This time of year brings with it the annual flood of program reviews, employee evaluations, and end-of-year wrap-ups. (Between the academic year and the fiscal year, we hit the 'reset' button on July 1.) That means that the second half of June becomes an exercise in speed reading and diplomacy.
Did you hear the news? Over-parenting is over. So decree the arbiters of lifestyle trends — or, at least, Lisa Belkin, who has been writing about parenting in the New York Times for the better part of this decade.
Sunday evening, I was driving with Mrs. R. in a town near our farm. We were proceeding down what used to be the main commercial strip, bustling with car dealers, supermarkets, discount stores, specialty shops, restaurants, etc. These days, half of the storefronts are shuttered and much of the space that's occupied is on lease to low-rent tenants (tanning salons, rent-to-own robbers, pizza joints and the like). Where there were once three car dealers, now there's one lone Dodge store that (judging by the front lot) recently lost its franchise.
Seven years ago I started graduate school, a year after I had gotten married and moved to a brand new city. I commuted 85 miles each way daily (for most semesters) for three years. I loved my program and poured myself into it. My last year of PhD course work, I got pregnant, due the following July. But that summer also ended up including a 1200-mile move to another part of the country and our baby coming a month early and being born profoundly deaf.
My acquaintance Rory has a Ph.D. in American literature and is an administrator and a poet of sorts himself. At lunch yesterday, talking around a mouthful of Chicken Tikka in a restaurant he tried to tell me was Thai, he began to dissert on those he called “hillbillies,” whom he admires very much. Despite his predilection for tasteful shirts, fad diets, Wallace Stevens, and Miles Davis, he called himself one too.
When I entered graduate school, I once proudly proclaimed to someone I had just met that “I don’t want to be normal”. I have no idea what they must have thought of that statement, or of me, but it was basically true. I saw myself as changing the world, as saving the world from its economic messes with my little equations. Who wanted to settle for “normal” when they could go down in the history books?