i hit my favorite bakersfield coffeeshop this afternoon. i caught up with one of the baristas i know. it turns out that we graduated from the same high school in the same year, but we never knew each other until i started coming here several years ago. now we see each other two or three times a year and we always chat pleasantly, give each other updates about what has happened over the past four to six months.
it's funny to catch up with someone that way. it's like skipping to the end of the story. she doesn't ever have to deal with the gritty little details of my life's story. she just knows the end end of the story. for example, she asks how my second year as a professor went. i think of how i had to submit my case for a promotion in the fall, applying for postdocs, our department's dramatic search for a new faculty member, the nasty written and verbal exchanges by my colleagues, receiving all of my postdoc rejections, my great experiences with students, how i'm working to conceptualize (and research!) my book.
so i say, "it was a lot harder than my first year." i give her a couple of funny anecdotes and tell her what i'm currently working on, what i'm looking forward to over the next few months.
sometimes i wish that i could likewise cut to the end of the latest episode of my life's story. will i get a postdoc this year? how much of my book will i really write over the next nine months?
but, in real life, i never even skip ahead when i read stories or novels (though sometimes i look to see how many pages are left in a chapter). ultimately, i believe that the end of the story does not matter so much as the journey.