Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Airplane Diaries- Part Deux

I’m sitting somewhere above the Rockies at the moment, a little dehydrated and fatigued. Over the past few years on the semi-academic path has resulted in my traveling at a much higher frequency than any other time in my life, such that flying has lost all of its associated glamour and anxiety (I’m fairly apathetic about flying- though more negative when I am deprived of the window seat). However, I’m not sure that I will ever get used to the notion of being in such completely different geographic areas in such a short span of time. Somehow, that span of a few hours on a plane seems to span days when one rises in one country and tucks into bed in another,

The other weird thing that has struck me about traveling, particularly when solo, is the real comfort and stability of a sense of self. You may remember how disappointed I was when I found that Mr. Self-Disclosure was going to be at the same program as me*. Part of this was due to the feeling (especially one with a hint of judgmentalism and even tendencies towards a weird form of tattle-tailing) that I was not going to be genuinely free if someone from my “real” life was observing me. I had really anticipated heading to Texas alone as an opportunity to meet people without the usual boundaries, and perhaps break out of whatever tendencies I am inclined to take for granted. Strangely enough, I found this was not necessary. It’s hard to explain- it was as though, even with the freedom to be whoever I wanted to be (within reason, of course, as this is certainly related to my future in the field, so table-dancing wasn’t really an option), I found myself being more comfortable with just remaining myself. It just seemed to flow.

I had this random moment, walking back to the dorms after being trapped on a coffee shop patio for many hours due to near monsoon like rain. The walk was one of the few prolonged moments of solitude I’d had outside of my first day wandering in Austin, and, as a bright fellow once told me, movement seems to inspire thought. It just struck me odd how natural it felt for me to be just walking down the street in Austin after a torrential downpour, despite how separate the situation would seemingly be from my day-to-day life. And the only constant was me.

It reminded me of how, when I first moved from my small town to a big city essentially on my own, I expected a prolonged period of chaos and unease. I couldn’t believe that this metropolis would ever feel stable or natural to me- yet, within a week, it did honestly have a sense of home. It is also reminiscent of how many of the things you see as likely to fundamentally alter who you are just get gradually adapted into your self-conception (with a few obvious exceptions- an obvious one for me being the first time a close friend died, which was probably the real jolt out of a sense of teenager invincibility).

*Incidentally, we saw very little of each other, as his patterns of interpersonal interactions seem to be a lot different than mine—in other words, I may have partied and generally socialized a little more than he did—and we were in different classes. The interactions we did have were actually quite pleasant.

***

Returning home after such a trip is really bittersweet. I’m certainly eager to bid dorm life adieu, especially cafeteria food, especially when the principle seems to be the more salt and butter, the better. The idea of a full night’s sleep in my own bed sounds utterly divine at this moment (with the notion of sharing it with a certain someone only making it moreso). I don’t think I could have kept up the heavy duty socialization that much longer- I need a little time to decharge, to read a book, watch a movie, and just to be still for a little while.

However, the trip was more amazing when I would have ever expected. I met so many wonderful people. I haven’t had so many intellectually stimulation conversations with such a diversity of individuals in so long—it is odd when the common denominator is this level of curiosity that many people seem to lack. Yet, as I mentioned, there was so much more to them than just brains- they were observant, witty, and just plain fun. It was a good balance of work and play (with a little more play than I would have initially predicted). I feel rejuvenated (though dreading the return to the daily grind)- I have new ideas that I want to develop, and have a little more faith in my field, too. The professors were refreshing, as well. It is funny how people who are so renowned in their field can be so humble.


***

Lest you think this entire post is full of sunshine and lollipops… I am now sitting in a very busy airport waiting for a several hour bus to take me back home. I did the typical me thing, that being assuming that I am far stronger than I am, and thus have no need to pay $3 for a cart for my baggage. Only now it feels like my shoulder may be coming out of its socket.

While I said earlier that I don’t mind flying, I really don’t like airports. It seems as though the stress of traveling, tight schedules, tightened security, line-ups, interpersonal dynamics, and overall congestion can, surprise surprise, bring out the worst in people. There is so much tension sometimes, particularly in departures (arrivals definitely have a more lighthearted spirit about them).

***

While I do have plenty of anecdotes saved up from the rest of my time in Austin, I prefer them served up with a smattering of pictures, which I cannot put together right now sine I am not online. However, I thought I might share one amusing little tale…

While stories abound over the course of the past two weeks about the lunacy of Austin’s cab drivers, several nights ago with a few girl friends’ took the cake. We hopped into a cab with Christian soft rock blaring. I gradually notice that some parts of the song seem especially distinct and clear, and I am a little perplexed by this.

Until it dawns on me that the cab driver playing the guitar while driving!

Not just at stoplights… but literally while driving down the street!
(Though, granted, he generally paused when turning corners. How conscientious.)

Every once in a while, he would turn and grin at us, proclaiming “Ladeeeeeeez, how do you like my music?”

