Where Do We Go From Here?

My semester officially ended on Friday, May 11 with my college’s graduation. It’s a mandatory event that comes with mixed emotions–pride for those students who have earned their degrees with a soupon of sadness that they are moving on added to relief that we have survived another year. This year had the addition of fatigue. As I looked at my colleagues, all gussied up in our regalia, we looked like refugees from a grad night party gone wrong. With hoods and shawls falling off and mortar boards askew, we should have been sharing a Rootie Tootie Fresh and Fruitie at 3 am, not representing our profession at a public ceremony. This year was a beating.

After the names were read and the tassels were switched, I found myself standing with my art professor buddy and my new dean (E.), and our discussion turned to how many people are leaving. Aside from the previous dean, my mentor retired, our provost just resigned, and a number of others are moving on. E. made a joke that maybe it was her–as soon as she accepted the job as dean, letters of resignation kept coming in. She took it as a sign that they didn’t want to work with her.

“Have you ever considered that it’s because they know you’ll do a great job?” I asked her. “Because you’re a badass.”

She smiled and did a little dance, giggling, “I’m a badass.” And she is.

The weird thing about that moment was this feeling of transition; our superiors and elders are moving on. Suddenly, people with 30 years experience are replaced by people with 4 years experience. We’re not leaving the nest; we’re the caretakers of the nest now. That leaves me to wonder, what do we do when our guides are gone?

Today I returned to my office for the first time since that night. I’m actually in the midst of packing up to move to the bigger corner office since I am now head of my department. Two new instructors are coming in for me to train and mentor. It’s intimidating because on one hand I have to question how I have any right to guide anyone since I am still learning how to excel at what I do. I suppose, however, that I’ll always be learning, which is a good thing. If I can help others avoid my own growing pains, then maybe I can be useful.

Next August my community college will be ripe with newbies and younglings who just removed our training wheels. There are crashes in store, I’m certain. But I also look forward to the ride.

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