Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Things Left Behind  §

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It was made official this week: The last vestiges of my New York teaching career have dissolved. I am not invited back to teach Understanding Media Studies, which I’ve taught continuously, semester after semester since the 2007-2008 school year.

I know the course, its syllabus, its students, and its tools and outlook inside and out. And there are online sections (which I taught during Spring 2012) so it’s not logistically impossible.

But I am out. Out of the loop, out of the community, out of the running, out of the department—out.

Out west.

I suppose it had to happen sometime. You move 2,000 miles away from New York, you can’t expect to keep teaching in New York like you always have. Sooner or later they’re bound to decide that someone nearer by is a better idea.

But it does feel as though I’m losing a piece of me or an old friend. I’ve been teaching that course, reading those papers, and interacting with those students since I was just beginning my Ph.D. graduate school life.

This will be the first fall in a very long time in which there is no UMS material to read, watch, grade, etc. and also the first semester since 2007 in which I have no ties to any departments in New York other than the department in which I am enrolled as a Ph.D. candidate.

My New York teaching career is over.

— § —

Meanwhile, I am also having trouble remembering streets.

We used to live on 23rd Avenue and 21st Street, but it took me several hours to come up with those street names in Astoria the other day. I could see the intersection and all of the shops we used to walk by, but not remember what the hell the streets were called.

Same thing with the Filene’s Basement on the west side somewhere around 18th street. Not only can I not remember the specific street corner, but it also took a reference consultation to realize that that was 6th Avenue.

I mustn’t picture those places in my mind’s eye too much, because there is a deep risk in it that I can’t take the measure of.

The whiff of bitter exile and a home never to be seen again hangs around those memories like so much old-fashioned plague.

— § —

I am no longer comfortable with the ontological dimension of geography. Somehow with every passing day it feels like a bigger lie to me.

This is an intuitive thing, not a well-reasoned one.

— § —

Now, for the first time in my academic life, I begin to feel interested in reading about memory.

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