Through conversation, he learned that we were all at a psychology course, to which he responded by promptly bashing our field for making people too judgmental. To prove his point, he started quoting the Bible, saying that it was a better guide for people, and then started calling up all sorts of obscure references and comments, such as what a shame it was that demonology had been disregarded.

He then began asking us what we studied. Unfortunately, I didn’t follow suit in saying something vague like “the brain”, thinking that my area of study is generally something that most people approve of on moral grounds (sorry I’m being deliberately vague, but I don’t want search words leading people here). He, unfortunately, disagreed, and began shooting out very hostile questions that actually have nothing to do with the field. I was extremely happy when he pulled up at the dorms.

The worst part? Another girl in class had a different guitar playing cab driver the next day!!

12 comments:

eric313 said...

Welcome back! As you notice, it truly is the slacker season on blogger.

I once talked a woman into trading me my aisle seat for her window seat. I was only thirteen, and was entirely impressed than tan adult had listened to me! Especially a stranger. I was alone on the flight, so I was actually feeling quite free to tell anyone anything.

And you got to love humble professors who will teach you anything--if you will only listen. How well I know this.

Glad to have you back--Texas can't keep you forever (can it?)
take care

Ant said...

Hum - so maybe your taxi driver was planning on delivering you up to the almighty a little quicker than anticipated, plowing the cab into an 18-wheeler juggernaut whilst searching for the E-flat chord maybe?

I do love the judgemental irony bit too... :o)

Good time! I subscribe entirely to your thoughts on travelling - movement does very much inspire thought. I get my best ideas when looking out the window of trains (though in the UK, whether they're moving or not is usually debatable...)

Beth said...

Such a delightful surprise when you discover you like yourself and who you are wherever you go!
(The alternative would definitely be disconcerting, alarming, etc.)

Princess Banter said...

How I totally agree with you. Traveling alone is the ultimate measure of security and self-confidence. I haven't gone that far yet... as it took me a while to gather enough guts to eat in public on my own. I'm truly in awe of you...

Seems like someone's been having fun eh? Love the wit and humor to it all, especially!

Yoda said...

Though I love traveling, business travel makes me weary. My favorite part of the frequent trips I make? PA announcement "The captain has indicated that we are on our final descent to the Columbus Metropolitan area. At this point please turn off any personal electronics, return your seat back to the upright position and stow your tables." LOL!

The Austin cabbies are nutso!

Airam said...

Glad you're back! Even though you've never really been gone from the blog ... you know.

The one reason why I wouldn't mind going to grad school full time (i.e. PhD) is because of all the conferences overseas or in the States.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

Whilst I don't necessarily agree with the cab driver's apparent dismissal of your profession, I have to say that I am impressed by someone who can drive and rock out at the same time.

I say 'rock out'...

Anyway, those are the kind of multitasking skills I would kill for.

Eve said...

Sounds like a great trip!

And home isn't a place, isn't that strange to realize? Sometimes I'm struck with a sense of being at home while walking down the street, in a conversation, or usually, just being alone.

And I always carry too much stuff too! Good thing I'm young enough to not get hurt. *knocks on wood*

And huzzah for humility!

Dorky Dad said...

Oh, man. Sometimes that $3 cart is totally worth the money.

eric313 said...

You know? The cabbie would bothered me, too. Maybe I would have been a bit proactive with him. I am a little bit religious, but don't go to church. My god doesn't believe in gathering people to get money from them. My god didn't invent a place of eternal torment. Nor a heaven. There is life and there is the grave. There may well be a judgement day and something after that, but no one knows the time or the hour. It may be that we judge ourselves in the end--maybe god was inside us all along, and people just wanted to take that figuratively instead of literaly. Ater all: "god helps those who help themselves". What is that but an admision built into the new testament that divine nature may very well never manifest to any mortal ever? What does that say about the people who wrote it? Church doesn't talk about parts of the bible that annoy them like that, you know, by taking away possible donators, er, souls.

Faith is where I keep my old stories and things unresolved. "Let God sort it out later" don't know who said that, but my old prof said it too. I can write more when the old poems and crap aren't on my mind Thanks for listening to a weird rant, Princess. Later on!

eric313 said...

I meant "proactive" in the 'bother him til he shoves it' sense of the word, of course.

cdp said...

What a wonderful post from you! I love it!

I totally hear you about that feeling of freedom to be someone else, or maybe just a slightly varied version of yourself, when traveling. It's so liberating and fun. But I think it says a lot about the extent to which you have come into your own; and also a LOT about your self-confidence, that you ended up just being you. And in my personal opinion, you is a good way to be. I like you. And it sounds like you might be turning into . . . wait for it, like a REAL grown-up and stuff. Woah. That's heavy.

Also I'm wondering if you had any Salt Lick bbq while you were in Austin.

My comments are ridiculously long, I'm sorry. But I would also like to add that I was thrilled to see you commenting over at my place. I love your perspective and always love reading your stuff. Have been slow on the commenting lately due to vacation and such, but I'm back in full force. Thanks for stopping back by my blog! Also I've added you to my blog roll. Can I get a whut whut!?