On Building a Life to Let Go

 I am moving away from Strasbourg over the next month. I am glad to go. Mainly I am glad that battling mold will no longer be a part of my daily life. I have a severe mold allergy and my apartment has a severe mold problem.  Just to give you an idea: both of my plants were eaten by the mold and I couldn’t keep produce outside of the fridge. The wall between the kitchen in the bathroom still leaks water for no apparent reason and smells terrible. I found some growing around the air vent, opened it up, closed it immediately, and put duct tape over it, because there were huge mold colonies growing all along the vent. Tea tree oil has kept me from being super sick, like I was last year (except when my electricity went out and my diffuser wouldn’t work for two weeks). However, keeping it under control is a constant project and I’M in GRAD SCHOOL!

In spite of this, I’ve managed well academically (so far not all the grades are in yet, but at our individual meetings I was told I was ok), which a testament to my Scripps education,  my ability to maintain survival mode, and my wonderfully understanding Professors.  However, I am tired of living in survival mode and I am ready to move on.

Strasbourg is a wonderful city and I’m sorry I wasn’t able to give it the chance it deserves. As a public transportation enthusiast, I am a huge fan of the trams here. Recently my JMN friends and I have started competing at the quiz night at the Irish Pub and there is a game night in the local game store that I always meant to go to, but never got around to it, somehow. I highly recommend Strasbourg for tourists! It is much cheaper than Paris and has the same great French food, plus some of it’s own unique events like the Christmas Markets and Summer water show.

Strasbourg Tram: Doesn't it look like something from a Miyazaki movie? All quant and futuristic at the same time?
Strasbourg Tram: Doesn’t it look like something from a Miyazaki movie? All quant and futuristic at the same time?

I am glad to be moving, now, but going thourgh the process of letting go of another place is always hard, particularly for a Santa Barbra girl. When I left Santa Barbara, for Scripps, I could not go to the store without seeing an old teacher or an old friend. That’s Santa Barbara. The weather is always between 65-75 degrees and we’re kind of a 1960s-70s version of Brigadoon! People build their whole lives around being in Santa Barbara.

People I've known forever in Santa Barbara: I'm in the left hand corner, in the red dress. The girl in the matching blue dress, the blonde girl right behind me, the girl on the other side who looks a lot like her (they're twins) and the girl behind her will turn up later.
People I’ve known forever in Santa Barbara: I’m in the left hand corner, in the red dress. The girl in the matching blue dress (T.), the blonde girl right behind me (A.), A’s sister, on the other-side, in the green shirt (C.) and the brown haired girl behind C. (E.) will turn up later.

In fact, my first goal, when I left for college, was to graduate with a Santa-Barbara-rent-paying job. Then there was research and interesting questions and suddenly going back home seemed less important. I could always visit, right?

Science culture, of course, values this science first attitude. In the US it manifests in the idealization of late night lab hours. Here, a Professor advised me to move to a new place for each internship and then again for the PhD and then a new place for the post doc. Show you are felxible.

Even my non-science friends are pretty mobile. Most are melenial children of the recession economy. We all know friends from top ranked schools who could not find real career building work. Being too picky is not an option.

After living in Atlanta for one year and Strasbourg for almost a year now, there is something thrilling and almost addicting about the idea that you can talk to anyone, but at the end of this year, you get to choose who is going to still be part of your life. However, in the past I have found it is often the people I would not choose as friends, who teach me the most. I loose them when I leave.

At 16/17: I am in the pink shirt, the girl next to me, the girl sitting on her lap, and the girl next to them in the news boy cap were all in the picture of us as kids. The girl on the end with the short brown hair is the older sister of the girl in the news boy cap and the girl sitting next to me.
C&A’s Sweet 16: I am in the pink shirt, C. sits on my right, with T. sitting in front and A. in the back next to them. The girl on the end with the short brown hair is C&A’s older sister. The girl on the other end with the long brown hair sitting next to me is my high school friend, who now lives in Colorado. I saw her in Atlanta, when she visited for a conference, and we went for coffee this past Christmas.

