It’s the most wonderful time of the year: And I won’t be there

Orientation 2011, just before P-Finn tells the parents it's time to go

For the first time in 12 years I’m not going to be there. In less than one week, August 24th, to be exact, the first year students will move onto campus.  They’ll check into their dorms, get their IDs, get money on their cash card (thanks parental units!), set up their computers, meet their room mates and get to know the people in their dorm.  P-Finn will give his annual President’s Welcome address at 1:00 p.m. and then at 1:30…well that’s the moment. It’s the moment that I watch every year. As my daughter gets older and closer to her college experience, this moment becomes even more fraught with emotion.

It’s when our President looks around the Aiken lawn at all the families gathered around with their now college students.  He smiles.  It’s a smile of someone who has been there, done that. Of someone who knows how it feels, who has experienced this same moment — when someone else told HIM the same thing. He is both empathetic and a tad gleeful, because this moment is both the end of something and the beginning of something.

It’s when our first year students say goodbye to their high school years, to living at home (well most of them), to the stressors of “finding a college” and they say hello to the true beginning of their adult lives. This is the moment when it all starts.

P-Finn will kindly, and yet firmly, tell the parents that it’s time to go.

Pictures are worth 1,000 words.  This is what happens when P-Finn says those words:

And this:

And this:

It’s joyful. It’s tearful. It’s one of those moments in life that I’m privileged to witness every year.

But this year I won’t be there.

And I think I’m really going to miss it.

You see I’m on sabbatical for the Fall Semester. So I won’t be on campus again until January. I’ve got a great project that I’m working on (more on that to come later) and I’m really excited about the opportunity to focus in on the project, write, reflect, and spend time replenishing the well (you know that well — the well of creativity, passion, innovation…the one we all have that gets dried up and useless when we work too hard, don’t put balance in our lives, and get so focused on the day to day that we forget to step back and see all the awesome around us).

So it’s a good thing. A very good thing.

But this. This moment. This I’m sad to miss.

Welcome class of 2016. Welcome families of 2016. I look forward to getting to know you in the years to come. Enjoy this coming Friday. Embrace the change. Bring your tissues and your hugs. You’ll be saying goodbye to one phase of life and welcoming your child into a new one.

It’s a good thing.