Sometimes I think I'm leading a bit of a charmed life (poo! poo!-- that's me spitting over my shoulder to avert the evil eye. I'm also rubbing my blue eye bead and muttering kinne hurra and im sh'allah).
I recently made the hour and a half drive to Prestigious Research Institution to attend a mini-conference. There were a number of well known invited speakers, including one of my former dissertation advisors. Although I wasn't greatly inspired by any of the talks, I miraculously managed to relax and have a nice time. And for the first time I wasn't nervous about making a good impression-- in part because I was so exhausted from the week before, teaching 3 classes Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and courting and evaluating three job candidates (with 3-5 more to go), not to mention reviewing all their materials.
Lunch involved trading silly stories and going for a walk with senior scholars who have majorly influenced my field. They were all very easy-going and kind.
After the closing reception, I began to say my goodbyes but suddenly found myself pulled along to dinner-- a catered dinner in a private room in a very fancy restaurant, arranged just for the occasion of the conference. It wasn't until the pause between the second and third courses (chicken breast poached with squash and currants and flourless tea-scented chocolate cake with meyer lemon ice cream), and long after the appetizer (lobster and white bean soup), that I suddenly realized I was the only person at the table who hadn't been invited to give a talk or chair a panel. I was also the youngest, but that probably doesn't matter.
The main thing was that somehow or other these good people opened their arms (and their restaurant) to let me in. And I didn't plan for it. But now I've got some new friends and colleagues at Prestitgious Research Institution, and equally important, an active community of early modernist scholars with which to correspond and share work.
I spent the remainder of the weekend with a good friend who lives nearby and works in medicine at Important State Research Institution. We wandered around the charming college town and she took me to her favorite coffee house, which has a glassed-in terrance and sits in the middle of an overgrown garden. And there I ran in to an old accquaintence from grad school who has been teaching at Important State for three years and loves it and loves the area. It was serendipitous (I'd forgotten he was there) and delightful. I felt as if I could finally breathe.