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2007-07-19 - 3:57 p.m.

...conform or be cast out...

Those of you old enough may recognize this entry title as the name of a Rush song. Rush is a Canadian band, by the way.

The topic of this song came up today with Julie, the faculty member who has recently resigned and is moving back to the States. It was an extremely interesting and enlightening conversation.

Julie is a faculty member I highly respect. She has carved out quite a niche for herself while in our department. She has developed several interesting projects and just amazes me with her level of productivity. I've often found myself thinking, 'how is it that this place can feel so odd to me, when Julie seems to have made a place for herself.'

I was so glad that I had a chance to talk with her before she moved back to the States (which is happening in two days). She will be developing a new program at a university close to where she grew up, and I can see many benefits for her to take the position there. But especially after spending an afternoon talking with her, I see that I've missed out on getting to know a fabulous colleague here, one with whom I really very much see eye to eye. If we are seeing the bottle half full, however, I can at least be glad that I had this last talk with her, because I can add her to the list of great women with whom I've spoken, to get her take on jobs, women in science, and motherhood.

After hearing about all of the wonderful things that her new position has to offer, we did get down to discussing many of her disappointments with her position here. She phrased it rather well - this place offers an amazing opportunity for you to be and work on your own - in some ways, it could be the best job in the world, if you want to be left alone. But it can be frustrating and isolating if you want anything more.

She extended her disappointment the university, which I could understand. And then we had started to discuss life in Vancouver. K and I have had a difficult time 'fitting in' here, but we've mostly just let it slide and attributed it to still being new. But I was therefore somewhat surprised to listen to her indictment of the place. Like me, she has lived in many places in her life. And interestingly enough, she said that after six years, Vancouver still does not feel like home.

There are many factors that can cause this feeling - part of it is this notion of being 'polite' but not 'nice,' which K and I have also encountered. Politeness does not create the close bonds of friendship. The other underlying sense she has felt has brought a whole new perspective to the Canadian Rush song, "Conform or Be Cast Out." Because through the schooling of her children, she was put in the position of being told to 'act like other parents' and to get her children to 'act like other kids.' Her take on the schools here: They are very good at handling mediocre children - they are not equipped to handle the very bright or the very challenged.

I took all of this information in with great interest. Some of the stories she told about the schools were unsettling. Her descriptions of her experiences with Vancouver were strangely satisfying - because they provided some outside verification of some of the undercurrents that K and I have been sensing. But they were also kind of unsettling, and sad. Because it suggest that there is a possibility that after six years, we may still feel the way we do now. We will keep trying, though. Julie gave it six years. I think it's fair - and I think we have a fighting chance of having a different set of experiences, if we are lucky.

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