Vanishing Lives

I don’t know if anyone else has this problem, but sometimes when I’m in one place, the other place sort of disappears out from under me.

Case in point: I am currently in Halifax (where I used to live), doing a few weeks of work at my old job. I got here on Saturday and started work on Monday. I’ve been putting in long days tied to a desk, only springing myself free for coffee runs and the odd stroll around the block to burn off stress.

It’s a funny thing to be a slave to the desk and the clock after being on grad student time for the last year. For the next three weeks, I have to wake up at a specific (and early) hour, get myself looking presentable (it’s a relaxed workplace, but there are limits!), make a lunch (grad students trying to save money don’t buy their lunch), and be at a desk by nine-ish. My time (unlike when I’m a grad student) really isn’t my own. I am expected to work until the work is done — often til six or seven in the evening.

But what I find particularly interesting is how my grad student existence — Kingston, library work, research — has all but vanished from my brain. Because I used to live here, it doesn’t feel out of the ordinary for me to be kicking around Halifax. I keep running into acquaintances on the streets and will often only get a smile or a nod — not because people are unfriendly, but I am not out-of-place here. In fact, in many ways working away at this job feels MORE normal (I suppose because I’ve done it for longer) than being a grad student.

Maybe it’s a coping mechanism? Maybe as little humans, we can’t handle feeling like we should be in two places at once, so one of those places inevitably has to slip away so we can focus our energies on being in the place where we are?

Or maybe it’s merely a residual coping mechanism from being the product of a joint-custody upbringing. As a child, I’d have to shuttle from one parental home to the next every few days. I don’t remember it happening, but I presume the same thing happened then – one home forgotten in favour of the other on a constantly rotating basis.

Sometimes when I’m walking around I’ll recall, with a jolt, that Halifax isn’t my home anymore. I mean, much as it’s familiar, I don’t work for this particular media organization anymore, not really. I have been house-sitting, but I don’t have a home here anymore. I’ve been frequenting local coffee shops and restaurants and grocery stores, but it’s all just temporary.

In a sense, I’m here walking the streets as a sort of ghost, figuring out where I should be, and where I am. I’ll be back in Kingston in a few weeks…hopefully it will remember me!


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