The theme of the conference I will be speaking at next month is 'Change and Continuity', and this has become an intimately thriving feature of the month as self-reflection starts to come in. I cannot believe the parallels that work over time, showing (sometimes quite explicitly) what has remained the same and what has changed. Yesterday, I was blessed to reminisce over something I wrote two years ago that surpasses anything else I have ever written, in a powerful context of continuity. Today, in order to symbolize continuity and change combined, I added more "write-bytes" to the office whiteboard as leaving signals of my mind.
To then complicate this harmony further, this entry begins to form itself in my mind, which then fills, top to bottom, of this Thomas Wyatt effect. That is becoming something of a stock-epithet. It is not the first time such parallels have dominated my thought. When I trace the archival connection in this journal, I land here, Nirvana, from just over three years ago. The parallels from this entry are uncanny: A wonderful and relevant title; a wonderful description too. I have not felt in good control of my words recently; I've spoken about illness where I have not meant to; I have been reclusive; and I'm a little bit scared too. The most striking coincidence is that one of the last "write-bytes" I wrote on the whiteboard was the following: "Remember only this: a kiss may not be the truth, but it is what we wish were true". This is also, it turns out, from Steve Martin, L.A. Story, and features at the end of Enya's Exile. December mornings, being too late, and coming home. It is chilling how this reappears again, with a series of different resonances, three years later.
What is the meaning of this fascinating, and yet unsettling, coincidence? That I subconsciously recollect my own journal so well? That I subconsciously associate feelings and music together so congruently? That I anticipate the end of 'Exile'? By this time next year, I could be house-sharing again, recreating the very surroundings of 'Nirvana' from three years ago. With that recollection of the past, I am shown the element of change. I have enjoyed living on my own, with some of its fraught difficulties. I have battled through an experience in the stunning, if stubborn, Switzerland. There is continuity and change in the academic climb, which has, this term, reached some promising heights, and which was only just beginning three years ago under David Hopkins, who, incidentally, I saw just two weeks ago. A frighteningly small world, sometimes. I thought there may be no bigger world than language, but just last week I spotted a bizarre crossover between ekphrasis and Romeo and Juliet in the new edition of SPELL. I had made the same happen in my section introduction for January's edition of the departmental magazine, Noted. Now all these parallels in thought and word from three years ago emerge too.
I am not, as 'Nirvana' frets, a 'welcome exit': I am stunned that my supremely generous departmental colleagues here had a collection and got me a Swiss watch and a Jean-Jacques Goldman album, Singulier - his music being my only real deep connection with French since I arrived. I have grown very attached to my colleagues. Some of us followed Wednesday's small staff celebration by following on with a few drinks elsewhere. It took us down to the beautiful Bel-Air and seeing the classy illuminations that I would never have otherwise come across. It felt great, sociable, fun, and I even tried speaking in French. Without doubt I will leave here with an improved grasp of the language. It will be a bitter, bitter blow to leave them. At some point, no doubt I will look past the exhaustion and so forth at the high rewards that have come from the driving endeavour that has gone into this term and will continue into the break, and say that I could have found a way to survive this. Perhaps it is my growing fascination with privacy that has led me to asking questions in my head over and over again that encourage the very answers of uncertainty, that which will never be known: sometimes uncertainty is infinitely better than a straight answer.
In some ways, my resolve has got tougher, and in some ways, weaker. What has changed is time, circumstance, and, most importantly, experience. Strengths and weaknesses get reassessed, sometimes in the most stunning of circumstances. Independence, I learn, is not about building the tightest barriers of privacy and trying to handle everything myself. Rather, it is about knowing how to handle everything properly; who to turn to for help, and so forth. Are not the strongest people those who attract no attention to that very facet of themselves? I look no further than my supervisor and boss. He tells me that he is always very up-front about everything, and he, in his wonderful capacity as a human, is a strong man and absolutely always in control.
When, last night, I was told 'I am glad you were strong', it sent me into tears. It is in what part of me has seen as the most devastating show of weakness that I found my greatest strength. When I look at things in a different light, it is not so hard to believe. Deep down, yes, I can be strong. I look back, over these past months, and years, even. There is lots to be very proud of. I am even developing, slowly but surely, a Marvellian ambiguity. I could look back on this in three years time and be fooled as to who or what exactly I was talking about. With Marvell, as with his disciple: it's in my head, and I will never forget.
Faut du coeur et faut du courage
Mais tout est possible à mon âge