Monthly Archives: May 2014

Friday Link Spam

Several of these links are things I’d like to explore in greater detail later, so let’s start off with gathering them here.

An opinion piece describing a phenomenon we’re all guilty of: pretending to know about something just because we saw a headline on Facebook (and how disconnected we are thus becoming from source material in general).

To help combat that last link, here are two lists of book recommendations that I thought were fairly well-rounded.

Also in the interest of promoting direct engagement with literacy and culture, why not donate to the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter? (NOTE: I should mention that this iteration of Reading Rainbow is technically part of a for-profit enterprise; however, the goal of the Kickstarter appears to be expanding the program into schools and classrooms that cannot afford it. Certainly, more details about the actual finances would be nice, so by all means wait to donate until you’ve learned enough to satisfy your curiosity.)

You also should probably read more of Maya Angelou’s work, if you haven’t already. (Guilty as charged.)

An article delving into the common man’s view of the English Reformation as it happened. The analysis runs a bit on the biased side, but the facts are good.

Two popes in two different decades weigh in on how Marxism is wrong but so is capitalism (well I guess we’re all screwed). (Short answer: salvation in the form of economic systems is never going to work, guys.)

Mike Rowe’s website for his foundation encouraging people to check out the skilled labor market (or, “if your kid wants to be a plumber instead of an English major, that’s awesome.”)

My Antiochian Orthodox friend over at The Wednesday Woman is in the process of packing. (It made me laugh.)

Speaking of Antiochian Orthodox, along the lines of my post from last week, here is a FANTASTIC article presenting some thoughts on marriage and the wedding liturgy.

Haven’t read them all, but here’s a link to a group of interviews with various CEOs and the like, talking about the advice they would give to their twenty-two-year-old selves.

A great post discussing the problems surrounding our current conversations about autism, with a link to a great interview on The Daily Show.

And finally, I’ve avoided much of the news about the horrific violence out in California, but this analysis of the cultural expectations and misogyny that can and do lead to violence against women is definitely a must-read.

On the list of “things to discuss in the future,” here’s the 2012 U.S. Military Demographics report. The section on race and ethnicity starts on page 24 (like 50-something of the PDF) and is preceded by the section on gender. I’m also excited to read about the military families. Dunno how long it will take the 2013 report to come out.

This article I DEFINITELY want to discuss (if you can’t view it and want to, leave a comment and I’ll get the text to you); it’s entitled “Can an American Soldier Ever Die in Vain?” but discusses more the whole Macro Army I was talking about in my last post.

Linked to in the previous article, but worth reading on its own, is an article detailing various Marine reactions to the fall of Falluja back in January.

And finally, The Duffel Blog is the U.S. military’s version of The Onion. (The language can get a bit salty at times; this is the military, people.) Obviously, most people haven’t heard about it, which lead to a lot of confusion when this article was posted back in 2012. (Oh man. It still makes me laugh. As does this one. And this one’s a classic too.)

ANYWAY the article I ACTUALLY wanted to link you to today is this one, satirizing the NFL’s approach to our men (yeah) (pretty sure it’s always men for them) in and out of uniform. A satire of the Macro Army, you might say.

For the little construction worker in you: giant construction equipment playing Jenga.

I have thoughts about Frozen (another post), but I have nothing but love for these Marines watching “Let It Go.” (Keep your eye on where everyone’s hands end up.)

For the language nerds, “Let It Go” in multiple languages

For the lazy language nerds, “One Day More” on the backside of Google Translate; the best part is that they can actually sing.

And finally, Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellan play The Newlywed Game; my favorite part is the “what role would you like to play or revive?” (I did research on Sir Ian’s Widow Twankey. Just sayin’.)

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The Army: Macro vs. Micro

Back from a Memorial Day holiday, I was going to make a different post about the military, but then I realized I hadn’t made this one, which is a bit more foundational.

One of my aims with this blog is to discuss military life, mostly because as has been observed the military really only makes up about 1% of the United States population (a percentage that increases when you include family members, but still isn’t that great) and because until three and a half years ago I was part of the 99%. My great-grandfather was a West Point graduate who served in the Army Air Corps until he was medically discharged, and his son, my closest experience of the military, was drafted during the Korean War and ended up serving on the front lines as part of a mechanized artillery unit in the 3rd Infantry Division. (My grandpa on the other side was also in the Army for three years, but he spent it Stateside as an instructor.) Granddaddy’s relationship with the military is thus, I think, understandably complex, and mine was mostly nonexistent.
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Different Approaches to Love: Submission

So when I referenced Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in my last post, I quoted from the end of it, where he says “this is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church.” For those of you unfamiliar with the passage, I’ll be honest and quote the whole thing:

Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So [also] husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.
“For this reason a man shall leave [his] father and [his] mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church. In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:21-33)

You probably know this reading either from a) those Sundays in church where Mom and Dad elbow each other mercilessly throughout the epistle or b) rants about how Christianity is anti-feminist. I don’t want to go too deeply into the latter point today (definitely another post), but I do want to reflect a little on that darn “subordinate” word.

