I’m sitting in the Detroit airport on two hours of sleep (after staying up way too late and waking up way too early) and feeling feelings. Wednesday after we finished our day at the Institute it hit me. We had passed the halfway point for the week. We were closer to the end than to the beginning. And it made me really, really sad.

I was struggling with some technical issues in my project that were beyond my control and I found myself getting pretty down about it. I was disappointed for not figuring out a way around the problems fast enough to have a polished website up by the end of the week to launch proudly with everyone else. But I kept reminding myself that my project was not the website. It was so much more. It was all my research. It was learning ways of thinking. It was amassing a giant collection of tools that will be useful to me or others someday. It was laying the groundwork for really big things. So, while I allowed myself a (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ tweet, I knew I wasn’t going to allow myself to stay in that space for long.

One of the most profound gifts of the Institute was being surrounded by a bunch of smart, fun people all solving problems together. Everyone had ups and downs and we were constantly teaching and helping each other. There was no space for me to quit or fixate on the difficult parts. Only forward movement.

But I think that’s why I’m still sad now as I wait for my plane. We formed some pretty strong bonds working through these problems together, sharing in the little victories, and decompressing at the end of the day. I’m going to miss my friends (and while hanging out on the internet is fantastic, it’s just not quite the same). It was such a rich experience and now it’s back to reality.

We have these connections and this knowledge now that we didn’t have before. We’ll surely have our piecemeal reunions at conferences and workshops in the future. And I hope beyond hope that there are some cool collaborative projects to come. In the end, I’m so thankful for this Institute. I’m not a student. I’m not in academia. I would have never had the opportunity to develop these skills in a year, while still doing my actual job. So if anyone from the NEH reads this, thank you. It was so worth it.

I want to especially thank all the faculty who were so incredibly generous with time, help, advice, and lifelines through this process (and who we’ll probably keep calling on well into the future. You’re all amazing.

See you soon.