This past weekend I went to Chicago for the Modern Language Association conference. I suppose it’s a bit impolitic for me to say that I don’t particularly enjoy the conference except for the fact that I get to see a bunch of old friends from grad school there, but this year I was invited to interview for jobs there, so I went.
There’s a lot of obligatory complaining that goes along with the stress and pressure of interviewing for jobs at MLA. It’s like complaining is a rite of passage. Truth be told, I actually enjoyed being able to sit in a room with a captive audience who was genuinely interested in hearing about my work. It’s rare that I get the chance to talk with colleagues who want to know more, who offer helpful feedback, and who ask interesting questions. So in that sense it was a lot of fun.
Since I used to live in Chicago (I worked there for two years at an advertising agency, Leo Burnett, just after I graduated from college) it was easy for me to find my way around and enjoy the perks of being in another city. When I first got there and boarded the blue line el to the city, I was in mild culture shock. So much space! So many badly named banks! So many Christmas crowds outside the Art Institute! So many fur coats!
My first reaction was “ugh, my life feels *so* far away from this place now.” I realized later though that knowing my life is so far away from Chicago, the midwest, who I used to be, all of that… it’s a great, great thing. Why on earth would I even want my life to be the same as it was ten years ago? Geez, I would hope that my life has changed! It has, and that’s great. So it was nice to go back to my old stomping grounds, my old friendships, my old friends. I realized how much I’ve grown. It was a happy start to a new year.