Once, while my husband was deployed, I went to an adult ed class on this reading once because hey, who can resist hearing it dissected, especially by a husband-wife team. Each took the lesson aimed at their sex and broke it down, and the wife’s explanation went more or less like this: “Wives, be subordinate to your husbands” can also be translated as “wives, submit to” or “be submissive to” their husbands. To be “submissive” or “subordinate” means to subject oneself (or place oneself under) the “mission” or “order” (think not only in terms of being boss, but also what it means to belong to “an order”—usually there are strict codes of conduct involved) of another. And what is the husband’s mission? To love his wife as his own body, to lay himself down for her as Christ gave everything of himself for the Church. (Love is of course the action of willing the good of another, and Christian love is the action of willing the good of another above the good of oneself; “there is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for a friend.”) The speaker was in tears as she described, then, a wife’s duty: to let her husband love her, to submit to her husband’s love for her.

So really, the wife comes off pretty easy in this passage (and you’ll notice Paul’s instructions for wives are shorter than his instructions for husbands): all you have to do is submit to the fact that your husband has to lay himself down for you. Honestly, if the word “submit” wasn’t used there, you could probably read it as “walk all over the husband who has laid himself down for you.” It doesn’t even say you have to love him back!

But what does it mean to submit to someone loving you? This was the question I posed my dad, and his response was more or less, “You have to let him love you.” Say what? “When he tries to do something for you, let him do it, even if it’s not exactly how or what you wanted him to do.”

This is the answer you see in the “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” section of Ladies’ Home Journal, where the wife is complaining about how she is overworked trying to raise the kids AND keep the house clean AND possibly hold down a job on top of it and the husband complains that whenever he tries to help he is rebuffed because he “wouldn’t do it right” and then his wife is exhausted and rejects all his other advances and instead of being a caretaker he just ends up being another thing to be cared for within his own home. “Let him do the dishes,” the counselor advises. “He might not load the dishwasher the way you would, but he is a grown man and fully capable of doing it. Let him help.” Respect him and his abilities—trust that he’s capable—let him take care of you for a change. Wives are called to submit to their husbands’ love because it is so hard to give up control of our fears and our doubts and our insecurities and our million things that we are thinking about it, to just let ourselves be loved.

And you are called to love him back. You’re submitting to him as the head of the body as the Church submits itself to Christ. Because Christ gave everything of himself, the Church is called to return it all to him; because God created and sustains everything we are and have, we are called to give all the glory back to him. Obviously the wife doesn’t get her glory from her husband, but in giving the gift of letting go and accepting the love he pours out for her she understands and accepts the love and glory of Christ, and loves both of them all the more. And the husband, in pouring himself out as Christ, sees in the return love of his wife the model of how he himself ought to love Christ, and in more fully loving Christ he is more fully able to give of himself.

Confronted with each other’s submission to the love of the other—the husband in pouring himself out, the wife in giving it back—and seeing in it the love between Christ and his Church, how can they not exclaim gloria in excelsis Deo?

and on earth, peace to people of good will.

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when things of heaven are wed to those of earth

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending my friend Katie’s wedding at an Antiochian Orthodox church on the South Side of Chicago. Unlike probably most of the people on the bride’s side of the church, I have attended Orthodox (and Byzantine Catholic) liturgies in the past, and one of my good friends is Antiochian Orthodox (we took a Mariology class together at Notre Dame and shenanigans ensued). But this was my first Orthodox-of-any-kind wedding, and I was incredibly excited about witnessing a liturgy most people recognize only from My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

People complain about those Roman Catholic papists with their elaborate churches and decorations and gold everywhere but let me tell you, we ain’t got nothin’ on the Orthodox.


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Friday Link Spam

I was doing this on Facebook, but it was hard to format and you can’t embed links, so I’m resurrecting it here!

A list of the names of all the kidnapped Nigerian girls

A lovely newly-discovered galaxy that defies current thought on how ancient galaxies should look!

