Wellesley’s class of 2018 graduated this weekend. Their commencement speaker was the inimitable Tracy K. Smith, current poet laureate of the US. Though I have not watched yet, I heard reports from my roommate that her speech is well-worth listening to and hope to make the time in the next few days.
Reaching the one year anniversary of my graduation is strange. I feel as if the time has flown but also I still have flashes every now and then, “what am I doing? Why do these students seem to be listening to me?” I had one recently when I blanked on the pronunciation of “sagacity” while teaching and had to rapidly sound it out in my head. So, I haven’t entirely grown up and found all the answers, nor would I want to. That seems to me to be a lifelong process.
Anyway, I graduated last year on May 26. This year on May 26 I was in Hangzhou with a friend’s family. It was gorgeous, foggy and blessedly cool. We ate very well: I tried a new kind of rice cake, delicious fish, black rice, and pork cooked in the style of Beijing duck. All great. (Photo above is Hangzhou’s famous West Lake)
While there, I started reading David Sedaris’ Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002. In 1977, when the diary entries start, David is perhaps 22. Suffice to say, David Sedaris at 22 and Cate at 23 led/lead very different lives. David Sedaris was hitchhiking across the country, working as a fruit picker and trying to make it as an artist. He lived such a wild life and though I like to think of myself as adventurous, I think David and I are adventurous in different ways. Recently, I got very excited about trying crayfish (龙虾), as it is a popular dish in summertime in this part of China. It was delicious, flavored with mala (麻辣), which means “spicy and tingling.”
I found more echoes of myself in Haruki Murakami’s memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, which is slightly worrying. Murakami is a wonderful author and runner, but he has about four decades on me. But, he was writing about why he runs, what has drawn him to the act of distance running for the last 30 years of his life. I really identified with his observations and think I find some of the same relief in exercise. Since it is difficult to run outside in Nanjing (crowded sidewalks and unreliable air quality) I have tried out CrossFit this year. Though I still lack arm strength, I am getting stronger and really appreciate the focus that doing CrossFit brings. It is challenging for me, so I when I do it, I completely focus on it and can forget everything else. Also, I am learning the parts of the body in Chinese! Helpful for the next time I hit my head.
To round about this roundabout post, now I’m reading Michael Wolf’s Fire and Fury and really hoping that I don’t see myself in any of the characters.