Here and Now

The end of the year comes in a great rush of late — the leap from Thanksgiving to the end of classes; the sprint from the end of classes to finish grading; the mad dash from the end of grading to Christmas. Most years, that sense of speed is exacerbated by tearing out of my parents’ house on Christmas day (or at latest, the day after) on my way to the MLA, which is followed more or less immediately by New Year’s. For years, I’ve found myself utterly unable to experience the holiday season as anything other than a blur. Any sense of anticipation that I used to have — excitement about seeing my relatives at Thanksgiving; looking forward to my family opening the gifts I was selecting for them; counting the days until Christmas, or again until New Year’s — has gotten utterly trampled by the rush.

This year, things are a little different. The blur from Thanksgiving through Christmas remained — I’m not at all sure where those weeks went, and was never really conscious of any moment of it being the holiday season — but since Christmas day, time has moved much more slowly, more deliberately. In no small part this is due to having opted out of the MLA portion of the marathon, of course, but another significant chunk of this sense comes from the bewilderment of finding myself, the day after Christmas, seven time zones away. Jet lag has, it seems, the effect of firmly situating you in the here and now, if for no other reason than that you have so little idea of where “here” is, and when “now” could possibly be, that any relative determination of movement or speed becomes pointless. There is no anticipation or anxiety to speed up the clock, and so the passage of time slows, and instead becomes a matter of incidents — a meal, a museum, a pub — rather than hours.

This morning we got up, after the first full night’s sleep either of us has managed since arriving here, and when R. asked me what day it was, I found myself completely unable to answer. The only reason it mattered is that our hotel breakfast voucher is only good for Monday through Friday, and while we were pretty sure we’d be able to get fed this morning, we weren’t positive. After concluding, with some difficulty, that it is indeed Friday today, came the realization that tomorrow, being Saturday, is also New Year’s Eve. And though the days since Christmas are a bit hazy, they’ve at least been there, each of them, lingering and slow.

My greatest hope for the coming year is that I experience as much of it as possible — that I genuinely have a full eight months before the return to classes in the fall. Eight months is far too easily broken up into two-weeks-until-this, and ten-days-until-that, until it simply isn’t eight months any longer. I want, as much as I can in the coming year, to avoid the kinds of anticipation of the near future that usually yank me out of the present, leaving me looking back on a past that went by without my noticing.

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