Last week was New Faculty Orientation, and yesterday the first-year students moved in and they are now going through New Student Orientation. Meanwhile, the remaining students are starting to return as well. It is very strange watching things start up without me! I was surprisingly blue about this last week, but now I am starting to enjoy it: both the sense of freedom I have, and the new way I am perceiving things.
What is the new way I am perceiving things? Not distracted by having to prepare for classes myself, I look at the new students and the campus with new eyes. I feel I can relax and see more. I do not feel as guarded, because I do not have to play a judgmental role this year. I feel able to open my heart more fully to the love I feel, and I am really glad about this! The one part of academic life I do not like is that judgmental role I am forced to take, and so that is the main part of my normal work that I am most glad to be relieved of this year.
And so, for example, I see the new first-year students in a new way. This year I am not thinking, "Will that person be in my class? If so, what will that person be like in class?" I like all of my students, but the power dynamic of the classroom inevitably strains some relationships in ways that those relationships might not be strained without that dynamic. And so, realizing that none of these first-year students will be in any of my classes this year, since I am not teaching any classes, I look at them from a different perspective. Sure I will have some of them in classes in the future, but not yet -- not in this first year of theirs, when it is all so new to them. So in an uncomplicated way, I can just enjoy their excitement as they start. I pass by in the periphery of their new lives here. They do not know who I am and barely notice me. But I smile at them, wishing them well, hoping for each that they find their way without too much trauma.
I am also more open to the physical beauty of the campus and the surrounding area, as I think about how it looks from the eyes of the new students and their parents. And I am struck by the warmth of everyone here as they greet the newcomers with such obvious joy and excitement at the start of the new year.
Some people have been puzzled that I am taking a full-year sabbatical without having made arrangements to be away for the year. Last week I started to wonder if maybe I should have left; it is too strange and hard to watch things start without me, and too tempting to be drawn into things that I should ignore! But today I begin to see the wisdom of my decision. I need to see this campus from a different perspective, and learn to relate to it in a new way. There is something important about this, and I sense that it is going to have a more profound effect on me (and maybe then the campus too when I "return") than I originally thought.
5 years ago