#reverb10, Day 5: Let Go

Today’s prompt:

Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

This one’s complex. A little bit hard to write about in a public venue, in fact. Partially because the letting-go wasn’t entirely voluntary, but partially because of the extent to which it was.

I let go of one of my departments this year. I’ve written about this here before: the program that I was jointly appointed in got promoted to departmental status, but one of the conditions of that promotion was that I leave what had been my home department for the previous 11 years behind and move wholly into the new one.

I had to give up a lot in order to make that move: abstractly, a sense of belonging in the fields I’ve worked in for years and a sense of who my colleagues were, but concretely, a whole lot of financial support for my research and the single best office on campus. I moved to the half-submerged basement where I spent the academic year more or less alone, I scaled back my expectations for the kinds of travel and supplies I could fund with college dollars, and I set about trying to figure out what I wanted my new department to be.

It felt not unlike moving out of my parents’ house, now that I think about it.

Letting go of those colleagues, that support, and that amazing space wasn’t easy. And I’m not always completely certain that I’ve fully let go; every time there’s a bit of discussion about the potential for cross-departmental appointments on my campus, my hopes go back up just a hair.

On the other hand — well, let’s face it. There were certain dynamics in that old parental home that just weren’t all that positive, a few of which managed to leave me with some significant bruising on my way out the door. So maybe moving out, even with its loneliness and its financial difficulties, isn’t such a bad thing.

What I want to let go of in 2011? My anger, over having been forced to leave, over the at times inequitable distribution of benefits on campus, over the condescending treatment I received from some quarters in that old locale. It’s the anger that’s keeping me tied there now, and really building a new life in my new departmental home will require letting go of that, too.

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