Saturday, April 09, 2005

Turning Corners The Right Way.

After four years in Melbourne, I am starting to drive more around the city. I joke about a deep and fatal tendency to make a right turn into the near lane, but it is true. Driving on the left requires awareness, vigilance and a certain justified paranoia. It is when I relax that the default preferences arise and I move to the right. So I am trying to drive with awareness but not panic, staying mindful without mania or excess timidity. It is an ongoing practice.

And it is reminding me of who I was forty years ago when I learned to drive the first time. The need to check everything at least once, the fear of forgetting crucial actions, the tentative progress that took some time. But the other side of this is the youthful joy and exuberance in taking the turns, moving into new neighbourhoods, finding out where I am from a new angle and viewpoint. I used to delight in getting lost in San Francisco, checking it out on the map, then making my way home. I know I would have to be careful in learning to drive here, but I didn’t realize I would also get the same youthful delight as the first time.

Daniel Levinson’s book, The Seasons of a Man’s Life was important for me twenty years ago when I first read it, is still important in how I see men develop, grow and change. He sees it as seasonal, recurrent, with a certain elegant circularity. The driving has that aspect about it: taking me back to who and how I was.

The circularity is showing up in another venue, which is my dream life. I am currently dealing with being office-less at La Trobe. It is inconvenient and hobbles the work I am doing on the campus, but there is no blame: there is just a severe shortage of space. People are trying to get me an office, it just hasn’t happened yet. But my recent dreams are taking me back to the early eighties when I was starting a Masters degree. I couldn’t get housing on campus in Berkeley, so I would stay into the evening working in a carrel in the library, then drive off to my parents place, an hour away. I had amazing self-pity for that, perhaps some part of it justified. However, it also feeding into the part of me that tended to be the “little boy left out.” So now, I am dreaming and remembering the early Berkeley times when I had no place that was mine on the campus; they turned out to be some tough, amazing and wonderful years. And waiting for an office in Bundoora is taking me ‘round the seasons again. What will I learn this time?

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