Thursday, 1 December 2011

How to Feel a Goodbye

At the beginning of one of my favorite books, The Catcher in the Rye, the protagonist Holden Caulfield explains that he is “trying to feel some kind of a good-by.” He says, “I don’t care if it’s a sad good-by or a bad good-by, but when I leave a place I like to know I’m leaving it.” I’m not sure I completely agree. I’d certainly rather my last days at Harlaxton were good ones. But he has a good point. After spending three months in a completely new world, how can we make it real to ourselves that we’ll be leaving? In seventeen days, I will be sleeping in my own bed, feeding my own cats, and stringing lights on my own Christmas tree. It seems impossible! In seventeen days, everyone around me will talk funny, and I will no longer have an accent.

I, like Holden, am trying to feel a goodbye. Perhaps tonight will help—it’s the Valedictory Dinner, where we all get gussied up one last time and sit in assigned seats in the Long Gallery, enjoying Harlaxton’s finest catering. Some of us will attempt to get drunk off the wine, and my table will, inevitably, be the one asking for more water. But there’s more to it than that. Tonight we’ll hear from Dr. Kingsley, and from our own students and faculty. We’ll share memories of England and our travels around Europe, and hopefully we’ll be making a few last memories to take home with us.

I don’t really know how to sum up this entire semester, what we’ll be leaving behind and what we’re coming home to. So I’d like to open it up the rest of Harlaxton. I hope some of you will comment on this blog and say a little about your own experiences. What will you miss? What can’t you wait to do/see/have again when you get home?

I’ll start: I think I’ll miss the everyday things the most. The weight of a one-pound coin in your hand, good notebook paper and binders with two holes, pubs. I’ll miss trains that run on time and the way every town has a cathedral, a market, and a distinct accent. Reading the newspaper on the Tube, decent television, Indian takeout. And I’ll miss the extravagant things: a plane that can reach Amsterdam in an hour; a view of the ocean from the beach in Normandy, or the bay in Cardiff; London from the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral. And I’ll miss our Manor—our idiosyncratic, spectacular Manor, which, I’ve only recently come to appreciate, might not be here at all if it weren’t for us. I’ll miss the library, with the best selection of Shakespeare films I’ve ever found, as well as everything you ever wanted to know about the English country house. I will miss literature classes in the Gold Room, which are often so interesting that it’s not even tempting to look up at the ceiling. I’ll miss the Christmas tree in the Great Hall and the smell of a fire in the fireplace. I will not miss the food. But I will miss getting to act in a play and sing in a choir when I never really thought I had any talent, and I will miss watching potential disasters turn into good performances in the last week. I will miss exploring the bunker in the woods and playing hide and seek in the Manor (which might have been against the rules…sorry). And I will miss you. I wish all of you the best in your studies and your travels. Thank you for everything.

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