We're back in the midst of another eventful weekend here in Gambier; today marked the start of alumni/reunion weekend, and much of my day entailed getting ready, in some way or another, for tonight's reunion party for the study-abroad program my department runs (now in its thirtieth year). It's too early for me to have students coming back for reunions yet, and I'm in the anomalous position of being both an alumna of this program and a prospective director of it and someone too new in the department for any of the students (older or younger) to recognize. In a way, then, I was incognito just a bit, and that was mostly fine.
Now, graduate school was where I learned to party. Not until my third year in graduate school did I realize that people often go to parties with no estimated time of departure in mind; I had always shown up to parties with my excuse (almost always a need to do more work) ready to deploy within an hour. Ironically, the party that yielded my great revelation was also the one where I realized that I didn't have to like everyone--that I could admit, aloud, that I simply didn't like being around some of the people who had been at the party I was leaving. These twin revelations, in turn, helped me to choose which parties to attend and to plan on being at them for hours (though I am semi-famous for saying, "I'm only going to stay for a little while" and then closing places down).
Since leaving Ithaca, I have several times found myself in situations where, with my graduate school friends (particularly my crazy dancing friend), nothing would have been able to keep me from the dancefloor. I feel their absence most acutely at the annual event the senior class throws for faculty, in mid-February; the music blares, and people dance, but I simply can't bring myself (or couldn't this year, anyway) to get on the floor without my comrades in rhythm.
You can imagine the pleasure I felt tonight, then, when I looked around in hour three of our party and realized that I missed the colleagues who had been unable to join us. And then I wished for my graduate school friends, who are still (and will, I suspect, continue always to be) my favorite hepcat dancing partners. I suspect that this evening I may have made one of those microshifts, taken one more of those tiny steps that carry us from one part of life to the next, in a much slower and more gradual way than often gets acknowledged. I credit David Bowie and the Clash and Beth Orton and PJ Harvey with at least part of this realization.
Did I mention what a cool party we threw? We have the leftover cheese--enough, as a friend of mine put it, to make a thirty-two-cheese omelet for breakfast--and cases of beer and wine to prove how ready we were. And this, in turn, means there's more coolness to come.