Exactly one month ago I began my postdoctoral fellowship adventure in Antwerp, and I think I am profoundly struggling with the passage of time. One the one hand, it is moving so quickly, and in terms of work I feel like I am racing various clocks, and feel a (most definitely internalized and only coming from me) pressure to perform. And on the other hand, as much as I am growing to love this city, and am fond of the people I have met here, I am doubly homesick, for my home with my husband in the UK, and home-home in the US, and I am oh so aware of the time spent away from them. But I also know it is just a matter of weeks until visits and before I know it I will be back in the UK for good, and the bigger source of stress will be whether or not I will have accomplished all I wished to in this period of research time.
I’ve joined the Constructing Age for Young Readers (CAFYR) team at the University of Antwerp, and while this is a step in a different direction from my PhD, I am finding that it is opening up space to pursue questions and play with texts I did not have space for during my doctoral research. I’m excited to look at fairy tales from a new angle, discover new authors, and work with new people. I’m also excited to discover who I am as an adult on my own; I might miss home but I also know that opportunities like this are rare gifts, and that few people get the chance to step sideways onto a different path, face fears, do things that scare them.
I did not have on the bingo card for my thirties that I would end up a Belgian civil servant. As much as I love the idea of travel, I never thought I would end up living in a fourth country – I would have stayed in my home state my whole life if I hadn’t stumbled onto reasons to leave. And to be honest, it has not been the easiest transition, this step farther than I had ever gone before. But it has also been one of the biggest learning experiences, in terms of me learning what I can do, who I can grow into being, what I can handle. I know well that I will miss it here when it is time to go, and I think I might be a different person at the end of this. But that too will be its own beginning, and maybe life is easier if we think less in terms of the finality of time passing, and more in terms of the change it carries with it as it passes.