I’m in the airport of Amman, Jordan, waiting for my connecting flight to Bangkok. My classes are finished, office cleaned out, and house-sitter moving into my apartment next week. It is the end of my life as a professor.
The Amman airport is a rinky-dink affair–a throwback to the Third World 70s more than the predictable cosmopolitanism of most airports today. Lots of interesting people around. But my mind is elsewhere.
I bought a one-way ticket to Bangkok. I could depict this monodirectionality as a fearless, sever-the-ties, make-or-break, reckless leap into a new life. Fact is, I’m just indecisiveness about what to do in the next few months. My Thai visa is only good for three months. I’ll probably be back in NY at the end of March for my daughter’s birthday.
For the past month, I’ve avoided thinking about what will happen after I arrive in Bangkok on December 27. I’ve just focused on correcting papers, redistributing the stuff in my office, cleaning my house, wrapping up the paperwork for my departure, arranging my physical movements around the pinched nerve in my back, dealing with a horrible sore throat. I’ve spent a lot of time explaining why I’ve resigned to friends and colleagues why. I’ve worked it up into a pretty good performance. I’m not sure how much of it is true or bullshit anymore.
I’ve been much vaguer about what I intend to do next. Some comments about leaving it open for a while. I mention massage classes and Luna’s small businesses in Thaland. With some people I might even mention my interest in tantric training, my fascination with the challenges that Luna is having in dealing with the sex-work in her bar, or my thoughts about what some people are doing with ayahuasca and psychedelic healing. I say I’ve got enough funds to last me 2-3 years, which is enough to have a good cushion but not enough to get lazy. Many people want me to say that I may still to come back to intellectual life, or even back to the university after my leave is over. I nod and agree that is a possibility.
For a long time I thought that giving away my books would bring me face-to-face with the reality of my choice to resign, bring up some kind of emotion. But no, nothing. No fear, no pleasure of generosity, no excitement, no regret. Just worry about the practicalities of who will get what and how I can get rid of all of them. But I do think that I gave my office the best cleaining it’s had in decades. All the way down to the early 70s–both the remnants of previous occupants and some childhood stuff of mine that I’d forgotten I’d put there. A good cleaning is really a destructive act. All those years of carefully accumulated sediment washed away just like that.
I avoided telling my mom for a long time, although I know she’s supected. She was predictably furious. “Why do you want to throw your life away? Why don’t you care about education? What about your daughter? I don’t know you any more!” But then I reminded her how much I admired her when she took a year off to go to Czechoslovakia and how happy and open she was that year. And she agreed, but said, “The problem was that I didn’t make anything out of that experience. I just convinced myself of my limits and went back to my old life. I’m afraid that you’ll do the same thing.”
My ex-wife went full-drama when I told her. She cried and insisted that I don’t care about my daughter. But I can pack the bags for that guilt trip much better than she can (indeed, my love of being with is the biggest reason why adventurous long-term planning is so difficult for me right now) and she couldn’t take me very far down that road. Then she talked about how hard it would be for her. But that quickly turned into a discussion of the technicalities of our divorce agreement, issues that are well-hashed and pretty much resolved. I assured her that alimony and child support would not stop. Then she told me that she still loves me so much, that she still wants me back, that she doesn’t understand why I can’t enjoy having a good family together . . . . . It still chokes me up as I write this.