Monday, July 13, 2015

Shedding Skin

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Dear Friend,

This morning you wrote to me, “It’s becoming real.”

You’re really moving. You’re really picking up your life, having invested almost 30 years in this one place, and plopping it down into another city, another school, another culture. And you're leaving a lot behind.

As I sit this morning, temporarily dislocated in another city and immersed (ne drowning?) in education data and discussion, I was stuck staring into my escapist-inspired overpriced mocha, thinking fondly, but sadly, of you. To even try and think of what is going through, and has gone through, your head and heart these past few months. quakes my knees.

I wonder what you think of your friends in what has become your “former home.” Almost all of us believed this change was a good idea for you. Why would people want someone about whom they deeply care to move away? Why would we want to break up the band?

It’s a tricky thing, to be a parent or a friend. To figure out what’s best for someone else. To determine what it means to believe in someone, to support them, to care about their needs and interests. Oh yeah, and to not butt in. To not overstep very important bounds. Perhaps the bounds change based on the connection -- parent, spouse, friend -- but there’s no science to drawing that line. It’s more like art and luck, and the best of spouses, friends, and parents just seem to draw it better, to know when and how to let go of the proverbial bicycle.

(Is it strange how often I feel like a terrible friend? That I mostly pray that my friends know how much I care despite how terrible I am at proving/showing it?)

That so many of the people who love you dearly seem so unified in the belief that this move is good… did it leave you wanting the right person to express dissent? Did you have dark moments where you wondered whether we’re all on the other side of the room whispering, “And don’t let the door hit you on your way out, buddy”?

I ask you to think about your place in an important history. Some 75 years before you, a man made this same move, from and to the same places, possibly for some of the same reasons. The founder of your new school came from your old school, as you know. He moved from here to there and helped to build, from the foundations up, the very school that now so impresses you with its different set of challenges and possibilities, strengths and dysfunctions. When he arrived, the school was on the brink of insolvency, and look now. Now the school is “crushin’ it,” as the whipper-snappers say.

You are stepping into a place, into a culture, into a school whose ideas and educational beliefs were borne, from its beginnings, of the same place you leave. By many accounts, if you’ll forgive the misquoting of Star Wars, the student school has become the master. Higher student achievement levels and expectations coming in and going out. More than twice the endowment in almost half the time. A campus sitting on real estate worth more than Greece, at the moment.

There is clear precedent here. A history of taking wisdom and experience from your former locale, transferring it to this new place, and making something equally, possibly even more amazing from it.

We’re both religious seekers who often feel closest to God when our artistic or intellectual synapses are firing at their highest levels. We are skeptical of those who claim to be “called” somewhere, because usually those people are trying to give God credit for selfish or self-motivated decisions, perhaps in the hopes that by so doing, it’s less selfish, less self-motivated.

For your sake, I hope you believe this move is for yourself, because God can work through us even when we're driving the wrong damn way down a one-way street.

I hope you find new and amazing parts of yourself, strengths long dormant and unused in an environment that had grown too comfortable. I hope you feel yourself, gradually, incrementally, realizing just how much more of an amazing person you can be than you have been, that what you were was deeply beloved, but what you can become is worth shedding some skin.

Selfishly, because I also suspect change is coming for me, I’m hoping to watch you blaze this nerve-wracking trail and hold onto the lessons of what and what not to do when departing the only real work culture you know and entering an alien environment with alien people and their alien ways of doing things.

One of the more salient lessons I’ve learned this summer is that inspiration literally requires hitting a wall, that your brain cannot make the leap from what it knows to what it can unexpectedly discover without a moment of giving up. In giving up, even if only briefly, the brain is permitted to rewire and think differently, and it is there where eureka lives.

For both our sakes, I hope no snake is too old to shed some skin and find a way to become something more. Our best eurekas are ahead of us.

Walk on, walk on, walk on.

Your Friend

1 comment:

troutking said...

Great post for a great friend by a great friend. Well done.