A couple of weeks ago I turned in my keys: office, copy room, lab, and outside door. No more Xeroxing at night or on weekends. No mailbox—I’ll have to call and see what they are doing with my first class mail. No office where I wait for students. No more lists of things to do for them. For thirty-three years I’ve been serving other people’s dreams. A fine thing to do, to find out what these young people aspire to, to coach and coax and kick and cajole, then watch them walk across the stage to cheers and whistles, vanish into the world. One after another, hundreds of them, for more than a generation. They are aging now, the first of them graying too. They have realized the dreams, and the limitations.
Somewhere along the line, my dreams got reduced to theirs, or expanded; my dream simply became serving theirs. I grew expert at seeing beneath the surface—to see the goldfish lurking in the ponds of the quietest minds, to see the patterns connecting the wildest sets of fantasies. But the idea of having my own whirling exploding expanding firework of a dream—where did that go, if I ever had it? Perhaps I always was too modest and realistic, even from age twenty. Get married. Go on to grad school, get the degree, practice a profession, raise a child—none of these smacks of fireworks. None of these whirls and spits sparks.
It must be time to regress and let the wild curls of fantasy expand. It’s time to roll downhill faster and faster. It’s time to look into the pond of my own soul and feed the goldfish regularly. Time to hop out of the pond onto dry land and flop around, or jump into it and flail in the shallows, time to try the ungainly, unlikely combinations. Time to be ungainly and unlikely. I don’t have to be a professor, I don’t have to be a professional. I get to play again.