An article about an amateur flight around Mount St. Helen’s as it erupted; the pictures from that flight are here.

And this section would surely not be complete without an article examining Russia’s threats concerning U.S. involvement with the ISS.  Favorite line?  “Don’t get me wrong: Cold War 2 would be awful for the world, but it would instantly and utterly solve NASA’s funding issues.”  Sob.

This article of two tips to improve your family life and health is good, but her third step nearly brought me to tears.  Beautiful.  There’s also a part four!  (The comments are also generally worth reading.)

A good piece about the problems with using “I have a boyfriend” as a way to deflect negative male attention

Pierced Hands is a great blog, period, but I especially love Meg’s challenges, like this Fifty Ways to Celebrate Easter.  (Reminder:  IT’S STILL EASTER.)

On all the little woes of being a Catholic woman.  (Sobbing in the Confessional? Critiquing others’ outfits? Absolutely.)

On the current growth of the board game industry

Nerdy knitting, for those who aren’t afraid of double-knitting (i.e., not me)


Anthony Bourdain, like me, has thoughts about our tangled relationships with other countries, specifically Mexico.

Fifteen famous landmarks in context

As a writer, I was practically frothing at the mouth over these excerpts from various authors famous in the 60s on symbolism in their work.

An article aboutthe ancient Chinese view of the Roman Empire

Horrible awful and occasionally beautiful unpopular baby names from turn-of-the-twentieth-century America

A reminder of the costs of reality TV, Biggest-Loser-style


Little Prince George visiting Australia

Bare Bones Comedy, a comic strip

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A Day Late and a Dollar Short: Literary Criticism

Part of the purpose of this blog is to make me write, instead of spending all my time simply reading and scrolling through endless newsfeeds, but yesterday instead of squeezing in a post at the last minute I ended up reading through a Battle of the Books hosted by a friend of mine back in March.  I won’t link you to the whole thing, because if you haven’t read any of Megan Whalen Turner’s books I have to command you to go pick up The Thief and come back once you’ve finished A Conspiracy of Kings, but I will happily spoil you for the results of the battle.  Or at least, the comment section for the results, mostly because there’s a conversation about literary criticism, a subject near and dear to my heart.

What follows is basically an edited version of the late-night ramblings I sent Beth (organizer of the battle) last night.  At some point I will make a more coherent, foundational post regarding my feelings about academic criticism and its currentish state, but today is not that day.  So, in response to this thread:

I will say you COULD do a Marxist reading of Hans Christian Andersen!  It’s all about understanding how the theoretical critical lens works, though–it’s not a magnifying glass to bring out what Andersen put in there–it’s an angle that sheds light on the text’s underpinnings/cultural beliefs/etc., and some lenses are more illuminating than others, and maybe Marx wouldn’t be the MOST illuminating way to read Andersen…but you could try.  Or you could try Foucault.  But basically, you can analyze a text in and of itself (taking into account context and the author–I’m certainly not going to promote the text in isolation), but you can also turn to theory in order to give yourself a groundwork and a language/structure with which to approach the text, especially if you want to compare it to other texts.  (Rather like your thoughts on the necessity of criteria.)

On the other hand, I don’t really know why I am defending it–that sort of literary analysis generally drives me crazy (AUGH FOUCAULT)–and I have no doubt that Jess felt like she was supposed to find Marxism in Andersen’s fairy tales because I’m sure that’s how some people teach it, but–that’s not how it’s meant to be used.  I will say that I try to avoid the “critical apparatus” whenever I can (and when you’re not in academia, it gets a lot easier).

On this subject, my intro to lit theory/criticism class decided to try to teach me about different theories by giving me several essays from various theoretical viewpoints, all on the same work of literature, which happened to be “The Secret Sharer,” which is a terrible horrible awful boring novella by Joseph Conrad.  It probably has analytic value, but as a story I found it completely unengaging, and thus it was the absolute worst possible example to give me to try to make me understand lit crit, because if I didn’t care about the story I certainly wasn’t going to care about the five essays I had to read.  It was a waste of a semester, and I ended up learning what it was trying to teach me by doing critical history papers myself the next semester in 19th-Century Novel, where I was reading things I actually cared about.  And in that class we also talked about the things we cared about, and not just analysis. 

