Actually, it really doesn't. Grad school would make a horrible musical, Broadway play, or serial drama. I suppose for the good of my readers I could construct a fatal job interview or a knife fight in the lobby of the Marriot over definitions of identity and community in social histories, but none of you would believe me. You might believe a drunken marriage between the stars of two rival departments, but you probably wouldn't care that much.
So instead AHA has proceeded much as it began, with each of us going through more or less solitary motions in parallel worlds, all on orbits that occasionally collide. Yesterday, I had the moment I feared. I felt completely lame. I don't know enough. I definitely don't know the right people, a conclusion I came to based on the fact that I don't know any people. I was sure for most of last evening that I was doomed, doomed, doomed. And then today I went to a panel in my field and realized I did have something to contribute, questions to ask, different ways of framing the debate. I went to a reception filled with people I instantly liked and did not find scary or threatening. We were strangers, but we talked and teased and laughed and suggested ideas for panels for next year's conference. I met friends for drinks this evening and found myself wishing I could bottle them and carry them home with me for that InstantFondness that you feel when you watch people you really like say kind and intelligent things. This musical, as slow and boring as it is, is doomed to a cheesy feel-good final number.
But the curtain will go down, for me, as it came up. I'm sitting in the lobby, surrounded by the historians who just can't go to bed without checking their e-mail, coffee and wine from the hotel bar close at hand. I do continue to find it comforting to know that we're all treading water in lonely shark tanks. This isn't to minimize the completely insane experience that is the AHA. Let me be clear: It is in.sane. So I don't feel like we're all in it together or anything, but I don't feel like I'm too dense to to see the harpoon floating over there in my individual shark tank that will help me bring down the predators and emerge victorious. I'm pretty sure I'm just supposed to keep swimming and stay alive. I'll settle for that.