I’ve been thinking again,
Always a potentially dangerous activity. A friend of mine is considering retiring from the same college where I retired. He put in forty years, adding his years as a student. I put in forty years, adding my years as a student. No wonder we were/are friends.
It would be simple to describe the job as the things that we do, or in my case the things that I did. And often, when I think back, I do remember the details, the specifics. And clearly when someone asks what it was that I did at the college, I pick and choose, relating some aspects of my time there. But I also remember my mother. I have held at least a dozen job titles at the college, some of them related, but some of them are wildly different. When I asked my mother if she knew the latest career path that I was on, it was always the same answer. “Do you know what I’m doing now Mom?”. “Yes, you are working at the college!”
No truer thing could be said. It was amazing! If I had the money available I would have gladly treated my salary check as a bill, I would pay it in order to continue doing the work I had. I probably should have told financial services that.
So, what actually was the college? Certainly it was a place, and it would be natural to associate it with a building. But buildings change, they get old, sometimes they are torn down. The edifice that was my high school, is shattered brick in some landfill. Yes, there are memories of the bell tower and the ramps instead of stairs. But mostly high school memories are of people, classmates and teachers. It is the same with the college.
The problem arises when longtime staff no longer remember the shoulders that they first stood on. The college is people. First, it is the students, but they are gone in the blink of an eye. That’s as it should be, and it’s okay, because there are more coming. Fresh new faces with dreams and aspirations. It’s a little like a river, it’s water, always water, but it’s not the same water. And you can only cross a river once, no matter how many times you cross it.
And of course there are your colleagues, they are around longer than the students. They are the heart and soul. It is so appropriate that you have colleagues at the college. They also die and change. Some grow old and bitter, some grow quaint, some just get tired of fighting the same old battles. Yes, when I think of the college, it is not brick and mortar, it is my colleagues.
And like some battle weary veterans, I miss those that are shared foxhole members. I don’t know the replacements that show up. I can’t even remember their names. But I remember Sam Chapman, Pat Anania, Paul Pernish, Wolterbeek, Robert Pence (who always wore an ascot), Tarp, Orr, Horner, Oberst… so many others.
And they are all gone, the college I knew is gone. And one more member now is going to be gone. I miss them all.