In September, I started a new job, complete with multiple orientation sessions and multiple orientation speakers. It was all a blur, really, but even now, two months later, moments stand out in sharp relief, and I can almost hear the speaker saying the words.
“Remember those first moments, take note of them, before everything becomes normal again.”
And another, offered by our ombudsman, “You’re here. That means you belong here.” And then she said it again, for emphasis. “That means…You. Belong. Here.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to say that to myself these past two months. Heck, in the past two weeks.
Northwestern is a humble, beautiful, flawed, incredible, amazing place. Last week, I headed up to the Kellogg Global Hub to meet up with my old econ professor (“old” as in former…well, I guess “old” as in old too, lol), and after lunch, he’s like, “Want to go see the Nobel Peace Prize?” Seriously? Sure enough, there’s Dale Mortensen’s medal for his work analyzing why it’s possible for unemployment to be so high, when there are still so many job vacancies on the market.
“Did he have to rent his tux,” I mused, studying the black and white photo. “Or did he already have one?” Because I’m always one for inane questions.
“Oh, I think he rented it there, so he wouldn’t have to worry about wrinkles,” my keen professor replied, because he’s always one for witty retorts.
It has been a week. I think part of it is my body adjusting to perimenopausal mood swings. There are days when I feel like myself, and days when just a few kind words will spring tears in my eyes, or I’ll feel myself flare in anger over honestly, not that much. I can feel my swings happen, but there’s not much I can do about it other than ride them out. It is convenient not having to drag a coat around with me all the time during the chilly Midwest fall, so there is that.
On Thursday, right as I was packing up to leave, we had a brown out. My office lights blinked off and on. My computer monitor shut off completely. My computer went down. I saw our building manager walk briskly down the hall and thought, “Huh.” Then I went about checking all my devices just to make sure everything was ok. Everything was alright, except my docking station got fried, which is fine as that was easily replaced. I figured I could handle that in the morning.
So I continued to pack things up, and then headed to the bathroom where I was met with a wall of dank stench and two worn, greasy sneakers sticking out of the accessible stall. Also curious, as we are in a secured building. Did my business, and dropped a note to our building manager, figuring that maybe if he’d swing back my way, that I could inquire after the individual’s well being, with some moral backup beside me…and that maybe while he was at it, he could come verify whether or not my docking station was indeed kaputzed.
He swings back, we head to the women’s bathroom. I push in, he leans in….I inquire, no response. He takes one look, nods, and beckons me back out. Aha. He is already familiar with this individual. This is the same individual who has previously threatened a room full of people in another building with bodily harm. This is not some harmless person seeking warmth. Okay then. He can take it from there, and in the meantime, let’s go check out my docking station.
Docking station confirmed blammo. We hear security team escort the squatter out. By 9a the next morning, I have a new docking station. Amazing.
The next day, I have a meeting with a colleague that I am pretty intimidated by. He’s brilliant, accomplished, respected, and basically an institution with a bicycle. And he’s so nice. He’s really trying to help me figure something out. His office has books on the floor, coffee stains on the carpet probably older than I am. Drafty windows. Wooden doors with crystal knobs that don’t quite shut right. You get the drift.
I gather my stuff to leave, stand up to exit, hanging right outside his door is a Chagall.
I turn to him and say…um, is that… is that a REAL Chagall… because like, you don’t really hang poster prints at a university, but also, there are historic coffee stains right underneath it.
And sure enough, yes. That is a real Chagall. This place is so surreal.