Tonight our department made its annual pilgrimage to a nearby university admittedly more illustrious than our own for a lecture and response, drinks and dinner with our colleagues there. It was my third time attending the event; I feel more confident walking into the graduate club there than I did as a timid first-year, and I know more or less what to expect of the evening. I now remember the faces if not the names of a good number of the graduate students at the host university, and having advanced past my (more) panic-filled and seemingly directionless first two years, I have more and more interesting things to talk about with them.
And yet, I find myself a little starstruck in this environment. There's still something of the awe-stricken outsider in me that gets a bit taken in by the wood paneling and warm lighting of the room where we meet. It pains me to admit it, but being handed a glass of wine along with a napkin imprinted with the seal of the university club still carries a bit of a thrill. And most of all, being surrounded by brilliant, confident, world-class scholars -- although, I hasten to add, many such scholars reside at my own institution -- excites and inspires me, and perhaps a bit dangerously, breeds in me a bit of -- dissatisfaction? ambition? both? As fortunate as I am to live where I do and to be surrounded with the wonderful group of friends and colleagues with whom I spend each day, visits to this school make me want to think harder, write more, dream bigger. They make me just a bit ashamed of my non-scholarly pleasures and make me painfully aware of all the times I let my mind lie idle, let time waste away. Of course, I can always benefit from an impetus to do better in my scholarly life, as well as life in general. Still, when I think about what it is that these visits make me want, I have difficulty pinpointing any specific desire. I'm smart enough, at least, to realize that dissatisfaction divorced from a clear aim to seek something really, truly better and worthier is a pernicious thing. Before I head to bed tonight, I need to put that in writing. If I need to make any adjustments to my goals in life, they need to be stimulated by a force more personal and focused than the vague ambience of a heady, elite intellectual setting.
Little blog, you are still new to me, and it is too soon to tell if our relationship will be just another fling. But I do look forward to coming home to you. My time with you has been the most honest I've had all day.