constellational thinker. critical scholar. transformative educator.

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Boiling Water, Boiling Goodbyes

I love cooking. I love it so much so I wanted to get better at it. When I couldn't do the journalism program, I spent two years at McFatter Tech doing my certification in Culinary & Baking Arts during high school. While I have plenty of methods and ways to make good for others and myself, I find the basic tools are some of the best. One tool I use over and over again involves water, a pinch of salt, a big pot, and heat (preferably on a gas stove): boiling water.

Boiling water is both a slow and quick process for me. When you stare at water as it tries to boil, it seems like nothing is happening. It feels like it is taking forever. Eventually, after what feels like a million years have passed, it comes to a boil. Juxtapose that when you move to other tasks (e.g., chopping vegetables, kneading bread) after you set the pot on heat. While doing other tasks, you look over your shoulder and it seems the water has come to a boil in a quicker time than if you had just stared at it. 

This process of looking at and/or looking away from boiling water has felt akin to me ending my journey at MSU and in East Lansing. When I have been looking hard at the pot, waiting for bubbles to come from the bottom, my goodbye seems so long and so far away from actually happening. Heck, I shared at the end of March I would be leaving MSU and East Lansing to start my Ph.D. at the University of Iowa knowing I would not actually be leaving until late July or early August. I have continually been asked about how I feel about the transition, when I am leaving (July 31st), and how I came to the decision. And for me, up until now, everything has been adventurous and joyful about this next step. 

I am committed to making #ACLPhD happen. I am excited for the adventure that's about to happen in doctoral studies - the constant feedback loops, the immersion into an intellectual community, the time to explore ideas I have been thinking about for years, new relationships to be built, the pitfalls of imposter syndrome, and more. Truly, I am ready for the adventure and look forward to a future post about that. But this week, the next part of this transition hit me - the sadness of this part of my journey ending.

You see, while I think I have been staring at the pot waiting for this all to boil up, I think I've actually been looking away, preparing other ingredients and doing other things like traveling, things I normally would not have in such a consistent, weekly fashion like I've had since the end of the semester. But truly, the quick boil goodbyes have snuck up on me and are a root of some sadness I haven't been paying attention to. 

Students with whom I have worked alongside the past three years who left in May who I will not see before I leave in July; two best friends who have become like family to me will be leaving Lansing too and we have minimal time together because of our collective schedules; saying goodbye to so many colleagues turned friends/family who have helped me developed cherished roots and relationships in Lansing, and; adding further distance between best friends that you have been able to hold and keep close the last 3 - 5 years. 

All of these are goodbyes I've let creep up on me. The water has boiled over on these things when I wasn't looking. I know I have made the right decision for me. I know this is what I need. I know that hellos are so incredibly meaningful because there are goodbyes. I know the next step of my journey is not one where all of these people vanish and disappear. Technology allows for connections to deepen and continue and yet those connections, these routines will not be the same. It is okay for them to not be the same and still be hard to think about and process. In many ways, I am glad I've turned around and seen that the pot is boiling over. It means it's time to add the food to the pot, to make these goodbyes nourishing and healthy in a variety of ways. I just need to capitalize on this boiling before the water all runs out.

This is how goodbyes are feeling for me today. Like boiling water. 


**This post is inspired by Omid Safi's December 15, 2016 blog post entitled "If Community Were a Safe Place to Fall Apart." This is my attempt to continue to "fall apart" in public, in the light."

Alex Lange