Recently, one of my favorite bloggers said the word “bittersweet” was overused. Of course, she also used it but she explained that she spent some time trying to come up with a different word for that feeling. Her words stuck with me, partly because I became more aware of the word itself, and mostly because it reminded me of a time I used it.
I remember when I finished my master’s degree, the director of my program surprised me at a department event and asked me to say a few words. Taken completely off-guard, I stumbled around for a minute and thanked everyone I worked with and thanked him for facilitating such a great program. Then I closed my short, bumbling speech by saying this was a bittersweet moment for me, leaving a program I enjoyed so much.
This was not the sensation I had finishing the Ph.D.
Completing the defense, and putting the dissertation to bed was total, utter, and complete relief. I was so glad to be out from under the pressure to complete it, the stress of being evaluated, and doing my own research. I felt happy (well, until I learned I was losing a summer class and was going to need another job a lot sooner than I expected.)
But I didn’t feel like I was going to miss working on the dissertation.
I’m pretty much done with the whole academic writing thing. I want to write, I’ve always wanted to write, but I want to write things people are actually going to read. So I’m working on morphing my dissertation into a popular press book. It’s going to be a lot of work, but I’ll be able to focus on the parts I enjoy the most – interviews and talking to people about gaming.
But I digress.
That bittersweet sensation returned this week as I realized I was coming to the end of my time teaching at my university. When I participate in graduation in a couple of weeks, I will be walking with my own students. Several of them are graduating this year, too. This is the one time I’ll participate in graduation with students that I’ve taught myself. My connection to them is stronger than any connection I’ve ever had to other classmates because I feel like I played some small role in their success, even if I was only in class with them for a single semester.
And I know in my mind that this bittersweet feeling will pass, and that this is the end of an era, but that I have new and exciting things to come. (What those exciting things will look like . . . well, that isn’t clear. But I have faith they will show up eventually.)
But my heart tells a different story. My heart knows the larger community I’ve been a part of at this small campus is coming to an end and that I’ll have to start all over again some place new. I am largely ok with that, but each time I leave a place I’ve lived or a school or a job, there is a small corner of my heart that resonates with the word bittersweet.