Imagining the next Chapter

 Hello on a Sunday evening,

It is the end of the weekend and while I got some things accomplished, it was somewhat a weekend of socializing with colleagues, some former students, and establishing some more formalized relationships with some wonderful people I have known mostly from a distance. It was a weekend where I was concerned by weather in the Carribean because of people I now know there as well as a weekend where I imagined what next weekend in Cape Charles might be like. I continually find myself imagining possibilities. I guess that has always been one of my pastimes, perhaps an escape, but more likely a way to plan what might, could, or even hopefully should happen. I realize “should” is an interesting choice of language here.

Today I listened to two of my present students try to understand the twists their lives seem to be taking and their wondering about or imagining the next chapter. One former student has left a job, another is leaving grad school, and yet another is working on her wedding. So many changes for so many people. However, I know that none of that is really surprising. It is merely life. There are no recipe cards; there are few real promises, and even fewer certainties. The coming week will be a week of completing tasks on one hand and beginning some new ones on the other. That too is life. There is always something that comes to the fore and things that fade into the shadows, perhaps to be forgotten or more likely to reemerge at some later moment. I have learned the reality of this painful process at times with people in my life. I think we have a way of wishing things could have turned out differently than they did and sometimes try to reconnect with those former emotions and hopes when there is no way we can return to that previous place. I am realizing that things move forward for a reason. In the words of Ecclesiastes: there is a time and place for everything under heaven.

A week has passed and I am still considering this post. As I finished the last of the previous paragraph, I am spending the weekend in Cape Charles, VA. It is a wonderfully quaint little hamlet on the Eastern Shore. I spent time both yesterday and today on the beach, at the shore. That is not something I grew up doing (the consequence of being a Midwesterner). Over the past years I have read by students’ blogs about their shore excursions and I did not really understand the attraction, and while I believe the NY, NJ or MD beaches have their appeal (I did visit Cape May a few years ago), this beach was peace, calm, and serene. I attended, was a surrogate host of a group gathering last evening and was one of the most enjoyable evenings because of the cast of characters in a very long time. You can look at my Facebook page for more pictures. The group of people was fabulous and the conversation and sharing was unparalleled. I have spent at least a couple hours each day sitting out at the shore and just relaxing. It is such a quaint little town and everyone cares about everyone. It reminds me of when I grew up and people knew each other, not a nosy way, but in a neighborly way that made sense and you knewthat they cared. It has been over 50 years since I’ve seen map. I also got to know Brad better and he is such an amazing man. He does so many things for our first year students. He puts in countless hours, making sure the students know what they need that they will be able to graduate. I referred to him as a non-native local this weekend. He provided much insight and made me more comfortable.

I had planned to get a number of things done today, yet somehow that did not happen. I guess when I get back to Bloomsburg tomorrow evening there will be work to do. I actually did take the weekend to relax and I slept more than one might imagine. In some ways that leads me to the title of this blog. I don’t think I really thought about a birthday as much as this upcoming one since I was 25. I do not want to say that I’m old; I certainly don’t want to act old, but somehow I’m beginning to feel old. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I think imagining the next chapter of my life is reasonable. Trying to imagine what I might do and where am I be, and establishing some sort of plan to get there is important. However, there is much to be done before that can happen. There are other things I’m trying to imagine also, but there’s much to figure out.  As I write this I’m imagine tomorrow will be a bittersweet day for Stephanie, Whitney, and Dane. Tomorrow would be Peter’s birthday. It’s hard to believe that it’s almost 6 months since he passed away. It’s harder for me to believe that it’s been nine months since Lydia passed. There’s so much that happens in life on a daily basis and all too often fail to recognize the significant and meaningful moments which profoundly affect us. We’re so caught up in our hamster wheel, merely trying to manage keeping our feet underneath us. Actually many of the people this weekend helped me see things differently. They seem to appreciate what they have and understand what is important. I think sometimes I still get caught up in trying to figure out what’s important. In the big picture what really matters? While Cape Charles is a nice place, I learned the truth and what Mark had stated. Is the people that make Cape Charles what it is. Yes, the friendships and genuine concern for the person rather than what they have. As I have stopped to consider what I do each day, I guess in many ways that is how I do my job. I don’t consider a job, I consider it a vocation, a calling. Once upon a time I had a call as a pastor. In many ways I feel the call that I have had to the college classroom as important and perhaps more significant than when I served the church. I certainly do not mean that in an irreverent manner. The work I get visitors pass it was made and unbelievable impression upon people. But that is the Holy Spirit doing what it does.  Ironically, the semester I’m teaching a Bible as Literature course. I told my students last week that somehow this class forces me to consider my own faith. God works through them.

Indeed the current chapter of my life has me in the classroom, developing a program, and working to accomplish what I was called to do. It is both of the demanding and a rewarding position. I have been so blessed in the six years I’ve been at Bloomsburg. As I begin my seventh year there is much to do and much I hope to accomplish. Yet I am imagining what happens next. What yet do I want to do? What do I want to accomplish? There is the difference between what I want and what I need. For the moment suffice it to say I’ve had a wonderful weekend. I actually relaxed; I slept, enjoyed, and learned new things. Tomorrow we will drive back and I will think about what I need to do for the coming week. I will consider the loss of my friend and realize that yet another person I’ve loved did not make it to the next milestone. As I prepare to celebrate this next birthday, the beginning of a new decade, I do imagine what next. Perhaps I’ll be content with what is because when I consider that, there is very little I can ask for an even less that I need. I have friends; I have an amazing family. Most importantly, I can’t imagine anything better. So tomorrow I will return the plums for your back to work. Living among amazing people and working with even more amazing students, I am a lucky and blessed man.

Thank you as always for reading my blog.

Michael

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