Beginnings and Endings

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By Jennifer Vannette

“In our everyday life we are so busy moving on to the next task or the next interaction with someone that it can feel like we never finish one thing before starting the next. A mindful goodbye allows you to fully absorb your experience so that it can become part of your learning.” -- Gretchen Schmelzer

Graduations mark both beginnings and ends. We are told in numerous speeches that we will go out an make our mark on the world, that we should venture forth with hope and confidence. That's all well and good, but perhaps it's just as important to consider what is ending. Saturday evening marked my last milestone as a grad student at Central Michigan University. I graduated, and I have to say, the view from the front row was rather nice. The view looking back at my time here is bittersweet. I'm ready to move on, and yet saying goodbye is never easy.

I've been in limbo since my dissertation defense -- not quite a grad student anymore but not yet gone. As annoying as that was at times -- what do I call myself anyway? what am I doing besides blogging occasionally? -- it was a nice to have time to transition. I began to detach myself from the program without having to quit cold turkey. But the nature of academia is to say goodbye. I've been thinking about that quite a bit lately. We leave behind schools as we progress, and if we reach the other side and teach, we say goodbye to class after class. We don't often talk about it, and yet to be an academic is to practice saying farewell a lot.

I'm not going to share anything particularly personal or profound in this brief post. I'm just going to offer that in the rush of going from one semester to the next, we might reflect about how to teach something better or what course to take next or where the next research trip will take us, but we can easily avoid being introspective. The transition time between defense and graduation allowed me to think more deeply about who I became in my time at CMU and what parts of that person matter most to me. That has helped sharpen my focus as I plan my next steps in an uncertain job market. Because I've had the limbo time, I've been able to evaluate my experience and consider more deeply how that experience will apply to my life moving forward. And, so, I've come to value this transition time. It sort of seemed like a waste to have so much time between defense and graduation, but now I'm grateful, and I hope others will find value in the limbo-space as well.

So, my time as editor of [Re]collection also draws to a close. I've enjoyed serving you, the readers, and the history department in this capacity this past year. I am honored that I was trusted to shape this early phase of the project, and I trust you all will continue to submit and participate as the years go on. I will be leaving the blog in the more than capable hands of our new editor, Chiara Ziletti.

I've also discovered that there is virtually no way to write a goodbye without it sounding cheesy in the end, and I don't want that. So, even though it's not night, I'll borrow from Edward R. Murrow and say, "Good night and good luck."