hys–ter-e-sis:n [NL, fr. Gk hysteresis shortcoming, fr. hysterein to be late, fall short, fr. hysteros later]
a retardation of the effect when the forces acting upon a body are changed (as if from viscosity or internal friction); esp: a lagging in the values of resulting magnetization in a magnetic material (as iron) due to a changing magnetizing force. –hys-ter-et-ic adj (x)
The concept of hysteresis was presented to me by Dr. Seirlis last summer, in a lecture I did not understand at ALL. I had numerous opportunities to engage with the text she provided for us outside of that initial lecture and I rejected it. She brought up those terms throughout the semester, and I glossed over it. I didn’t get it, and I didn’t want to. Last week, though, I was looking through an old notebook trying to decide if there were enough blank pages to reuse it for my current classes, and, written at the top of a page, was “placement = personal hysteresis”.
I had to Google the definition of hysteresis again, and the page I linked above also described hysteresis as “the history dependence of a system”. My notes say that hysteresis is the feeling of a fish out of water; a lagging, delayed reaction; a gap between the habitus and field (habitus here meaning an embodied history x).
It has been more than a year since I sat in that lecture, but I think I finally get it. My placement was a personal hysteresis, a six-month period during which I consistently felt out of place, where I experienced a constant gap between where I was and who I was and what I’ve been through. Everything around me was changing so fast and my reaction was delayed. I kind of knew this was going to happen, even if I didn’t understand this specific terminology.
I thought that would end when I came home.
I was wrong. Obviously.
Since March – no, as long as I can remember – I have felt like I am a step behind where I should be. Especially now, I’m watching my friends make big life changes – getting their dream job, moving forward in big ways. And I feel like I’m standing still. Or I feel like I’m running but I’m always going to come in second. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I don’t have an issue with coming in second. But I’m kind of exhausted.
I’m not alone in this experience. I know a lot of people my age are trying really hard to catch up with… something. I don’t feel like I am where I should be in my life. By the time they were my age, my parents had already been married for almost two years, and they had careers. I’ve changed my whole life plan several times. Not knowing what’s going to happen in a year, or in a month, or even next week isn’t so great for me. I’m a planner, and I’m living a life without a plan. Who I am doesn’t match where I am. Being in your 20s is supposed to be like this, I think, because we’re all going through a lot of big life changes at warp speed. It’s natural to depend on what we already know to help us figure out our reactions.
History dependence isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m grateful for what I’ve experienced and even though parts of it were really, really hard, I wouldn’t change it. My dependence on my history has reminded me over and over again that “I’ve been through this before, and I can do it again”. But then, when things get hard, I also look back on my history and think “what if it happens again?” Since March, I have been overly cautious of committing to things because there is a chance that I will feel the same defeat and failure that I did after I moved back to Canada. It’s extremely unlikely that the specific series of events that led to the end of my placement will happen again, but I’m keeping one foot on dry land just in case. The smallest setback has been known to knock the wind out of me recently when previously it would have barely warranted a second thought.
History dependence isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s been important for me. But, it’s been preventing me lately from looking forward or looking around at where I am right now.
On Thursdays, I start class late. It’s my one guaranteed slow, easy, morning of the week when I get to sit down and drink coffee and do the crossword with my dad. Thursdays are my day of the week where I genuinely think “this is where I want to be – where I should be – in my life”. These mornings are little pockets where I can catch up with what’s going on, adjust my expectations and reactions, and breathe.
And, for now, that’s enough.