So. I was in Texas last week. My elderly mother lives there, and I make the trek every year (preferably in the spring before it gets too hot or in the fall after it has cooled off) to visit her.
And my last quarter of museum school started up again the day after I got back.
Which plunged me into two different worlds for a time.
I love my mother, don’t get me wrong, and I am glad to see her when I go visit, but I do not understand Texas. It is beautiful in her part of the state (east of Dallas in the piney woods) this time of year, with the redbud and the dogwood and azaleas and all the wildflowers, and the wisteria escaping fifty feet up into the trees, and the warmth and sun after a long gray Northwest winter are quite intoxicating. But western Washington state is pretty much the antithesis of Texas philosophically, and I have become a Washingtonian to the core in the last seventeen years. There’s so much about Texas I simply can’t understand anymore, and I feel like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, except I have the sneaking suspicion that I live in Oz, rather than Kansas. From the discussion of country music, homophobia, and religion that took place behind me on the commuter flight, to the Baptist churches that are more common than espresso stands are here (and the names — Blackjack Baptist and Green Acres Baptist are two of my favorites), to the frightening editorials in her local newspaper, I simply cannot understand Texas. It’s not the same country I live in.
The fact that I never lived there — my parents moved there after my dad retired, and he died shortly thereafter — may have something to do with it, but only a very small part. I should add as well, I have met some nice people in Texas, and I have friends who live in Texas. This isn’t meant as a condemnation, although some of the beliefs I run into there do bother me greatly, just a post on culture shock.
Then I came back to Washington on Friday, and got up at the crack of dawn the next morning (you’d think still being on Texas time would have helped with that, but it didn’t) for my first museum school class of spring quarter, and discovered there’s a whole new world here, too. Another one that baffled me. I have one class this quarter, plus the practicum. The class is called “Building Audience and Engaging Community,” and the first lecture was all about how museums have recently (in the last few decades) gone from ivory tower research institutions to becoming part of their communities. You have to understand, I was a public library reference librarian for a decade and a half. The idea that public institutions like museums and libraries are supposed to be engaged with the public is not a new idea to me. But the professor treated it like it was. It gave me a mild case of mental whiplash.
One of the reasons I liked being a librarian so much (I loved being a librarian — I did not like working in the large, hidebound bureaucracies that are modern suburban public libraries) was because I got to learn new things every day. But you know? There’s such a thing as too much of a good thing.
And I think I reached my limit last week [g].
Have you ever done that?