The Irreverent Professor

Unvarnished realities about life, teaching, learning, and change in this wild, wild world

Archive for the tag “present”

Visiting My Past

They say you can never go back.  But you totally can.  I just returned from a trip to my Past.  Well, okay, it was really just a trip to Washington, DC.  But since I lived there off and on for 20 years, it feels like the Past.  And the Present.  And some little bits of it are like the Future.

Stepping off the plane at National Airport (it wasn’t named after Ronald Reagan when I first lived there–he was just in his second term at the time–so it’s always going to just be National or DCA to me), I felt that immediate stressful hunch return to my shoulders.  My face dropped its smile and my feet moved purposefully.  It’s the city.  I immediately and subconsciously adopted the City Attitude.

My travel companion, P. Monkey, loves sleeping in hotels.

My travel companion, P. Monkey, loves sleeping in hotels.

When I’m in D.C., I truly struggle to maintain my identity as Present Tyra.  I shift in and out of dimension like someone caught in a time-space continuum anomaly in Star Trek.  I get on the Metro train and have to consciously force myself to stay seated as the train passes the Pentagon Metro stop (from which I commuted for several years) and the Foggy Bottom stop (yes, it’s a real neighborhood name–go ahead and smirk, I still do) where I worked for several years.

The memories flood back–college (not so good), working at the Key Bridge Marriott (awesome), various restaurants and points of interest that are tied to good (and bad) memories.  And yet I’m there on business.  I’m Present Tyra.  Phase shift.

There are some wonderful things about the city.  I love “city walking.”  Block after block of concrete, interesting characters (who I pretend not to notice as I adopt the disinterested blank face of a city dweller), the fabulous and diverse restaurants (disregard that I ate in the hotel two out of three nights of my trip).  I love the way the city landscapes its tiny green places.  And the street musicians who play and to whom I always give money because in my mind, they are providing a service to the community.  I do not, however, miss the traffic, the noise, and the sadness I feel when I see all the homeless and panhandlers.  And I don’t enjoy the pace–the frenetic hurry-hurry self-important attitude of everyone except the tourists.

Colorful green spaces in the midst of concrete.  Beautiful in their contrast.

Colorful green spaces in the midst of concrete. Beautiful in their contrast.

Being in the Past reminds me of how far I’ve come in my life.  From an insecure small town girl heading off to the Big City for college to…well, to the small town woman who recently returned home after 20+ years to the only place I’ve ever loved.  It’s nice to visit the Past, in part because it makes me appreciate my Present.  It also makes me appreciate the Past and all its players who played a part in getting me to where I am, Home at last.

Carpe the Present.

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What’s the Big Hurry?

This post is going to seem contrary to my usual “Carpe everything!” and my personal motto “Now is better than later.”  But it’s been on my mind for a while.  What’s the big, honking hurry everyone seems to be in these days?  Why are so many people (including me sometimes) so focused on getting to the next thing that they forget about the now things?

I have had several college students who got engaged during their senior year of college…or so soon afterwards, they still had awkward hair from wearing those ridiculous mortarboards.  Many got married to high school or college sweethearts.  They had been together a long time, so they were “soulmates” or such.  As soon as they graduated (and sometimes before), they got married.  Although I suspect some of them are in college to get their M.R.S. degree (yes, that phenomenon is alive and well, at least here in the South), some of them surprise me.

Really, no one looks good in mortarboard. But I was still happy to be getting my Ph.D.

Really, no one looks good in mortarboard. But I was still happy to be getting my Ph.D.

I’m not saying getting married straight out of college is necessarily a bad thing (and I will again catch all kinds of flak from my friends who did this and are still happily married).  But these kids (and yes, I think of them as kids) are missing out on experiences that come with being single in your 20’s: having your own apartment and never having to fight over the remote with anyone or eating the last of the chocolate peanut butter ice cream in the freezer.  Life-shaping stuff.

Without my single years in my 20’s, I wouldn’t be who I am today.  Maybe I’m just a late bloomer, but I needed that time to feel lonely, to learn to be alone happily, and to make some moves I could never have done as part of a couple or family.  I am not at all the person I was in college.  Or in my 20’s, for that matter.

This “what’s the big hurry?” also applies to the career types who are in so much of a hurry to climb the corporate ladder that they forget there are a lot of great things to experience (and learn) where they are–and more importantly, outside of work.

And to the students who are in such a hurry to graduate that they forget why they are in college in the first place–to learn, to experience “college life” which is a unique once-in-a-lifetime free-for-all the likes of which we long for the rest of our lives.  Don’t get me wrong, the Real World is great.  But there’s something about college…

And to the dreamers who are always thinking about the future (this is where I’m guilty) instead of relishing the present.

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. Today? Today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.”  –Kung Fu Panda

I read a blog post by Rachel Macy Stafford “The Day I Stopped Saying Hurry Up.”  It struck me right in the gut.  How many times have I said that to my son as he watches the ants scurry around on the anthill or searches for the perfect rock?  Because wherever I need to go or whatever I need to do, I need to do it now.  Because now is better than later.  Only sometimes the now thing is the anthill and it’s really not going to make a big difference if I get to the office 10 minutes later.

When's the last time you took the time to climb a tree?

When’s the last time you took the time to climb a tree?

My life could have been very different.  I could have gotten married right after college except that He Who Shall Be Known as The One That Got Away and I couldn’t seem to get our acts together and ultimately married other people–all for the better I’m sure.  Instead I spent some time alone, learned to move around to different cities, eat out by myself, enjoy business travel, and accept the torture know as dating.  Ultimately I married Mr. Perfect when I was 32 and he was 35 (yep, late bloomers).

Lately I find myself in less of a hurry (my husband, one-speed Phil might disagree)…sometimes.  I’m a work in progress.  But after seeing so many friends and family struck down with serious illnesses, I realize hurrying past today toward tomorrow and next week and the next experience causes me to miss a lot of things and leaves me empty.  Now it’s time to stop and smell the roses.

Carpe now.

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