I’m in an emotional turmoil today. This morning I waved good-bye to my 12-year-old son as he departed on his first mission trip, yesterday I bid farewell to the participants in my online Summer Institute, and Friday wrapped up our traditional Summer Institute with a Showcase. All three events have filled me with pride at the growth and accomplishments of two sets of amazing teachers – as well as marking another milestone in my son’s life. Is it any wonder I have to keep a box of tissues on hand today?
But I don’t think those three events are the true cause of my welter of emotions – although I am sure they are contributing factors – instead I lay the blame primarily at my current professional status. The transition from June to July is usually a relief for our National Writing Project site leaders. We can look back with pride at the previous year’s accomplishments and look ahead eagerly to the new year. July is traditionally our time to recover from the whirlwind of June programs and prepare for the new academic year, but this year our July will be anything but relaxing and reflective because my professional transition will drag my NWP site headlong into the unknown with me. Nice to know that I won’t be alone but it doesn’t make either transition any easier.
By the time July is over (we hope), I will have transitioned into my new position as the College Readiness Coordinator in the University College and both the Morehead Writing Project and myself will have settled into our new offices and new roles and will be more than ready to take on the exciting new challenges and opportunities this change offers, but it is this curious, awkward, overwhelming space in between that is causing my current emotional chaos.
For the first time in my academic career I will no longer be an English Department faculty member. Officially I will be, thanks to the mysteries of academic administration, but for the undetermined future I will be reassigned to University College. I am looking forward to working on the exciting programs already underway and planned for the immediate future with some really great people. My new position and academic home will allow me to impact the future of more students than ever before, but I will no longer be an “instructor.” I know what my new title will be and have some idea of what form my responsibilities will take but I don’t have a real handle on what I will do and so I don’t know who I am – I suppose I am having an identity crisis. Much like the explorers of ancient times, I know the familiar territory I am leaving behind me but fear the uncharted waters lying before me may be occupied by dragons and monsters.
I now understand so much more about the way my students feel when they step onto campus as freshmen as they try on a new identity and try to find where they belong. I too have a new identity and right now, in this curious space between endings and beginnings, I am still trying to understand where I belong and who I am but all I can see is the tip of the iceberg and the edge of the map etched with the warning “Here by dragons”! Change is good, right? I suppose we will find out while we keep an eye out for dragons and icebergs.
The six-word memoirs I used for this summer continue to be accurate: