And here we are, somehow, at the end again, and I am not ready. The poem, “Little Gidding,” that I included on the prompt, feels a little contrived and unfair: “and to make an end is to make a beginning./The end is where we start from.” It equates beginnings and ends, countering finality with continuation. It feels unfair because it makes me feel like I should wrap up this experience neatly and move on, with the knowledge that yes, it is an end, and something else will come. It’s unfair, but it isn’t untrue; it just doesn’t really do justice to how much this experience means, and how much of it I will carry with me forever.
For me, the beginning of this summer wasn’t in May, or April, but two years ago, when I first arrived at Lafayette and met the first cohort of summer scholars. I remember taking them to the Bucknell conference that year and being so impressed by their work, but even more than that, being moved by who they were, the questions they were asking, their willingness to take on uncertainty. And two years later, having witnessed three cohorts, I am still impressed; still moved. And I am very grateful, especially to you.
If we’re talking about becomings and being, being your teacher has helped me become a librarian. I will never forget one of my first conversations with Tedi, when she told me she started painting because she wasn’t good at it and she wanted to make room in her life for things she wasn’t good at but nevertheless loved. I think that this is the true spirit of research— to love what you don’t understand and don’t know if you can master. To try and set some mystery out into the light, like John did with Lamar’s album under bell hooks’ theory. These examples astound me, who, perfection-oriented in college, was far readier to dismiss what I couldn’t articulate than acknowledge a wider view than my own eyes, than acknowledge a nimbler tongue.
I loved watching Ben explain how his research was limited by his own insistence on clarity of detail. How, he could imagine opening up storylines that had neither the exactitude nor the instantaneousness of a timeline, but had the narrative. I was proud when Daniel didn’t take a lazy path of exaggerating cause— when he gave nod to the many factors and directions that would play into more accurate ways of understanding inequality. I suppose I often see people bypass what is true (that answers are difficult, unclear, murky, and half-wrong) for what is neat, and I’m so thankful to have you as models for choosing harder, better ways.
Camilla, Idil, Jovanté, Tedi, I am glad you took on the matter of representation. I admire so much how tenderly you orient your thoughts to others, to who may or may not appear in the picture. Camilla, you are a writer; Jovanté, you are a poet. Idil, your meditations on freedom and values from our dinner strike me as deeply wise. Maria, I knew (and loved) you first, and I adore how your question was born out of a true investigation into a seemingly simple question. Why would these folks choose the cold, when there’s a whole country for them?
You are beautiful; I am so grateful that I have had the chance to witness you. I think, as I grow older, I realize that one’s own habits of mind, the deeply treaded furrows, are dull after awhile. Thinking about other people, listening to them and learning from them— it’s refreshing and reinvigorating and you have made me anew, because you have offered me other ways of seeing, of thinking. You have turned flowers into metaphors and metaphors into sustenance. What alchemy you are!
There are things I could have done better. I wish I had found a way to stave off the anxiety of week 4. I wish I had given you more of a sense of what was coming, earlier on, and restacked assignments. I wish I had been here for week three. I wish we had more time. I’d love to hear your ideas for the shape of the future; I’d love to know how you imagine this program looking. You will have the chance to fight for it, and that’s a good thing.
And even though I’m not ceasing from exploration, soon I am taking up a position at UNC, the place where I started. Maybe the poem isn’t so unfair after all. But, because of you, I know that I will have a chance to see it better. See it with an eye toward representation, toward history, toward access, toward joy.
I have learned so much from you. I hope you are proud of your own minds, of each other. I hope that you continue to allow the things that you love to take up residence in your hours. I hope you offer your thoughts to the world and sometimes, I hope you’ll send them to me.