Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Roller Coaster Descent, Ascent  §

So I’m sitting in the second lower level of Bobst Library waiting for the very last class of Spring 2011 on the NYU campus, which starts at 3:30 in the afternoon. After that, summer officially begins. Sure, I have one more week at the New School, but the week will be different. Rather than four days of teaching, I will have two; rather than nine lecture hours, I will have four; instead of seven class meetings, three—and after those two, four, and three next week at the New School, it is summer.

Summer 2011.

Just a moment ago, I was steeling myself for the arrival of fall, which would bring with it the arrival of a daughter and the two most intense working and teaching semesters of my life, spent juggling fatherhood, husbandhood, teaching, my freelance work, and my own academic research and projects, including several research assistantships. Amidst that there would be holidays, complications (silly things like getting the car inspected that can strike terror into the hearts of the truly busy), trips to London, guest speaking engagements, and the uncertainty of a radical transition in my data life (from Linux to Mac OS) that was, at the beginning of last fall, just a twinkle in my eye.

Now it’s almost all over.

Even though there is still one class left to go today, I can already feel the roller coaster car sliding increasingly rapidly down the precariously high track, gaining speed exponentially as it falls out of the sky.

I am struggling to stay awake. I feel strangely as though I am sitting on the beach, not in a chair in a library basement next to walls and walls of lockers.

I am meant to be working right now on things like dissertation proposals and the remaining grading and teaching that I have to do, but I simply can’t do it. I am having a transcendental moment.

It’s one of those moments at which a threshold that has been gradually materializing in the depths of consciousness suddenly comes into focused existence just as you cross it. For the first time ever, I feel—I have time to feel—like a father and a proper academic, both at once, and it is strange and exhilarating. I feel breathless and weightless and find myself indulgently reflecting on pasts and futures that were and that weren’t, to be and not to be, a kind of almost-maudlin trance.

I hear windchimes and breezes blowing nowhere in particular. My knees are shaking even though I’m sitting down. I expect to ascend the stairs in two hours and find not New York but some other place, some greener place made entirely of fragments of springtime, to be waiting the for me.

I have to snap out of this; I can’t be like this all weekend. I have to get work done! Maybe the subway ride home will help.

Probably not. In just over a week I will suddenly have well over a month of empty days, just time for myself and my daughter and my wife and my own, my own academic work.

The ecstasy is wild, uncompromising, and all-encompassing.

— § —

Things that need attention over the summer:

  • My daughter
  • My wife
  • Our friends, both locally and in faraway places
  • My research (dissertation)
  • My research (the other smaller papers I’ve been working on and meaning to finish and/or submit)
  • My online life (website and blog)
  • My freelance work (About.com and also the photography, which is like a great untapped reservoir of wealth right now)
  • Our car (which has never properly been subject to the post-used-car-purchase process)
  • Our dog (who hasn’t had a chance to run in the park in far too long)
  • My imagination (which is beginning to stagnate and disappear)
  • My creative writing (which was never more than dabbling but has always meant a great deal to me)
  • Our junk (much of which needs to be eBayed off)
  • Our apartment (which needs a nice, deep cleaning and a certain amount of maintenance)
  • The sky and the trees and the grass and the air

It would also be nice to get to see a film or two.

— § —

I don’t know if it will really be possible to see to all of these things in a substantive way, or even to see to most of them in a substantive way. But at the very least, it is a wonderful thing, for a brief moment, to allow oneself to dream—to feel the tickle of breathless possibility in drifting across my skin again, to sense the goosebumps rising.

— § —

The person that I am now bears almost no relation to the people that I have been throughout the years. Marrying and becoming a father and becoming a teacher, as I have done over the last half decade, are the sorts of things that radically transform a person. I will never be that older Aron again, a person without a particularly strong identity (other than that of The Loyal Opposition) and a lot of gigs. Instead, I have accumulated several identities and they are stronger than am I, if there ever was any essential ‘I’ in the first place. I suspect (as is the general consensus in the social sciences) that there wasn’t.

— § —

A few old questions need to be asked once again. I’ve had to ask them before, usually in the aftermath of serious breakups, moves, or unwanted life changes. This time all of the changes were wanted, and indeed have been the best things to have ever happened to me, but the questions that emerge are the same:

  • How do I imagine myself?
  • What do I enjoy doing?
  • What would I like my life to look like ten years from now?
  • Who is out there that I value but that I have neglected?
  • What do I need to do to be myself, enjoy my life, bring about the ten-year-imaginary, show the forgotten that I value them?
  • When can I start and what are my first steps?

It will be an exciting May.

— § —

Despite the ending of the NYU classes for the semester (and academic year), next week’s schedule will be identical to this one and all the weeks that have gone before it.

I have simply replaced all of the time that I would have spent in class with study room reservations at the NYU Bobst Library. I’m going to put all of the same hours in, only this time they will be directed toward the things that matter but that have been ignored since the world began again on the day that my daughter was born.

— § —

When the next teaching engagement at NYU begins with the beginning of the 2011-2012 academic year:

  • My daughter will be nearly a year old.
  • I will have empty road ahead to spring toward the completion of my Ph.D.
  • I will be weeks away from beginning my professional job search.
  • I will be entering my fifth year as a university instructor.
  • I will be entering my second half-decade as a Ph.D. student/candidate.
  • I will be entering my second half-decade as a resident of New York, and approaching a full decade since leaving Utah behind.
  • I will be looking forward to the football season, fall, winter, and the holidays in a way that I never have before.

Sometimes life is simply spectacular.

— § —

There is nothing so rewarding as hard work, even if you feel as though you never get enough of it done and will never run out of more to do.