Newton’s Third Law of Motion states, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
August in the world of academia is exploding with those reasons. Students are at the height of hysteria and faculty members are flustered as they readjust to new faces and a formidable amount of paperwork. Requests that would have been reasonable even one month ago are simply out of the question now that classes have started.
Surely it is the plight of prophets, professors, parents, and puppy owners to be frustrated. (As I write this, Marley, a rambunctous blue heeler puppy, is biting my ankles and jumping up on the keyboard between bouts of dragging undergarments out of my suitcase unbeknownest to me and leaving them in conspicuous places for all to observe. Something tells me she, however, knows exactly what she is doing.)
In the midst of all this activity came the call to participate in a leadership program. Once a month I will travel to other community colleges and learn about leadership with others who have been selected from their campuses to do the same. The concept is brilliant. The timing of this month’s session, however, was not. What kind of leader abandons her troops during the first week of classes?
Over the course of a few years my world has gotten smaller and my focus has gotten narrower as my mama bear tendencies have taken root in my efforts to support our satellite center. This makes the big picture much harder to keep in perspective. What happens when I am catapulted out of my comfort zone is that suddenly the big picture is evident once again and I am left with the certainty that I need to get out more.
While my relatively quiet and predictable life in a town where I know almost every student is better for me on a daily basis than battling traffic, getting lost at every intersection, and dealing with people who don’t know or care who I am, often it takes experiencing one extreme to appreciate the other.
Because I’ve always been a bit of a fringe dweller, I tend to forget there are others out there who might feel the same way, struggle with the same issues, appreciate knowing help is available, and embrace the opportunity to connect. As Barbara Sher, author of Wishcraft and many other life changing books for independent thinkers, says, “Isolation is the dream killer.” I believe she is right.
As uncomfortable as it may be to orchestrate, every now and then I need to get out of town and find my place in the larger community. Then I can return bearing the gifts the adventure afforded.
In the past few days I’ve gotten to tour a beautiful campus in Des Moines. I got to spend time with funny, smart, and insightful people with similar jobs across Iowa. I am now a student as well as an administrator and got to celebrate what’s right with the world as well as discuss what could use some fixing. I got to witness how I behave in new situations with people of all ages and backgrounds and integrate what I know with what I have yet to learn. At the same time I came up against my limitations, possibilities that had been dormant for years were ignited.
So here’s my advice for this autumn. Whether it’s a learning opportunity or simply a chance to explore an area of interest, get out of town. If that’s not possible, test your ability to see familiar landscapes with fresh eyes.