The move to Montreal is a happy one: my new department has existing strengths in my particular research field; my new colleagues are all lovely; I’ll be within driving distance to the archives I use on a regular basis; and I’m going home.
It’s not like I was itching to get away from the U of A. I have wonderful colleagues here and am part of an incredible research community that has fostered my writing and intellectual thinking in ways that I had not imagined was possible. I will admit that Edmonton has been a bit of a tough slog at times (why are the restaurants here so expensive and unimaginative?) but it has been home for a while now and there are many things about this place I will miss when I am freezing/sweltering in the damp cold/heat of Montreal.
But leaving has been hard. I knew that saying goodbye to friends was going to be difficult, but these are the people I know I will be keeping in touch with, the ones to whom I say with all sincerity: “Yes, please stay with me when you come to Montreal.” I’m also sad about leaving my department colleagues, both academic and administrative, but I’m sure I’ll see many of them at conferences. And of course there are the other people in my life that I have been saying goodbye to: my amazing and funny chiropractor, the trainer who has whipped me into shape over the past 5 years. Then there's my partner who has to finish up a job here and will not be moving to Montreal for another year and a half (hooray for skype and direct flights!).
What surprised me about leaving the U of A was how sad I was to leave the institution. Last week I dragged my ass to every class with an overwhelming feeling of ennui and sadness; and on Wednesday, when I told the 95 (ish: it was the end of term after all) students in my 20th century Canadian art history class that this was the last class I would be teaching at the University of Alberta, I got all choked up. This surprised me, because while I knew that saying goodbye to the people I cared about would be difficult, I was unprepared for the grief I would feel about no longer teaching at this institution.
What gives? People in the “real world” leave jobs all the time. What is so special about our lives as academics that we feel so attached to our institutions? As this blog makes clear, we are explicitly and frequently critical of the institutional culture of the university; we rail against the short-sightedness of our senior administration and the inadequacies of our colleagues; and despite many positive experiences, our students drive us crazy with their lack of self-awareness and basic knowledge. Yet the university remains our home, the place we know we will return to physically and psychically for the better part of our lives, not because we don’t know any better, but because it gives us the intellectual and emotional security we need. I know I’ll find that at Concordia as well, but right now breaking up with the U of A is proving to be very hard indeed.