This year, one of my best friends of over 20 years (how are we that old???*) met someone and got married, all while I was away. She will be moving away from Santa Barbara soon. All through grade school and high school we basically had the same group of friends. Now some live in San Diego, California, Olympia, Washington, Oxford, and I can’t remember where two of them are: Oregon, I think. Then there are high school friends in Colorado, Glendora California, and the Bay Area (around San Francisco) and college friends in LA (UCLA, Claremont, Simi Valley – basically I think anything south of Oxnard counts as LA), New York, Japan…

My friend and her sisters at her wedding. (Used with permission). You're glowing darling, positively glowing!
My friend (C) and her sisters at her wedding. (Used with permission). You’re glowing darling, positively glowing!

When I think about all of the places where people I know and love are, I am reminded of Bilbo telling Gandalf about how he felt “thin, like butter spread over too much bread”. The worst ones are my older friends and friends who are sick and even some friends who have died. If you were a teen, who befriended a lot of women in their 80s, going home in your 20s can kind of suck sometimes. I used to call to check on these friends.

Making an extra effort with people, even estranged acquaintances, towards the end of their lives, is a tradition in my family; or so my mother tells me. She tells me how her mother used to bring her to the hospital and they would just sit with people. In high school, I used to go with her, to hospitals and homes, always with flowers or some food item or both. She never says anything, just listens and holds on to people. In college, I just called people I considered friends.

Once I called and my friend told me that doctors had found a specific brain injury that I recognized as almost always fatal, but she did not. She told me about positive energy healing. I said something about happiness being good for the brain. She died not long after that.

In Freiburg, I will be working on Oxytocin and in-group, out-group interactions. It is a good balance for the values I was taught in my 1960’s Brigadoon and my passion for brain research and good clean data! My struggles this year have helped confirm my suspicion that I am good at this stuff and it can make me happy! Also this time, when I move to Freiburg, I move with the other JMN students. This means I get to take most of my Strasbourg friends with me. We talk about the future and how we will all be able to visit each other in our home countries (or wherever we happen to be working). When I think of it this way I think not of myself spread out in an over stretched and tired way, but in a dynamic way; part of a life that is always changing and always in motion. Were I a physicist, I would be able to say something eloquent right now…

E. and I on my recent Oxford trip. Her college had a musical party. I'm Mr. Mistoffelees from Cats, and she is one of the women from Chicago's Cell block tango. See that murderous uh…glare?
E. and I on my recent Oxford trip. Her college had a musical party. I’m Mr. Mistoffelees from Cats, and she is one of the women from Chicago’s Cell block tango.

*Whereby old I mean not still kids. Wasn’t I supposed to figure out a way to avoid this whole growing up thing, before it got this far???

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6 thoughts on “On Building a Life to Let Go

  1. Hi,
    I am touched by the feelings and the glimpses of your personal life that you shared with us in this text.
    We went out with Marlene, Alba and Lena for ice cream last Saturday late afternoon and we ended up doing people watching and meditating while looking at the cathedral. (Maybe we were tired also ^^) And sharing our feelings about our lifes. Someone said that even if in a lot of activites, praticing a lot makes you better, you cannot get better at saying goodbye.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marie-Claire,

      Thank you for your comment. People watching and ice cream sounds lovely! I miss having you guys in the same country!

      As for saying goodbye, I hear that certain permanent losses, like the death of a parent or a child, make other losses seem like they have less of an emotional impact, but I don’t think I would call that experience as “easier”. With the exception of deaths, more often than not, when I think I’ve said goodbye to someone, they turn up again. Like my friend I met at the orchid show, when I was 9, whose mother turned out to work for a family in my neighborhood, but then she moved to montana, and we were pen pals, until high school, and then I lost track of her, except she just contacted me on Facebook a few years ago… Maybe this is just the age we live in now.

      Even when people die, I see how they change the way I see things. Are you a musical fan? There is a song in Wicked, which captures this beautifully. They played it at a friends funeral and I can’t listen to it without sobbing (in a good/bad way) anymore: http://youtu.be/X0GEbKQXR1U.

      Like

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