Michael Karlesky

A cabinet of wonders. Minus the cabinet. And possibly the wonders.

Three Hundred Seventy Seven

I moved to New York City a bit over a year ago just a couple Fridays past. You might think, then, that a post twelve days earlier and titled with a slightly smaller number would have been appropriate. I do not dispute you on this — though I would ask if your calculations properly accounted for the leap day this year. Unfortunately, on the actual day of this anniversary I spent most of my waking hours flying to California for a smartypants workshop; thus, I missed my New York Birthday (this is a thing here). I just got back to Brooklyn Sunday night, and every day between leaving and returning was full up with said workshop. When they said “intensive”, they weren't kidding. Classes begin next week, and I'm already working on two papers for submission to conferences. I shall now inhale and then exhale slowly, making lip flapping sounds in a slightly exhausted, sigh-like manner.

Looking back, this past year has been something of a constant tension in the experience of comfort and discomfort coming to a new equilibrium. At times, that tension has led to ridiculousness, to the delightful, to holiday warmth, and, of course, to sadness. Those who are becoming new friends here tell me that it takes most people a year or two to fully adjust and settle in. Some of these same people nearly gave up and went back home in that first year or two. While it's been tough at times, I've never entertained that thought. Still I get where they were in that time.

So what did I learn at this workshop? Perhaps the two most important things had nothing to do with the focus of the workshop itself. First of all, I came to see that there's a big difference between smart people and good thinkers. Smart people can be as wearisome as they are intelligent. Good thinkers, however, are as inspiring as they are bright. And so I've become aware that I don't want to be the sort of graduate student who just throws around big words; I want to be the sort of student who wrestles with big ideas and communicates them freely and plainly. Secondly, somewhere among using a communal bathroom, sleeping in a hot and humid dorm room, and riding a school bus to a museum I was reminded how much more powerful gratitude is than entitlement. I don't have any fancy titles, nor am I in a place of much status. I barely have any possessions. I'm certainly not making big money. And, yet, though I never envisioned myself at the place in life I now find myself, this is all a blessing.

I don't exactly know how many more days this path of present course will require of me. In all likelihood, at its conclusion, I may very well write another post referencing a number well over a thousand. And so I am asking myself what I will do with the coming days as I reflect upon the past three hundred seventy seven — merely count their passing or choose to see them as adventure and live them with thankfulness. Easy as it will be (and has been) to forget at times, I intend to do the latter.

If you're wondering why I attached a photo of a tutu-wearing hobo clown atop a California CVS Pharmacy entrance to this post, allow me to explain. I took the photo during my recent trip to California. And it's a tutu-wearing hobo clown on top of a CVS Pharmacy entrance. Did you miss that part?