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Who Do You Want to Be?

Brian and I watched a new Hannah Gadsby special a couple nights ago. She spoke of the fits she would get into, panicked by the question “What should I do?” repeated in her head. Her wife (also-producer) learned to jolt her out of panic with a different question, “Who do you want to be?”

I sat in the Princeton University chapel this morning, attending the seminary graduation of a mentee of my husband, though she is also a woman for whom I have held some conscious-feminine-spaces. Our presence here, for me, was for him. It mattered a lot to him to be here for this. While our married way is not to force the direct ask between us, it was as close to it as we come. I had nothing but reservations, no desire to be here, though I wish her well. Just as I yearn to be as useless to capitalism as possible, I also yearn to participate as little in “anything Princeton” as possible. Without disrespect or dishonoring, but also without accord or acquiescence. It was an uneasy day of going-along, being kind, yet also staying in my own center amidst activities and conversations I find little value in anymore. He is grateful; I am pleased to have been able to do this for him.

And now I sit in a familiar haven–Small World Coffee. A pot of Earl Grey rests next to me, like it always did, for the decade I was here. I have paused with gratitude at the tombstone of James E. Loder, of blessed memory. I cried belly tears at the singing of “The Call,” always the Choral Prelude, feeling deeply David A Weadon (z”l). I got to sit on the porch of a friend here, Clift Black, enjoying the last of a bottle of Scotch (though I usually do not like Scotch). It was a sweet, real, relational space I was genuinely sad to leave. I even got to sit with Brian in a marvelous restaurant last night, enjoying the piano artistry of Bob Egan, the gentle soul-artist who played our wedding dinner nearly 23 years ago. He has a stunning ability to get strangers to gather around a piano, sing show tunes, making sweet communion, community. It has been a beautiful trip, full of memory and surprise, with deep satisfaction for what I’ve advocated, pursued. I do not feel panicky, but I do feel the press of the question: who do I want to be?

I want to be the woman who

  • can rage at the dehumanizing, even traumatizing things here while weeping, drenched in gratitude in the sacred beauty of what I’ve known here

  • can speak plainly of the pain doled out by unthinking, emotionally-unaware professors refusing responsibility for the shadows we create in higher education

  • can show up for the man she loves while not losing herself or disregarding the realities within which we travel…

Which is who I am here, now.

Deep gratitude.

Time to go home.

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