Sunday evening is winding down and it's a soothing, quasi-fall night in Ann Arbor. It's hard to believe that we have been here over a month already. It's interesting for me to think that if we were still in Arizona, we would be in the thick of what feels like an interminable summer-- and from what I gather from people there, a muggy summer at that from the recent downpours. I don't miss that weather in the least, but I know that I'll miss the desert soon, as everyone here is already talking about the imminent cold winter. But for now, Michigan is straddling the line between summer and a short fall and it's just really something.
I am starting to feel a bit more settled here as one might expect. After spending over 20 years in Arizona, there was undoubtedly an adjustment period to a cross-country move. As I had anticipated upon our initial arrival, it was hard to distinguish our move from being on vacation. The newness of everything is exciting. Every corner provides a new discovery and there is something about pursuing the unknown that I think is deeply ingrained in the human psyche. For better or worse, history is full of explorers --persons that were not satisfied with the all too familiar, the status quo. People have always sought out a new world, the foreign, the unusual. In a small way, I suppose this desire to explore in me, has been fulfilled for the time being.
It's quite beautiful here-- incredibly verdant. There are massive trees everywhere and it has rained every few days. The air quality is also something I have noticed. it reminds us of being up in northern Arizona---in the evenings and early mornings, there is a briskness and the occasional whiff of a fireplace burning in the distance that I've come to associate with being in the mountains. Some nights when I look out of our balcony into the deep darkness (there are very few street lights in town), it feels like we are away at camp. At the same time, Ann Arbor, as a college town, is bustling with the sort of activity that only young persons, many of whom have discovered independence for the first time, can provide. I've also noticed that there are far more interracial couples than I am used to coming from Arizona. It's actually quite common here. Part of this is no doubt due to the fact that there seems to be a diverse population in and around the town (which also means a lot of good restaurants featuring different cuisines). All in all, I guess you can say that I am really starting to like it here.
It is a strange feeling having relocated for school. I stayed close to home during my undergraduate and masters programs and didn't really think I'd ever move, particularly so late in the game. The majority of my time is dedicated to reading and thinking and it still strikes me as strange that I am getting paid to do this.
As for the program, it's incredible. It ranks among the top handful of Philosophy programs in the world, and I'm reminded of this every time that I interact with the other students that all seem far smarter than me. They are incredibly sharp, well read in philosophy, and have enviable academic backgrounds to boot. So while I feel fortunate to be here, I also find it very challenging at times. Truth be told, I've had a hard time adjusting to the caliber of this department and started questioning whether I really belong here shortly after the semester started. I just haven't had to work this hard to keep my head above water before. But I am told that this is a rather standard experience so hopefully it gets better in time. But I love being able to sit and read for hours on end about really interesting things--for it to be my sole job to research, discuss and write about philosophy.
The professors in the department that I have worked with are all extremely accomplished--many of them world-renowned in their subfields and yet manage to be very accessible and easy to talk to--the sorts of teachers that I hope to be like someday. They also treat the graduate students more like colleagues rather than subordinates and even use graduate seminars as opportunities to receive feedback on books and papers they are in the process of writing. There are also a number of reading groups set up by students and attended by faculty members, and weekly talks, and also a big conference coming in October. So all in all, there's a lot going on here and a lot that I'm grateful for despite the challenges.