And some of this was probably due to the professors and certainly due to the reading list (I liked my Intro to Lit Crit professor, but I never quite forgave him for substituting Rock’n’Roll for Arcadia and I’ve never quite forgiven myself for failing to go see Rock’n’Roll when it was RIGHT THERE ORIGINAL LONDON CAST CURSE YOU FELLOW TRAVELERS WHO WERE UNINTERESTED IN IT).  And my Intro to Lit Crit professor was probably in his sixties, while my 19th-Century Novel professor was a first-year post-doc with a self-professed crush on George Eliot who started off one discussion with the question “Why do women find Mr. Darcy so attractive?”  So I’ve had both great and terrible lit crit/English class experiences and learned enough to learn to choose to write papers that just examine books as literature (a la criticism from before the 1970s, without all the sexism), taking apart their workings to figure out how they fit together and what makes them great. 

And there’s not as much room for that in academic criticism these days–today I read this somewhat incoherent ramble about how college students don’t know how to do anything but deconstruct, a valid point, but the author completely whiffed on its source, choosing to focus on people’s inability fo allow themselves to be absorbed in a work (a different problem, related certainly, but not quite so fundamental–a symptom of this other point) rather than what he himself pointed out:  “Liberal education in America has long been characterized by the intertwining of two traditions: of critical inquiry in pursuit of truth and exuberant performance in pursuit of excellence. In the last half-century, though, emphasis on inquiry has become dominant, and it has often been reduced to the ability to expose error and undermine belief.”

It was critical inquiry in pursuit OF TRUTH, but since we destroyed truth somewhere between 1888 and 1946 (and discovered its death in the 1960s), the inquiry has nothing to direct it, and THAT’S why it’s been reduced as he describes it.  (Contemporary philosophy has a similar problem: a discussion for another day.)  People have trouble becoming absorbed in works or allowing themselves to consider alternate viewpoints because ultimately their own views or convictions are so vague that nothing need deep consideration because someone thinks it so it’s probably at least somewhat valid.  The greater problem is that without Truth there’s no Beauty, and being unable to identify either, criticism can’t make judgments on Goodness or Meaning, and so it’s reduced to little, petty things instead.

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Polite Outrage

I don’t particularly want to get into it here, as I don’t think this is the fastest way to their customer service (if it even exists?), but Precisely What Exists continues to be plagued by a No Internet At Home problem facilitated and even perhaps promoted by one Comcast/Xfinity service provider, who today announced their second “what appointment in the system” fiasco.

Hopefully sometime next week things will resume as normal.  In the meantime, enjoy this series of pictures of toddlers playing hide-and-go-seek.  And a gif set of sporting fail.  And my personal favorite, the Prince George #peasants meme.  /sigh

edit:  APPARENTLY this layout does not highlight or underline or bold your links in any way?  So it has to go.  But not while I’m sitting in a McDonald’s with a hungry husband because I STILL DO NOT HAVE INTERNET IN MY HOUSE.

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Potato Skins, a brief sequel

My mother-in-law taught me her omi’s recipe for potato balls last night, and as she was peeling potatoes with a knife she said, “Now, you can do this the more economical way,” and demonstrated how the skins of steamed/boiled potatoes can be peeled right off the potato without any loss of the starchy goodness itself.  “But that takes more time, and…you know,” she said, continuing on with her knife and a wry shake of her head, “my father is probably rolling over in his grave right now.  ‘That’s perfectly good potato!’ he’d say –grew up during the Depression, you know–this was one of his pet peeves.”

And of course he wasn’t talking about the peels themselves, but the extra flesh you lose when you don’t painstakingly strip the potato.  And you certainly wouldn’t want potato skins in potato balls–the potato makes a dough, and the skins would change the consistency.  But I still laughed to myself at how terribly apropos the comment was.

“I won’t tell if you won’t,” I said, and she chuckled.  “Whichever one of us gets to heaven first won’t tell Grandfather.”

“Agreed,” she said, and we left it at that.

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Potato Skins

I’m in the middle of a spell of being painfully aware of the whole my-actions-affect-everyone-else (in a macro sense; on a daily level I’m probably as thoughtless as ever), and so my husband has been patiently participating in mostly-one-sided discussions on the subject, such as the one we had Saturday night about potato skins.

It was late and we were on the road and hungry, so we stopped at a Wendy’s; since we’re in the middle of moving, we’ve been eating a fair amount of fast food lately, and one of the things I like about Wendy’s is you can get a baked potato (and you used to be able to get broccoli on it to, but they seem to have taken that off the menu) instead of fries.  So I ordered one and some chicken nuggets, which I used to top the potato along with some honey mustard, and then I mixed it all together and it was mostly satisfying.  (One day I will give a class on creative uses of same-old same-old prepackaged food?)

