The Move – Restarting The Clock

"He Who Wants The World To Remain As It Is Doesn't Want It To Remain At All." Berlin, 2011

“He Who Wants The World To Remain As It Is Doesn’t Want It To Remain At All.” Berlin, 2011

Leaving Philadelphia was difficult. I remember lying on my bed one glorious summer afternoon, crying forlornly. Leaving was an emotional upheaval – I found the thought of being separated from my American friends of 12 months more upsetting than when I left my well-established UK social circles behind. Why? Precariousness I guess. Those American social circles were just starting to mature: if I said goodbye to them now there was no guarantee they’d survive the trans-Atlantic rift.

Also, when I left the UK in July 2009 I knew I’d be back on British soil after exactly 1 year. There was no such certainty when I left the States.

Thankfully, an annual holiday of a fortnight during the summer was enough to maintain my connections in America. I loved the feeling of wandering through the city, believing for just a few precious days that it was as if I’d never left.

In January 2012 I was thinking desperately about Philadelphia, waiting for my grad school admissions results to come back in. It was more than just a ‘Yes’ answer I was after – with a PhD offer came the promise of continuity. Professionally, I wasn’t going to be stuck in internship after internship for the next 5 years; in a personal context I could return to the Eastern Seaboard and try to re-start what I left behind in September 2010.

Yet now we’re at July 2013 and I’m thinking critically about my “stopped clock” belief for the first time. Nearly 3 years have passed since I was in Philly, it isn’t realistic for me to assume that I can restart relationships and life from where I left off. I will be based 90 minutes up the train tracks from Philadelphia, the full-time demands of graduate study means that I can’t simply nip down there in the evenings. It’s going to be weekend trips.

Do I even want to turn the clock all the way back to September 2010? A lot has altered in those 3 years. I’ve gained more worldly experience. Navigating a truly “foreign” country and wrestling with “foreign language issues” was an eye-opener, with moments of run-round-in-circles-screeching elation and moments of slam-your-fist-into-the-brick-wall-then-cry-alone-in-the-toilets anguish. Going through a second PhD application cycle taught me (a) I was nothing special in a vast pool overflowing with talented individuals (another cry-alone-in-the-toilets type lesson) (b) despite that I possessed the skills to make the second attempt a success.

It does hurt me to think of Philadelphia life and its people moving on without me. Though at the same time the friendships that mattered not only have lasted but I reckon have strengthened. The people I’ve grown closer to over the 3-year interim period are not always the ones I predicted – which should teach me not to make too many over-optimistic assumptions…

I’ve made the decision to leave a month after I arrive in the USA before I venture into Philadelphia for a proper visit. My first paycheque isn’t going to arrive until then (I don’t want to burn off all my dollars on a regional rail ticket). Although more crucially, I think my first priority should be to settle into life in New Jersey, rather than pretend I’m merely living in a particularly far-out Philadelphian suburb.

It’s a shame I can’t come back to Philadelphia itself, but I know that in this case the decision to emphasise professional standing outweighed personal preferences.

Besides, where genuine friendship is concerned? Those clocks never stop.

2 thoughts on “The Move – Restarting The Clock

  1. Would you have any interest in a Welcome-Back-Claire/Congratulations-on-Grad-School gathering/BBQ/some-such at the Nichols Pub in August or September? You’d have to provide the guest list, of course.

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