This time of year is exciting for faculty. There certainly is a lot of stress and busywork preparing for the semester. Syllabi not yet finished. Summer projects not yet wrapped up.
It is also tremendously enjoyable. There is a buzz on campus as the kids come back. As a student this was one of my favorite times as well. I genuinely missed my friends and the kind of summer jobs I enjoyed were strong motivation to continue my education.
It is just as true for faculty. There are students you haven’t seen in months. I talked with one of my favorites for 20 minutes today in the parking permit line. There are the new seniors, all grown up from the kids you met a few years ago. Some of them have shockingly ambitious life plans. They can be pretty together young adults after all. They could even be your friends.
But the real drama is the new freshmen. Here are these oversized high school kids, with trepidation in their eyes. They are excited to be on their own finally, and more than a little scared. Their parents are just as anxious. They are proud of their kids. They are hopeful they taught them well. Maybe they’re just scared for the finances. But you can see the misty eyes. I had a friend who said that from day one, parenting was about letting a little bit go everyday. They have to be their own person at 3 and at 30. There are few moments when this is truer than when mom and dad have to drive away and leave baby at college.
And think of the life opportunities and ramifications of that moment. What careers might you do or not do, because you went to college. Or chose this school over that. So many people meet their spouse in college, there is a good chance that this decision will lead you down one conjugal path out of many possible. Going to school, and where, really is a turning point in your life. When Mom and Dad drop you off, that is the pivot point to that turn. After that it becomes your life. What are you going to do with it?
If I failed to get excited at this time of year, I would know the time had come for me to change careers.