where each of us stands, right now.  I know that for me, joy and sadness often coexist in my heart, and I am comfortable living that paradox.  That’s why my last day of work was both a relief and dreadful, happy and sad, bittersweet.  I sometimes worry that my capacity for conflicting feelings detaches me from experiencing the present moment.  I don’t know.

What I do know is that it’s time to move on, and I’m happy to have a companion walking beside me now, during this transition.  I’m also happy for Tom Petty, whose song has been my theme song for the last month:

“What lies ahead I have no way of knowing.  But under my feet, baby, grass is growing.  Yeah, it’s time to move on.”

5 comments:

Valerie said...

I loved this post! Perfect song, too. I really wish you all the best on whatever comes next for you. Good luck with the marathon training, too. I've officially signed up for Detroit as well so I hope to see you there.

Chrissy (The New Me) said...

Ha! I love a good, honest relationship. Sometimes I think Nathan and I are too honest, but it seems to be working out so far, with only minimal hurt feelings. ;)

I'm glad your last day was bittersweet - that's an appropriate balance, I think. And I'm excited to hear more about your new project!

Shannon Grande said...

way to see sunlight through the clouds :) i am excited for you... there are many new adventures on the horizon and your spirit will surely shine.

good luck with marathon training!! i've taken on my own adventure for the summer, it's sure to be a bit different that before :)

Rosiecat said...

Thanks, everyone! Your comments are all so lovely.

Valerie, exciting! We should try to meet up for a post-race brunch after the marathon. I'm excited that you'll be running it too.

Chrissy, I love our periodic discussions of relationship dynamics via the comment section. Yeah, I definitely prefer honesty to deception, especially because I think deception is not very sustainable. Paul is consistently very fair in his analysis of things, even when we disagree, and his fairness has a way of minimizing the bruised feelings. You and Nathan seem to have a good thing going, so I'm happy to be in good company with the honesty!

Ah, Shannon, now I want to know: what's your summer adventure? If you've blogged about it, I apologize. I've been pretty delinquent with social media for the past week. Feel free to drop me a link and I'll go check it out :-)

Shannon Grande said...

No worries, it's been mentioned, but not really discussed. I'm riding in the Pan Mass Challenge, a bike-a-thon to raise money for cancer. Thus a little less swimming and running and a whole lot more biking!! I am trying to get a virtual bakesale up and running next month... feel free to check it out :) http://bloggersbakeforpmc.blogspot.com/