Friday, February 26, 2010

A Last Day

Today is my last day of a six-month internship with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Since it's my last day I really have no work to do, but I have to be here to fill my time and the desk.  Therefore, I am going to spend some time writing about what this actually means to me, being done the internship, because I can't tell how I feel about it.

When I think about 'leaving the UN' or 'leaving Geneva', I don't really feel anything at all.  I try to imagine myself getting on the plane in two weeks, after travelling through Europe with Drew, to return to Montreal.  And I try to imagine getting back to his apartment, putting down my suitcases, and "resuming my life".  It's almost like my life in Canada has been on pause while being in Geneva.  That's an odd way to think about it, but the roots of it are not mysterious - a temporary internship contract with a clearly defined beginning and end is supposed to be a sort of blip on the screen of the other things you are doing.  In the case of the UN, those other things are supposed to be your education, since only students are eligible for internships.  Because I have just been awarded my MA (this month in fact!), my school work is over, which leaves me with a yawning canyon of possibilities for the future.  It also means that whatever this internship was supposed to have paused has actually moved on, and so there's nothing for me to "return to" as it were, but instead there's just a different location to arrive in.

I have had a really great experience as an intern here, and there is no doubt in my mind that this has been incredibly valuable - probably in terms of careers and such, but most especially in terms of learning and growing as a person.  I will miss the friends I made here, even though many of them are gone already, and I will miss the incredible in-front-of-the-media news  information that crosses my desk every day.  I have been at the leading edge of global politics and events for these six months, hearing about developments or disasters hours before they'd appear in the popular media on the internet (if they ever made it that far), and it will be difficult to lose this privilege of information. 

It seems to me, honestly, that I will also miss having a stimulating occupation, even though this one is not a paid position.  This is the spectre of unemployment that always rears its head to me: idleness.  Poverty is something I'm used to, and so I can handle the spectre of poverty.  But idleness, that's totally different.  And I don't mean physical idleness, because I may be able to find work doing things like bartending or as an administrative assistant somewhere.  I mean the idleness that these kinds of work still amount to for me - intellectual idleness.  My fear is that my brain will not get used the way I want it to be, and I will miss having an occupation which is at least most of the time intellectually stimulating.  I had plenty of days here without enough work to do to keep me really busy, but there was still plenty of interesting and thought-provoking research, writing, seminars, and meetings.  Having been in grad school, then teaching all summer, then researching at the High Commission for Human Rights, the possibility of facing work which lacks intellectual challenges is disconcerting.

Even still, thinking about these things, I realise that I have no real emotional reactions to leaving.  These are expectations of emotion and reflective evaluations of how my time here was.  I feel rather like a wanderer, who just knows and accepts that it's time to go.  So with some kind of strange Stoicism I will set out with Drew tomorrow morning for Zurich, to start our travels, and I'm sure that I will not hold any regret for Geneva.

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