Vacation vs. Inspiration

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for your favorite benchwarmer.  Two weeks ago, thanks to the generosity of my in-laws, my spouse and I went to Hawaii for a week.  Last week, we were in Washington, DC; my spouse for a conference, and me for sightseeing, research, and conducting an interview relevant to my dissertation.  It was a study in contrasts of place and perspective.  In Hawaii, we sat on the beach and soaked up sunshine, surrounded by very old, very wrinkly, and very retired people.  In DC, we hustled from hotel to metro to destination and back again, surrounded by very young, very horny, and very ambitious people.  In both cases, I felt out of place, being 32 years old, neither terribly wrinkly or horny, and moving at a gear somewhere  between ambitious careerism and relaxed satisfaction.   But while I enjoyed the sunshine and utter lack of responsibility during our brief tropical vacation, Washington inspired me.  Not because of the young people, who were too busy trying to get laid or step on someone else’s fingers on their way up the ladder, but because of the focus, energy, and intent that reveals itself in different ways and at different times.  The monuments on the National Mall testify in part to individuals (Lincoln, FDR, and Jefferson, for me) and groups (like the Civil Rights movement) that looked at the world, found it lacking, and decided to do something about it.  Same thing with the Capitol, or the Supreme Court, or the Library of Congress — these represent the desire to leave a mark on the world, a good mark that will make the world better.  My dissertation and teaching fall short of such lofty goals, of course.  But I returned home exhausted and inspired, which is perhaps exactly where I need to be to push on with my PhD.  And hopefully more.

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