A chapter of my life ended last Friday. It’s been an odd feeling, saying goodbye when I am so ready to move on. It’s no secret that Minneapolis and I have had an extremely complicated relationship. There are things that I truly adore about the city (i.e. the best bike commute in the world) and the people I’ve grown to be friends with and yet, this is a place that will never be close to my heart. No doubt a valuable period in my life, but one where the bright spots shine poke through the cover of bleakness.
Over the weekend while most of my earthly belongings headed towards Georgia, I sprinted into to the open arms of the Pacific Northwest and my family for a short intermission before I begin life in Atlanta. I packed the car with my most valuable treasures (the two cats, my new and fabulous bicycle and the contents of my spice cupboard) and drove 1700 hundred miles in my 10-year old car with my 23-year old cousin to Olympia.
Somewhere in the middle of North Dakota an epiphany struck. This road trip, and more importantly, my postdoc in Minneapolis was a constant tug-of-war between ‘making good time’ and ‘having a good time’.
I chose my postdoc for the science and for the mentor, despite the fact that it meant that I would have to live in the Midwest (in contrast to most of the other postdocs in the lab who wanted those things AND had strong familial ties in the region). So from the outset, my postdoc was simply a strategic hoop to jump through to land a coveted faculty position, wherever that may be. I didn’t set out to ‘have a good time’ but rather to ‘make good time.’ So I shied away from making friends and making Minneapolis home, as that would take time away from my scientific and academic goals.
I’m not one who believes that scientists live in isolation and are wasting time when not working. I took time off, travelled and spent many a weekend with my dearest friends that I’ve accumulated over the course of my life to either celebrate major life events or to simply hang out on the couch with a glass of wine. These were the people that I had already invested in, value beyond all else and whom I wanted to spend my time with whenever possible. So I flitted off to Chicago, Austin, California, Durham, Olympia, Paris, Portland, Boston, etc. to keep those people in my life. All at the expense of making ties in Minneapolis.
The same is true for my academic community. The University of Minnesota was simply a stop along the way. As a postdoc, it’s difficult not to feel like a ghost. You sneak in during the middle of the night (your start date is almost never tied to the academic calendar) and you pass people in the halls without acknowledgement. I just did not have the capacity to invest in the department. Resolving that conflict was hard – I was deeply committed to my intellectual community as a graduate student and I am looking forward to making my mark in the future. But in this time and place, during my postdoc, I couldn’t do it and felt guilty for not trying harder.
So I ‘made good time.’ My one and only postdoc was four and a half years long – a blink of an eye in the current academic market. In a time when a lot of people are leaving academia, doing 6-7 year postdocs or multiple postdocs, I have been extremely successful and even so, I felt like this took too long and there have been costs inextricably tied with my success. My life could have taken a different turn a couple of years ago and I would have left Minneapolis at that time. I have fretted incessantly (and unnecessarily) that things will fall through at the last minute while preparing for this move. This person who I am, who I’ve become is due entirely because of my past experiences, which I consider to be a result of the context and my decisions at any given time. And that particular turn let me take the opportunity to invest, just a smidgen, in Minneapolis. As such, this goodbye is more complicated than I anticipated. Yet I revel in it: my life has been rich, varied and complex and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Goodbye Minneapolis. You haven’t been my favorite, but you have been important.