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There are times in life when Freud’s “oceanic feeling” seems to permeate the air a little more than usual, when you can feel the a larger, stronger pulse beating along with your own. Now, you may think it trivial, and perhaps you don’t understand, but for me the premiere of the final Harry Potter film is one of those times.

Everywhere I see fans of the series – fans from the very beginning, from the first book – lamenting on how they feel like their childhood is somehow ending, that the culmination of this truly epic series is much more than the end of a franchise. We had a preview of this feeling when the last book came out, but then we still had the films to look forward to. And now that the last has come, what we should be feeling is a mystery. (Of course, the movie posters and trailers screaming “It All Ends” don’t really help.)

It is particularly strange to think about this at this very time for me, because so much is changing. I’ve finished grad school, people I’ve grown to care for are leaving, and the life I have known is becoming something else entirely. It feels very fitting and bittersweet to have the Harry Potter series finish at the same time when I feel that I am really not a child anymore at all. And to me, this is what the series is all about: growing up, accepting one’s fate but also determining it, acknowledging death and new beginnings.

Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings as well, have become more than books and movies; they are stories and memories that have become entwined with my own, and I feel very lucky to be a part of that.

At the movies on Saturday, there was a group of young teenagers sitting behind me who were clearly very big HP fans, and I realized that I must view the series differently than they do, because the release of the books and films have coincided with important moments in my life. While they are still kids, I’m not. Watching the film, there was this triumph in seeing the characters play out their roles, but also the sadness of everything being finished.

It reminds me of a line at the end of the original Winnie the Pooh movie that always get’s me, when Christopher Robin is growing up and must leave. It goes something like this:

Winnie the Pooh: Good-bye? Oh, no, please, can’t we go back to page one and do it all over again?

Narrator: Sorry, Pooh, but all stories have an ending, you know.

Or perhaps this can be summed up by Luna, the character most comfortable with death, who says that the things we lose have a way of coming back to us, in the end. Actually, many characters in HP convey some form of this idea – J.K. Rowling is clearly on to something.

The wonderful thing, however, is that the books and the films will always be there to go back to, to relive, and to make new again. And in that way, things may change, but they are never truly lost.

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I’ve often found myself saying (to myself and others) that you should never make decisions when you are feeling terrible, but instead when you are feeling your best. Because in the end, every job, every relationship, and every life is going to have its low points, where you can’t imagine doing this forever or even imagine being happy doing it at all.

This is not to say that decisions shouldn’t ever  be made in low points; sometimes you need to hit rock-bottom to reevaluate your life. But in certain cases, like with your career, I try not to rule out a path just because it seems difficult or at times undesirable.

For example, since I just finished my Master’s thesis, I sometimes cannot imagine taking a project like this on again, to continue in school anymore. I look at all the research and feedback and time spent, and it exhausts me. But no matter how annoying and just plain frustrating the work can seem, it never outshines the exhilaration I feel upon completing a paper.

And I wonder, will I find that exhilaration in the business world? Is it confined to school? Perhaps this is the world’s way of telling me that this is what I’m supposed to do.

So I ask, should I make life-changes based on how amazing it feels to succeed in school? Should I commit more of life to this pursuit? Or should I go out into another career, and see if I can find the same kind of satisfaction? Will I let my desire for financial gain and a real “career” lead me away from academia? Or can I be in both worlds?

I can’t say yet. All I know is that I don’t want to let my worn-out sick-of-school feeling I have now dictate what the rest of my life will be like.

I’ll play it by ear.

And it’s an optimistic tune.

In today’s world, where it can seem like there’s nothing left but doubt and cynicism, it’s nice to see something that really is . . . happy.

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And frankly, there something completely awesome about that. Sometimes you just want to see a happy ending. And the dress: So lovely!

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L’esprit d’escalier: (French) The feeling you get after leaving a conversation, when you think of all the things you should have said. Translated it means “the spirit of the staircase.”

Waldeinsamkeit: (German) The feeling of being alone in the woods.

Meraki: (Greek) Doing something with soul, creativity, or love.

Forelsket: (Norwegian) The euphoria you experience when you are first falling in love.

Gigil: (Filipino) The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is unbearably cute.

Pochemuchka: (Russian) A person who asks a lot of questions.

Pena ajena: (Mexican Spanish) The embarrassment you feel watching someone else’s humiliation.

Cualacino: (Italian) The mark left on a table by a cold glass.

Ilunga: (Tshiluba, Congo) A person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time.

There are certain professors you have in college, especially in grad school, that forever alter the way you approach learning. They are the ones you tell stories about, the ones who weren’t just in the classroom to lecture, but to teach you about education itself and what it means to be a student. Bob Coleman-Senghor was one of those professors.

