Sunday, August 19, 2012
at 8:32 AM
Some people are just irreplaceable. Their very absence leaves a void that most often can never be filled. I witnessed such a vacuum firsthand when I came to the university to teach. Our department was nearing the end of its golden age and the Atlases who once held it up were gone. The load that they carried for decades was passed on to the shoulders of those who were left. A colossal task that could have been made bearable if everyone only took on a part of the yoke.
I realized late that the 'love' people unabashedly declared for their profession was not absolute. There was no clear-cut standard for the many shades of this so-called love. Well, self-aggrandizement and self-preservation, maybe. There was now a gaping maw from where the department was and where it ought to be. In a nutshell, the bridge was out, and people weren't exactly as eager to fill this gap than to cross it at all costs. It became clear at that stage that it was time to rebuild, but it became apparent as the re-edification process wore on that some parts were missing and that some were unfortunately 'decorative'. I (as have others, albeit behind my back) have found myself to be lacking, yet I could not completely comprehend for the life of me why I threw my body to the span.
As of today, the bridge stands unfinished. It is held together by a few determined parts that have now been stretched too thin from wear and tear, holding on due to some misplaced sense of duty and familiarity. But for as long as these parts hold, the span that will once again carry the department to its renaissance will never get built. Not until people stop waiting for the next Atlas to come along, not until they search their souls for the meaning of the word love, and not until it is allowed to fall.
It has been over ten years since I first nervously stepped into a classroom full of students. Each semester since has passed by in a dreamy blur. Each new year brought its share of new faces, new stories, and old endings --- my life as a teacher became episodic. And it seems that even though nothing seemed to stay the same, everything that mattered was at a standstill.
For what has seemed like an eternity, I can again finally smell change in the air. And before the year ends, I am writing a new ending to one last episode.