Thursday, August 31, 2006

They're baaack!

Well, not all of them, but the "Undergraduate Registration" signs went up this week and the early arrivals are starting to move in. The freshman in the university's pre-orientation community service program arrive Sunday, with the rest of the new class to follow in a few days. I'm excited. It's been quiet on campus all summer, but the last week or two has been downright deadly. I like the hustle and bustle when campus life is in full swing. There's a purposeful feeling in the air, and I find it contagious. I'm looking forward to starting a new year.

Ah, new beginnings. I remember getting a new bookbag and new shoes every August when I was little, preparation for the new school year. The distinctive smell of fresh shoe leather remains in my catalog of sensual impressions that have the power to transport me straight back to another time and place. Music does that, too. Bob Dylan has a new album out this month; his album Nashville Skyline had just been released when I was a freshman. It seemed to be playing everywhere in those early months, and when I hear those songs today I am filled again with all the excitement and anxiety I experienced as I put one foot in the boat and moved away from my parents, launched on the way to becoming my own person. It was a thrilling, scary time, though the photos from those days make me cringe. Bad hair, bad clothes--and more than a few bad decisions, I have to admit. What were we thinking?

The older we get, the less we anticipate new beginnings, and the ones that present themselves are often less than thrilling. I watch my parents and the difficult transitions they are making into old age, and I see just how very hard it is for them.

And then one day you find yourself facing an opportunity to start over again in a way you weren't expecting, and it's even more unsettling than being a young adult. For kids starting out on something new is a way of life, while we middle-aged types tend to think we've arrived at our destination. It's scary, and it's taking a long time to get to the point where it's beginning to feel right. But I don't think it even occurs to the young people I know to cling the comfortable past when it's time to embrace the future, and I admire that, so ...


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