21 October 2014
Newman University has worked out. When I left Malaysia last year, I was terrified that I had made a mistake again, gambled again on an unknown quantity and taken too many chances with my fragile, newborn career. Newman: nobody really knew anything about it. The first day I drove the hired Vauxhall Corsa there. Every day since then had been good in its own way. I have been saying all year, in a hushed voice, 'Touch wood, it's really been good for me, I really like it here.' And today, I sat through two graduation ceremonies, wearing the suit I was married in and Zara plimsolls I bought at Midvalley Mall in Kuala Lumpur and my Open University PhD gown, which makes me feel Marxist and proud. Knox College, University of Birmingham, the Open University, now Newman University. All institutions I am proud to represent in a small way. Watching the Muslim families cheer their Muslim daughters and sons across the stage, you can see how catholic (with a small 'c') Newman really is, even the Cardinal in his robes and institution: he reached out as a friend passed in the processional line. It's so good to see you. Stories of John Paul the Second eating dinner with friends, talking about poetry. How lovely this whole thing has turned out for me, sitting in the most beautiful space, surrounded by friends. How lucky I was that night in November last year, that the tiny Skype image of me made its way here and guided me home. All warm embraces, these families watching mothers and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters graduate. The first ever in our family — no one had dreamed of this before.
20 October 2014
I watched that Wes Anderson film about travelling in India last night, after everyone had gone to bed. It was fitting, given the whole day of nostalgia, that Malaysia, southeast Asia, would appear in this waking dream. The film is, of course, all cleaned up, white fantasy about India, a 90 minute stereotype, but shot beautifully and symmetrically. I thought about my own trips on buses, rather than trains, in Thailand and Malaysia. I felt that draw towards the adventure of it all again and some other life in another iteration of the multiverse, where I just travelled into my thirties and didn't make any commitments. Somewhere, my time in Asia isn't done...
19 October 2014
I spent part of Thursday talking about the States. It's been 11 years this week that I've been abroad. 19 October we landed one day late in Japan. For three months, I was homesick: I dreamt of going back, having the final year of college that I had missed. Every Thursday night, all my friends on that side of the world were listening to jazz at the Cherry St pub, and I was looking out over the north suburbs of Fukuoka. It didn't stop until February. Eleven years on, whoever I was in Galesburg in 2003 is gone entirely, but the feeling that I am not where I should be comes back now and again. I deal with it in different ways. I look at impossible Christmas flights from BHX to ORD. I put on my Twins cap, browse the American candy kiosk at the mall, and now, think of Japan too, Imazu Bay where I took pictures and slowly turned over the past in my mind.
18 October 2014
This morning's run took me through a forest, up out of Harborne to the north and into the dark because the sun is not up until later. I ran confidentially despite being able to see the pavement below me. I ran through the tunnel under Hagley Rd without being able to see anything but a small light on the other side. I ran through puddles and mud without stopping or thinking, the sun just on the edge and the moon hidden behind the clouds. I ran all the way to Dudley Rd, almost the city centre, through Summerfield Park lined with the old Edgbaston houses, all that history and the huge trees. If you cross the road there, you will get to the canals, but I didn't know that. I stopped, as I have been now at the middle of a run, the simple out and backs, to catch my breath, look around, and be a thankful that — despite all the problems I can't solve and the relationships I keep spinning like plates waiting to fall — I have another day, another morning.
17 October 2014
Some days, you run from something: you can't help it. Some days, you run to find the void, like Murakami says. Some days, you run just because you can. And some days, if you're lucky, you can get up before the sunrise and head out into the midst. Run past the gates and stables and church, run out on the country lane, where there are no cars yet, where the horizon is just starting to show. Run when you can't see the pavement, but you know it's there. Run fast or run slow, it doesn't matter. Run until you can't run any further on that road and turn back.