Anyway, I had finished the filling, but there was still plenty of potato left on the skin–the kind that’s hard to scrape off when you’re sitting still, let alone when you’re trying to balance in a car on the interstate–and after a brief war of what-about-germs versus piping-hot-temperature-of-baked-potato, hunger won out and I carried on.

“Does it weird you out, that I eat potato skins?” I asked my husband.

“Not anymore,” he said, fairly promptly, “although I’m not so sure about what you’re doing now…”

I asked because one of the first times I ate with his family, they made steak and baked potatoes, which I hear is a fairly typical American meal but not one I ever really ate growing up.  I did eat a lot of ten-minutes-in-the-microwave potatoes though, and so I proceeded to eat them as I normally did, skin and all.  (Especially if they’ve been salted and baked properly, so they’re nice and crispy?  DELICIOUS.)  It was only after I was about halfway through that I realized that everyone else…was leaving their skins on their plates.  Being the new girlfriend, I panicked a little internally, but it was too late and they were delicious and I couldn’t eat any more steak, so I finished them off.  I had a similar encounter the first time they served me cucumber salad on a lettuce leaf; turns out the leaf is decoration and not part of the salad.

Now, my husband and I both grew up in middle-class suburbia in the nineties, but I was taught that potato skins were something you eat, and he wasn’t.  This got me thinking about all the other foods we reject that are eaten elsewhere, or were eaten by our relatives only a few generations ago, and how sometimes we even view those foods as “poor people’s” (I think it partly has to do with European sensibilities, but this post is getting long already so–for another time!).  Like pig ears–they sell them at Kroger, but I would never in a million years buy one because ew, ears (or worse, cow tongue, which I read about in the Ramona books and was so grossed-out-by that I believed obviously it was a fancy name for something because they couldn’t really be eating tongue, could they?).  And yet go back a hundred, a hundred and fifty years ago, and if you did something like slaughter a pig and then not use part of it, you were being practically criminal in your wastefulness.

(This also ties into the whole detachment-from-our-food sources thing.  Post for another time, probably by someone who is better informed than I.)

And then there’s the huge problem that the simultaneous treatment of something as trash (i.e. not useful/edible) but also as for poor people implies that they deserve and are worth no more than garbage.  How often are food pantry donations made simply from the leftovers or off-brands or things-I-wouldn’t-eats?  It’s like condemning a school or school system for being bad and then ignoring the fact that children are still attending that school.  They know you think the education they’re getting is worthless; they make the connection that they, too, are worthless.  When we look at the pollution in China and say “I’d never live there” but keep taking advantage of the cheap prices associated with that Made in China sticker, we have to be aware that we are contributing to a toxic level of pollution affecting the lives of 1/7th of the world’s population, that we’ve contributed to the genocide of their daughters.

But then you get tangled up trying to figure out how not to buy Made in China–in staring at the vast array of meat in the grocery store and contemplating how many animals were slaughtered but are never going to be eaten–in looking at all the resources we’ve wasted making junk, or even merely too much of one thing, because supply and demand are so separate from one another and the relentless machinery of capitalism keeps trying to create need out of want and want out of who even cares? (and is broken if not failed completely, gears crunching against each other while that horrible screeching you hear is the souls caught up in it like an Irish girl’s hair in a textile mill).

My dad starts his Sunday School curriculum on social justice with the story of the village by a river that one day discovered babies floating downstream in the river and organized an effort to get them out of the water before they drowned.  Their efforts were valiant and they saved many lives, but the babies kept coming, and so one day two workers quit what they were doing and started heading upstream.  “Where are you going?” the other villagers asked, scandalized that they would abandon their posts.  “To stop whoever’s throwing babies in the water!” they replied, and off they went.

That’s where the story ends, but of course the people who try to stop the babythrowers have different methods they can try–they can directly approach the people throwing babies into the water, or they can go after whatever political body is dictating that babies ought to be tossed in.  It seems to me nowadays that most people who try the second route often end up sucked into the very system they’re trying to reform–at least, that’s how Washington feels to me–but I firmly believe that the individual grassroots approach works–that it’s the best way of working, because politicians come and go but individual impacts can be passed to the next generation.

