There are about a bajillion things I love about this time of year. I love that the farmers' markets start to really explode with produce. I love knowing that the hottest days of the year are behind us. I love that the nights start to require well-worn sweatshirts and cozy quilts. I love that baseball is racing toward the post-season and that my Badgers are about to burst through the tunnel in Camp Randall for the first time. I love that the State Fair...oh never mind...I think I've mentioned that.
The most fantastic thing about this time of year, however, is that it's time to go BACK TO SCHOOL!
|Thornton Mellon. The world's oldest living freshman...|
To this very day, I get all giddy when I see the stores stocked with backpacks and lunch boxes and spiral notebooks and Elmer's glue. We need our No. 2 pencils and our 2-pocket folders! We need the packs of 8 chubby crayons or the fancy boxes of 96 (with the built-in sharpener on the back!). Some of us even need protractors and compasses. And thesauruses (thesauri?). And those graphing calculators. And pencil-top erasers. You gotta have pencil-top erasers!
|School supplies for my new adventure! Thanks D.I. friends!|
It is time. And we are ready!
Part of the reason I love this time of year is obviously because this is my environment of choice. There is no other world in which I would rather work. I love being part of academia. I love the tradition and the pomp and the circumstance. I love the personal renaissance of opportunity it offers to everyone who takes part. I love colleges and universities the way some folks love particular football teams or trying new wines or even Star Wars. Although they can be impersonal, unwieldy behemoths (more often than a sap like me would prefer to admit), I love these institutions like they were living, breathing, feeling beings.
The contribution of "back to school" (do you like how I've turned it into a noun?) is the optimism and enthusiasm that is inherently part of a new academic year. While I fully recognize that everyone's work (and life) is cyclical, I feel like being part of academia (or education at any level) is a unique opportunity and a special gift. At any place of employment, there are big annual events and new fiscal years. There are busy seasons and slower times. There is always a cycle. But I feel profoundly privileged that as a member of the higher education community, every 12 months my work is infused with the excitement of beginning a new year.
There are new courses to take, new thoughts to think. There are new classmates to meet and new students to teach. There are new committees and directives and projects, all requiring our creativity and persistence and intellect. It is all very distinct and exciting. As if we take a collective breath...and then we begin.
But it isn't just hope springing eternal, or the chance for a fresh start. Lovely as those things are, I think the larger part of this contribution of optimism and enthusiasm is the responsibility to make the most of each annual opportunity. This will be my 18th year of going back to school (in the collegiate setting) in some capacity. I've gone back as a teen-ager starting college and as an almost-30-year-old walking away from her previous life to start a PhD program. I've been a coordinator and an assistant and an associate and an adjunct. I've been as close to the action as you can get (Residence Life) and watched from a safer distance (Institutional Research).
|Fresh starts leading to lasting relationships|
So as we're thrown into the thick of our work, and the luster of the new year begins to wear off, I challenge us all remember how lucky we are to work in such an inspiring setting. The optimism and enthusiasm of a new academic year are not hollow symbols, but abundant gifts bestowed upon us every autumn. We must share this wealth and spread the warmth of our good fortune...all year long.