Thursday, December 20, 2007


As I rant and rave on this blog, I'd like to make a quiet moment for this:

Graduate school is about, if nothing else, getting swept into a social scene. Backyard parties, barbecues, dinner parties; lunches, getting coffee; finding a running partner, a climbing buddy; hooking up, dating, moving in together. You swap books, you get drunk, you fuck, you fight, you sweat your guts out, you store old furniture. You mix and mingle, create a scene, a tribe.

I started graduate school in 1993, and my first graduate school tribe crumbled in 1996, when several key members moved away. I felt this most strongly, since it was the first tribe I'd ever known. I could tell you stories about how that tribe was concocted out of other connections: a group of friends from Trinity in San Antonio, a strong Berkeley connection, and a bunch of friends from UT Planning, plus my old connection to a college friend. This thick social soup was the first one I felt comfortable in. (So comfortable that until Nov. 3, 2007, we were sleeping on a box spring that had been passed through this tribe. It's true.) Yet it became clear that to have this tribe meant to have to give it up, because every August from then on, until about 2001, it was a constant cycling out of new friends made old by time and togetherness and new friends who hadn't been made old yet. Each summer, friends who'd graduated would move on: New York. Sacramento. Ecuador. A dozen different places. Each Labor Day I'd realize I hardly knew anyone anymore, and begin to reconstitute a tribe. That spider web outside your front door, which you tear through when you leave for work in the morning yet find rebuilt when you return, that was me: weaving, weaving connections.

Something happened around 2001, when all this stopped. By that point most of the people I knew weren't graduate students; I'd finished school (and school finished me) in December of 2000. Since then the web I've built -- the web that's found me -- the tribes I've merged, the ones that have engulfed me -- has, for the most part, remained intact. And it's grown. A few have moved on. But the friends I have in Austin are the ones I feel I've grown in to. Up to. When trees first send their new growth up in the spring, it's soft and springy, more like grass than wood; that growth soon matures and hardens. The friends I have in Austin are the wood of my tree. Those other tribes I'll remember forever, but then I've never surprised myself with realizing my own capacity for nostalgia; I know full well how capable I am of suicide by petites madeleines. But the ones who haven't left are the roots, the stuff, and they mean more to me, collectively and individually, than anything else I can describe. And now I've gone and left them. Turning the tables. Look ma! No roots!

I just want you to know, I don't do any of this lightly, but with the fullest of intention. But when I return I hope to be pure and clean and strong, and I'm doing it for you.

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