And as I told a group of freshmen, on that first day of Social Justice, whenever you get overwhelmed about all the broken and corrupt systems in the world–or at the very least, when the complexities of the quinoa craze leave you wondering just what you should do–there is always, always something you can do at the local, individual level.  Soup kitchens.  Food banks.  Libraries.  Prisons.  Women’s health clinics, in all their myriad forms.  4H.  Boys and Girls Club.  Legal Aid.  Trail or highway cleanup.  Prayer!  And once you’ve hit upon something you think you should do, do it.  Part of what I’m most looking forward to about being done moving is the chance to ease the crisis of conscience through finding whatever way I’m meant to help in our new community.  For now, I’m stuck with problems for which I see no answers, and paralysis in the face of injustice is exactly what keeps the injustice going.

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Moving People

I spent my first year out of college serving with AmeriCorps, a program whose potential is severely undervalued (another post), in the great state of Washington, which is three-quarters wheat fields and wineries and one quarter crazy hippies with a cloudy sky problem. Over on the cloudy side of things, I spent four days a week serving as an in-class and after-school tutor while every Friday was spent either doing community service projects or professional development training.

About a month or so before the end of the school year, we had a session specifically on saying farewells, on making a good goodbye, as it were. We’d spent a year impacting (and being impacted by) our students, only to leave them at the end; those relationships deserved the dignity of proper closure. I ended up writing a note to every student in almost every class I’d helped in, and though as with all such projects it saw me working into the wee hours of the morning to finish, I felt good about the project, and about the goodbyes.

Not that everything went perfectly, of course. One of the students whom I really wanted to make sure got my note ended up not showing up to the last day of class, so I had to give it to her friend and hope that she got it. And then there were the students to whom I said goodbye, only to awkwardly see them again a few days later while running a summer program at the school. There were students I thought I’d get to see again who never showed. There was the last day of my summer program, when one of my students who wanted to keep in touch forgot to give me her address and vice versa. (Turns out I simultaneously haven’t thought of that in a year and still have an undercurrent of guilt running through me about it.)

The point I’m trying to make is perhaps that goodbyes are hard, and even when you prepare for them and try to make sure everyone knows they’re coming, you’ll still miss people, or run into them after you’ve already said farewell. But it’s worth the effort of trying to make good ones—that was the lesson I was taught, to acknowledge the change and confront it, to say I’ll miss you, but goodbye rather than trying to pretend that everything will be the same.

And of course everything is still the same, even after you go; little things will change, but one of the hardest parts of saying goodbye is realizing that life carries on in the place you’ve left, regardless of whether or not you’re there. There’s that moment where you look at the calendar of events and can mark precisely where your participation ends, but the calendar keeps going, and so do the people. You are not so indispensable that the world stops turning after you’re gone. Maybe it’s made all the harder by the fact that in the face of that ongoing stability you are now drifting, now trying to find a new space for yourself in a new place, trying to find your new homes, up in the air and still a ways away from landing.And of course the spaces exist, and I think I’ve gotten fairly good at finding them (a skill I owe in large part to my parents), but the meantime is still—hard.

This is not to say that you didn’t make a difference while you were there. One of the things I’ve learned upon returning places I’ve been is that people do remember you. One of the things people (or is it just me?) tend to do to themselves is wonder if they matter, if other people remember them, if they’ve ever made an impression anywhere—stop worrying; you have. They do. Just because their world kept turning after you left doesn’t mean you didn’t affect the tilt of their axis. Or the speed of their rotation. Or the timing of their tides?

Corollary: it’s just as important to say goodbye to your Starbucks barista or your Chick-fil-A cashier as it is to say goodbye to your coworkers. The coworkers at least know where you’re going; your barista is just going to wonder if you’re okay. (Case in point: the Subway manage who knew my husband’s unit had deployed, but didn’t know that he’d gotten married and started going home for lunch, and was worried he hadn’t made it back.) Closure matters.

With all that in mind we did our best in saying goodbye to our old home, even managing to squeeze in a last-day lunch at a restaurant my husband had promised to take me to…before we got married. And of course there were people we missed, and the whole process was that much more complicated by the number of times we went back and forth between old home and new, dragging out the sense that we were neither here nor there. There were late nights spent finishing a farewell present (more on that in a few posts) and awkward “we have said goodbye three times already but keep running into you” moments, and even now it still doesn’t quite feel like we’ve really closed the book on our old post—and we haven’t, as we’re going back for a squadron function soon (which undermined all of my husband’s attempts to say goodbye).

This constant coming and going only reinforces the lesson that a clean break is the best kind, that we owe it not only to others but also to ourselves to let the old things go to make way for the new. Not everything ends—Facebook, at the very least, makes sure of that (for better or for worse, and that I think ought to be a best friend guest post)—but it does all change, and we have to embrace that change, and give it—and ourselves—the chance to do it with dignity.

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