I need to remember why I came back to Cincinnati. The purpose was three-fold, in order of importance: to connect with my immediate family as a more grounded adult (three brothers, two parents, one dog), to rehab my knee following surgery (circa 2008, ignored physical therapy to my detriment), and to reacquaint myself with formal learning after I had passed through the throes of my pre-adulthood 20’s (higher ed was a bit of a catastrophe for me once upon a time). Yes, the “official” story of “what I’m doing here (professionally/academically)” ranks last. Indeed, really, it’s a distant third to the other two priorities.
I will have a Master’s degree come June, an “achievement” that will be ceremonially celebrated and ostensibly lead to career advancement (?), but has not truly been the point of this stretch of life. And that is why I’m writing this post, to remind myself that the final, mind-numbing, and seemingly arbitrary steps toward my degree (namely, a few more papers and the chapters of my thesis project) are silly to claim as the core focus of the last moments of this two-year period. And, so, I’m setting the intention to not let the stress of school, of the must-do’s, the should’s, the achievement urge (more closely related to the death-urge than one might imagine) overtake my final days and weeks on the Ohio River.
I have about three and a half months left here. I will be sad to leave, but I’ve accomplished what I set out to do, with some unexpected added joys. Not to overstate it, but being here with my family has been a gift, a rare time in the prime of life to look unflinchingly but humanely at the people I come from and have grown up with. I can imagine no better use of years in early adulthood than to revisit the home that is a smart and caring nuclear family. As far as my bum left knee goes, I can run and jump and climb stairs again, after weekly sessions at a Sport’s Medicine clinic at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. My knee is still creaky, but I don’t walk like I’m 70 at age 29 anymore. And, finally, in terms of school, I still don’t completely trust or enjoy the structures of higher education, but I know now that I can excel at the University game. I just still don’t think it’s the game for me, and I wonder how its rules poorly serve us as individuals and as a society, microscopically and macroscopically. As always, though, it’s easy to criticize, hard to construct alternatives or reform what is.
As for the added joys, I feel as if I’ve been able to integrate this city into the narrative of my life a bit better and have been surprised to fall in love with an old flame whom I knew during high school here. While Cincinnati itself will never really, admittedly, be “home” for me, after spending a few years here as an adult, I don’t feel as disconnected from it as a place and a community as I did in my teens and twenties. It’s an inevitable part of my history, and, if the relationship with the charming and kindred Cincinnatian works out, it will continue to be a cornerstone of our lives together.
Mission accomplished. Just have to find a graceful way to enjoy my family, stay healthy, and graduate in the coming months. To end this chapter feeling whole with priorities intact and to walk upright toward the next page.