August 27, 2008

Winter Clothes

Every year it sinks in slowly. It dawns one moment at a time, shifting from surreal and unexpected to old and comfortable. It is that bicycle I never forget how to ride. I am home. This is my home.

Today I woke to a small, warm, soft, grumpy weight lying on my chest and purring. I dozed and somehow still managed to pet the cat, who would cry loudly each time I stopped, until the radio come on to the soothing and disturbing tones of National Public Radio’s Morning Edition. I listened with half a mind to excerpts from the Democratic National Convention, disturbing stories from Afghanistan and Georgia, and an interesting piece on the perception of climate change in rural Nebraska. Then I noticed it was raining. Not simply raining, it was thunder storming. Ah…a good Nebraskan thunderstorm.

I rose and checked my windows, noting the direction of the wind and strength of the rain. Seeing no danger to my electronics or furnishings, I left the windows open and enjoyed the cool breeze and rumbling clouds. I brushed my teeth, made coffee, and found my pants lest I give the state workers three stories below more of an eye opener than they were expecting. Then I settled into my office which occupies the whole of my small dining room, watching the rain, the people, the cars, and sipping from a warm cup. I admired the State Capitol Building as I do each day.

I am attached to this place, I though as I added a little more hot water to the instant coffee in my cup from the antique corian pot I keep on my tiny gas stove. Oh yes. The feel of the colorful rag rug under my bear feet in the kitchen, the sight of father walking his two kids to the elementary school down the block, shooing my cat away from her destruction of my poor potted plants, the satisfaction I feel when I look across the length of my tiny apartment and call it mine, all of it is attachment. On Saturday my mother commented on trying to sell my apartment to a few of her coworkers whose children were reaching college age. I realized I don’t want them to sell it. I love my apartment and I would like to keep it even though it is very unlikely I will remain in Lincoln after college.

Yesterday, I stood in a very long line at the bookstore. The manager was bustling about like a caffeinated squirrel. “Thank you for being here,” he cheerfully told the hundreds of book-bearing students standing in line. I thought it was such an odd remark, no matter how happy or sincere. “Like there was an option,” I mumbled out loud and the girl behind me chuckled. I was already falling back into an old mindset. The cynical mindset through which I have always viewed my formal education was dropping back into place.

I headed up the familiar steps of Architecture Hall and greeted by name the faculty and staff of the Planning department on the third floor. A professor told me it would be difficult to leave this place when I graduated in two years. I wasn’t so sure. I had left very successfully and hardly missed it for two summers in a row. I had just gone and dropped this life like a dead fish and taken up a new life and made that home for over three months. Then I reluctantly return to this life and everything, all the old habits come settling back into place like a set of winter clothes, freshly aired out after a long summer packed away in the attic.

That suit of clothes includes every defense mechanism I have build up over a decade of college and a lifetime of public education before that. It includes a Twain-like sense of cynical humor, a strong dose of skepticism for anything the so-called learned professors have to teach me, a hearty helping of detachment, a refuge in my little home high above it all, and enough intellectual candy (writing for the paper and attending senate debates) to keep me slogging through the tedious reading assignments, homework projects, and mind numbing lectures.

And that is just my expectations talking. That is the cynicism and skepticism. Truth be told, I like what I do. I love architecture. I love planning. I enjoy the faculty; they are, by and large, good people. Writing op-eds and arguing over legislation are important, not simply to keep myself happy. They are am important opportunity for service and, when approached with the proper mindset, a way to put others first.

Yet I continue to cling to that old set of clothes. I keep thinking it will get cold soon. Three classes with three professors, a thesis project, thesis mentor, thesis client, my editor, my bosses at RMI, all making competing demands on me. I might just need that armor, that protection, that warm set of clothes.

Then again, maybe not.

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