A month after coming here, it is a great time to scribble at least a line. Yet I am so completely overwhelmed that I find it very difficult to formulate any consistent comments. How little did I know about Europe! Or perhaps there is more Europe than I've ever known.
Tours is very nice of course, an old town, representative for what France must have been before Paris was invented. That other, Romanesque and Gothic France. The river is very nice, and there is also a botanical garden, with the advantage of a free admission. The rest is puzzling me deeply.
They gave me a desk and a limitless access to a laser printer. It is a long time that I didn't have the luxury of proofreading my texts on a printed copy... And there are two girls at the desks nearby, and that other Europe I've never known. In such glorious circumstances, we transpire frustrations, all of us. One couldn't get a stable job, and it's what she wants. This is a Europe I know. Europe of those who jump from one fellowship to another only to discover, at the age of 40, that their academic career leads them nowhere. The other one, Finnish, is a bit different case, and perhaps makes me sweat more than she sweats.
I've read her CV, as I always do when I meet new people. After talking with her once and twice, I started to wonder what this charming person, whose talents seemed to me as moderate as her aspirations, actually does there. Certainly, struggling to express herself in French, she appeared not at her best, but overall it was not the Scandinavia I knew about (or imagined I knew), the one of wild competitiveness and even wilder competence. Well, the most striking in her CV are the pecuniary items: how many grants she received and how much it was at each time. No great wonder till now, I saw this before with other people, even in Warsaw. Perhaps in Warsaw in the first place. But - gosh! - those thousands and thousands of euro, year after year after year after year, to finance someone with the tiniest track of publications I've ever seen in my entire academic career...
Yes, I might feel jealous, and more than jealous - an idiot, for all those years in Warsaw, treated as a total non-entity, perhaps being a total non-entity. And I imagined myself well paid!
But emotions put aside, higher mathematics come to my mind. If this girl gets this money, how much the real scholars...? Gosh, that's beyond me.
Yeah, there are many more interesting things I should comment on, my going to Ljubljana, and then to Jena... Yet everything appears enormously mind-boggling to me; this must be the shock of Europe, all its aspects assaulting me in simultaneous. In the past, it had crossed my mind more than once that having such an insight in the multiplicity of academic paths and patterns across Europe, I might one day think about a kind of career in Brussels... How many delusive ideas one nurtures, about oneself and about the world!
Well, after all, I think my present situation has only one problematic aspect: it comes too late in my life. I should have been here in 2007, not in 2017. This is the only reason for frustration, and my ugly mood.
So am I positive in considering all those years in Warsaw as a mistake? Yes, I think this conclusion dawned in me more than once. I regret these years, and I keep a foul memory of people and place, in proportion to my regret.
After I was denied my Humboldt in 2005, I should have gone on trying. I didn't, because the perspective of seeing myself free of Jagiellonian University by coming to Warsaw proved enough to soothe me. And it was a mistake. I should have reapplied to Humboldt Stiftung, I should have asked for Marie Curie... Then. But I was telling myself that a solid university employment matters more than garish fellowships and projects pending loose. I still see my point in this.
Yet I cannot get rid of the sensation I should have been at least a parsec away by now. I should have been in the international system since the very beginning. I've lost too much time. 10 years.
But perhaps these years are lost only in the perspective I acquired after loosing them. It was in those 10 years, due to what happened in those 10 years that I became who I am, and Warsaw became so much inadmissible and unfitting for me.
Concluding, I had no choice but to lose.
And now? And now we will be patient, said Qui-Gon Jinn, who had been a student of the living Force. Feel, don't think, use your instincts.
I feel sadness and silence, and being on the slow track again.
Don't commit your mistake twice, reapply. A solution will present itself.