Future Herder Scholar of America

Herder

I was contacted by a girl during the depths of her despair, a friend who hadn’t contacted me in seven years. Longing to be apart of an academic community again, even if vicariously through a community of one, I put aside this slight hiccup in our friendship and I offered my time and listened to her story. I had met her when she was 20, in Berlin studying German when she still had baby fat in her cheeks. Looking back on it now, I didn’t really know her at all. Despite our long break, we were fast friends and she confided in me as much as she felt comfortable and I tried to be there for her.

She felt as though she had sabotaged yet another relationship. She needed company and couldn’t be alone and all her other friends were too busy leading successful lives to have the time to sit around and chat for hours on end to comment on a deep psychoanalysis of the break-up. I was genuinely interested in what these young academics were up to these days, what was it like to go to a top PhD program in the US in Germanic Studies, and to start traveling to mock conferences, researching archives, to be a academic in training – the gossip, the politics and the people. It would never be my world but for a few months I shared in her immersion and envied her abilities. I felt these are the people who share my truest desires, they are leading lives with a future, their time dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. Needless to say, I idealized it a bit.

In seven years, she had acquired the Professor’s stare, those piercing, analytical eyes that would wait 5 minutes unflinchingly for a comprehensive answer to her question, even if your body language and mutterings were signaling you didn’t have one. During our conversations I would occasionally leave a sentence trailing off into silence and my eyes would wander searching for clarity, hoping she would have been distracted by then only to come back to those same piercing eyes waiting for the my end point.

Our fast friendship came to an end with a planned trip to Weimar that left me in the lurch. I ended up alone in Wiemar inappropriately dressed for day long thunderstorms. Just me and Geothe’s House in a thunderstorm. She had cut her trip to Weimar short due to other more pressing travels and work deadlines and in hurt retaliation, I decided not to stay in the same hostel as her. Whether she apologized or not, I don’t remember but I was upset and she was smart enough to realize it would take too much work on her end to lull me out of my discontent. She had been slowly crawling out of despair and was traveling more, meeting guys and needing me less and less for support. Her work was also starting to take on an urgency again, chapters due. I never heard from her again. But I know she is going to be a very successful Herder scholar.

 

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