Hmm, perhaps I can out-fly my feelings?

I am at Gatwick airport and have, in the spur of the moment, decided to write a blog post at one of those internet kiosk thingies where you pay something daft like £1 for 10 minutes of internet time.  Why, you may well ask yourself, am I doing this when I am just about to hop on a plane for a holiday? Why now?  Because I have stuff on my mind and I want to write about it because that will help me sort it out.

I am going away on my own for some space and time to myself in a different country.  I have just finished a manic month at work and yesterday was, in fact, my last  day in the job.  In just over a week I start a new job, the kind of job I have been dreaming about getting for a year now.  It is all change and it is all the kind of change I wanted.  Its fantastic and I am so excited I can’t properly describe it.  I’d have to be in the room with you, jumping up and down and talking nineteen-to-the-dozen for you to get an idea of how I’m feeling.  My friends are only too aware of it.

But it just hit me, just 10 minutes ago, that I am also experiencing loss.  I knew I would be, just yesterday I left my job of 5 years, left the institution I have been a part of for 11 years and had to say goodbye to all my colleagues.  Amazingly, they went to huge effort to make sure that I realised how much they are going to miss me.  I still can’t believe all the trouble they went to and all the genuine emotion expressed by everyone about me leaving.  It isn’t that I thought I wouldn’t be missed, but I was blissfully unaware of the magnitude of the response from my colleagues until yesterday afternoon.  I had to stand in front of all my colleagues while the Head of School and then the Head of Department said a few words.  I love being the centre of attention and I thought this would be easy.  I was wrong.  A couple of minutes in and I was shaking and I was a bit worried about dropping my cup of tea.  My Head of Department had chosen a Swedish poem that he read, along with a translation and the poem was surprisingly and touchingly apt.  I will transcribe it to my blog once I am back in England.

After that I had to stand in front of them all opening the table full of leaving gifts they had rustled up for me.  It took me a good 20 minutes to open them all and it was lovely, but very emotional for me.  They were such thoughtful gifts and I was (almost) rendered speechless.  Then we posed for photographs.  Oh and we ate cake.  Someone ordered a huge chocolate cake from the caterers and we all had a piece.  It was fab, really lovely and I still can’t quite believe they would go to that much trouble just to say goodbye.

I went for drinks with some people after work, got home late, packed and fell asleep.  I haven’t had time to really think about the fact that I’ve said goodbye and packed that bit of that life up behind me now.  I will keep in touch with my colleagues, of course, but I am no longer Louise the Programme Co-ordinator at the University of Sussex.  It has been my identity for so long that I don’t quite know what to do with myself.  I have no doubt the new job will soon cure that!

So I found myself, 15 minutes ago, have bought a cup of tea and finally sitting down with a moment to think.  I wanted to cry.  Not because I am unhappy, but because I hate saying goodbye and I felt very, very lonely just for a moment.  Then I remembered all the wonderful things that I have in my life.  I’m on holiday and the point of it is to distract me and give me something exciting to do as well as giving myself a break.  I have worked like a demon the last month and finally stopping and knowing there is no more for me to do on that job is very strange.

Anyway, I am going to get on my plane.   I normally edit my blog posts more carefully than this, but this will have to do. Bye!

Lost in Translation

I rewatched Sofia Coppola‘s Lost in Translation a few weeks back.  When I first saw it at the cinema in 2003, it was one of my favourite films.  I rewatched it again about a year ago and wasn’t sure what I’d liked so much about it.  On the most recent rewatching either I rediscovered what that was or discovered new things to love about it.  It is once again one of my favourite films.

What I like most about the film is its emphasis on detail (as anyone who reads my blog regularly might be able to guess as detail is something I bang on about all the time).  The nuance of how the story is told attracts me and, indeed, it is nuance that tell the story.  To begin with we realise our two main characters are each living in quiet desperation.  This is a state of affairs with which I have a great empathy (more so, I might add, when I first watched the film) so I am immediately pulled in to the story.  Of course, it is quite difficult to convey quiet desperation with big expression or great impact.  To do so would be incongruent.  The film opens with the Bill Murray character travelling through Tokyo to his hotel.  The music is quiet and understated.  We experience, though him, the small details of the hotel room, the soft click of the curtain rail as the curtains open automatically.  The mild frustration that is almost imperceptibly channelled into defeated resignation at the fact that the shower head is impossibly low.  Humour comes from the recognition of being somewhere and feeling out of place by a thousand tiny little differences.  None of them big enough to make one feel justifiably aggrieved, but they are culminatingly and quietly overwhelming.  What really makes these scenes, however, is the attention to facial expression given by director and actors.

The relationship between the two main characters builds in a similar way.  The two find themselves both just slightly out of place, knowing things aren’t as they perhaps should be but unable to put their fingers on precisely why.  For Bob shooting the whiskey ads and the promotion that goes with them are demeaning, but quietly, in a having-crept-up-on-him kind of way.  You get the sense that at an earlier point in his life he would have laughed about it more.  As he alludes to in a conversation with Charlotte he shared adventures in places half way across the world with his wife before they had children, but this is no longer possible.  Underlying his actions is a gentle resignation to the choices he has made, his commitment to his family and the realisation that he has ended up feeling like a stranger in his own life.  Charlotte has yet to find anything that gives her purpose in life.  She is clearly convinced she never will and feels oppressed by the search for something to do with her life.  I remember that tail end of adolescence and its feeling of being out of place well as it was not so very long ago I was there, in the thick of it myself.  Bob knows that she will find her way, make choices that give her that longed for sense of purpose and then these will then constrain her in ways she never could have forseen.

What they find in the foreign country and in each other is some measure of freedom to explore who they each are, to gently explore other possibilities for being.  Their relationship isn’t about sex or love, more about solace.  They each find a measure of comfort in the recognition of their shared out-of-place-ness. Finding another who manages to correctly interpret all those details of expression of how life isn’t quite working out the way each of them planned gives them both comfort.  The essence of their connection is expressed neatly in the importance of insomnia in the building of their friendship.  It is the time of the day when no one else is awake; no one else is paying any attention.  When I first watched this film it made me ache with longing for someone to pay that much attention to the details of how my life wasn’t working out the way I wanted it to.  I wanted someone to tune into the minute ways in which I expressed my unhappiness because the constraints I’d chosen to abide by didn’t allow me to make it any more obvious.  Things have now changed for me, but I still love the emotional subtlety and content of the film.  I find in it an affirmation that feeling a little out of place is not necessarily a bad thing and the subtle shift in perception that comes from questioning where/who/why you are is part of being human.  In my experience, all the interesting stuff happens as a result of the nuance and detail that requires of us that bit more care/thought to decipher and, sometimes, also in plain luck of being on the wrong side of the glass, looking in, for a bit.