#reverb10, day 29: Defining Moment

Today’s prompt:

Defining moment. Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year.

So many possibilities here, but I feel as though I’ve already described most of them over the course of this month. There’s the big moment at which I got the call from the dean, telling me my promotion had gone through. There are the many small moments of sitting down to write. And there are lots of moments inbetween, moments of travel, moments of presenting my work, moments spent in meetings aimed at producing new collaborations.

Then there are the moments spent engaging with colleagues far and wide via Twitter, and these are the moments that I think have most defined this year. For much of the year, I’ve been away from home, away from my local community, and the folks on Twitter have provided me with both a conference without walls and a virtual neighborhood bar, keeping me connected both professionally and personally.

There’ve been several such Twitter exchanges that have meant a lot over the year: the supportive response to my late-night Franzen diatribe, the kind thoughts and offers of help when one of my cats was hurt back home, the encouraging retweets of whatever random ideas I’d posted. But perhaps the moment that most stands out came in May, when I fell ill while stuck in a hotel room by myself. I was really worried — afraid that I’d be too sick to travel home the next day, afraid that if I got worse and needed help no one would be around to know. So I turned to Twitter — probably oversharing just a tad — and got a flood of concerned response, especially from the folks in the area, who offered all kinds of help if I needed it. I was completely taken by surprise by the generosity in this outpouring, and reassured that, even if I was alone in the hotel, somebody out there somewhere would be checking in to see if I was okay.

Those are the moments that have really given me a sense of the community within which I’m working, and it’s that community that has really defined my year — the folks I celebrate with, the folks I mourn with, the folks who virtually pat my shoulder when I’m feeling bad. The folks I learn from and brainstorm with every day.

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