I believe it is a remarkable thing to be able to combine a fierce passion and a high standard of education with kindness – often I’ve found there are nice teachers who are easy, and strict teachers who are less than friendly. But Bob had a unique way of combining intellect and experience with humor and approachability.

Yet this is not to say that he was not a hard teacher to have; I’ve seen students break down under his questioning as he refused to accept anything other than what he considered best and most-clear answer the student could give. In my third semester as a grad student I took his Magical Realism class, and I recall asking him how I should approach one of the assigned papers. As soon as I finished asking the question he replied with something like “You’re a grad student, why are you asking me this?” – or in other words, figure it out yourself. While at the time I felt a little confused and annoyed by this, I realize now what he was telling me; that at a certain point you have to do your own legwork, otherwise you will never develop your own methods and ways of thinking.

In this manner Bob was controversial at times; there are students who loved him and others who were upset by his teaching style. Having only taken one graduate course from him I can’t give any all-encompassing review of his teaching style, but I can say that I’ve always had a soft spot for those teachers that students find difficult, because they often force me to confront my own intellect and bias. It was clear when Bob liked something you said, and clear when he didn’t, but there was always opportunity to change his opinion. As there is with the best educators.

Bob always took the time to greet me in the hallways, to ask me about how my thesis was going, or just to give a friendly smile. As time passes I will miss seeing this kind and unpretentious man on campus, and  my heart goes out to his family, especially his young children. He has been active in my community from his time as a 60s equal rights advocate to today as the mayor of Cotati, and has been an educator for 35 years. I can only hope there will be more people like him in the future.

 

A liberal education is at the heart of a civil society, and at the heart of a liberal education is the act of teaching.
A. Bartlett Giamatti

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Prepare for some schadenfreude.

Do you often feel that life’s annoyances come at you like holidays, grouped together in an intensive manner to cause the greatest distress?

If you don’t, maybe I need to come live with you.

So let me paint you a picture:

My cat has fleas.

She lives indoors.

HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN?

Sigh.

As I proceeded to purchase $52 of flea spray and shampoo, it occurred to me that if raising children is anything like raising cats, I may not be cut out for it.

And as I vacuumed every surface in the house, using attachments to get in every corner, I gathered the rugs and pillows to take to the washing machine.

And as I put a load of rugs into said machine, it died.

Unexpectedly.

Mysteriously.

Tragically.

Apparently even though you can wash small rugs in a machine for 3 years, it can suddenly decide it likes you no longer, and will quit like a stripper dancing for a guy who forgot his wallet.

And to add insult to injury, I don’t even own the machine, so now Grandma calls out a repairman. I ask my dad if I should pay for the $150-ish repair and he replies that it’s ok, she thinks I’m broke anyway.

Well that’s nice.

So now I have a pile of wet rugs, about 5 loads of unwashed laundry that will very likely have to be taken to the Laundromat, and a slightly bruised ego.

And tonight I get to – wait for it – give the cat a bath.

Did I also mention my thesis revisions are due in three days?

Admit it: so you wish you were me right now.

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I’m going to get a bit personal today folks, because, well it’s Valentines Day, and I CAN.

Yesterday the boyfriend (M) and I were heading over to a friend’s house for a Sunday barbecue. While sitting in the passenger seat examining myself in the flip-down mirror, the ever familiar thought that 99% of women frequently have (damn you Giseles) popped into my head: Ugh.

And of course, being a woman I often wonder if the thoughts I have about myself are all in my head, if the breakout I see under the makeup is actually visible, if the frizz on the back of my head is a hallucaintion.  This prompts me to ask M, “Do I look gross?”

– Now, let’s be honest, if a man has any semblance of a brain he will answer “Of course not!” quickly – but not too quickly, lest he appear false and lying. And this M did; he replied “No, you look good!” And then he paused and said, in a well-natured tone, “You complete me.”

He said it with a smile, almost in the way you might say something silly and exaggerated, like “you are the most spectacular quarterback in the world!” (me to him on that one), but there was something behind the laugh that made me think that there might be a grain of truth there.

And let me also say I had, not five minutes ago, declared that he “was the most annoying man on the planet.” But in this  moment in the car, I had the feeling that maybe it was true, not in the cloying-and-annoying-co-dependent-relationship way, but in an actual partnership sort of way. The I’ve-hitched-my-wagon-to-yours-because-I-want-to kind of way.

So maybe Valentine’s Day is an excuse for companies to sell massive amounts of candy, flowers, and the like, but before you dismiss the whole day, think that maybe, behind all that commercialism, there is genuine thought or emotion. That maybe when you’re buying candy for your significant other because society “forces you,” you choose their favorite kind.

And even if the thought ends up being from you to yourself, to quote Martha Stewart, “Its’ a good thing.”