First Day

On Thursday night I made the drive to downtown Omaha for my first graduate school class at Creighton. The first day of school feels the same as it ever did, even as a non-traditional student. And I love it as much as ever, too.

What’s so exciting about a first day of school? The same things that are so wonderful about a blank notebook or an unopened gift or a Saturday afternoon with no appointments: the joy of imagined possibilities without the intrusion of actual results or requirements. Because everything changes after that first day. It never feels quite as good as it does that first time you set out from the house with your empty notebooks and unused pencils.

After that, no matter how interesting or inspired you are, it still doesn’t feel the same. Because now there are also assignments. Deadlines, lists, and midterm exams. There’s still the promise of thrilling discoveries, but with the syllabus in your hand now you know how hard you’re going to have to work to find them.

You’ll have to read hundreds of pages of stuff you don’t totally understand. You’ll have to spend hours on the library website trying to remember which database gives you the best search results. You’re going to have to sacrifice weekend afternoon naps and make choices each week about which football game matters the most to you because you certainly don’t have time for them all.

In short, some of those clean white pages get written on. The open afternoon is shortened when the kids complain that you’re out of milk for cereal. There’s still a lot of opportunity there, but it never feels like the first day again.

That’s probably okay. If everyday was the first day we’d lose out on the experience of seeing exactly what we are capable of producing. We’d never get to see how hard we can work and how much we can learn. We’d miss the discoveries and the pure joy of learning. We’d miss seeing that final grade on the report card. We’d never know how good it feels to look back; as my professor said of himself on Thursday night, “I’m glad I was that guy. I’m glad I did all that really hard work and accomplished something not everyone accomplishes. I’m kinda proud of that guy.”

We’d just be a bunch of kids with empty notebooks. Or, worse, asleep on the couch.

I loved my first day. But now I can’t wait to get to work. Our professor told us we had the privilege this semester of becoming experts in one very small corner of the literary world – one we get to choose for ourselves. That doesn’t happen on the first day.

That happens after the first day.

photo credit: creighton_admissions

The Home Team

Although this probably won’t describe thousands of people in the world, I’m pretty sure it will describe some of you here reading this today. You’ve been wondering how we’re doing, right? Wondering if the metropolis of Omaha, Nebraska, has swallowed us up in its all-encompassing city life and I no longer have time to blog? Right?

Well, no, here I am. Sitting in the same chair I sat in when I wrote my last blog post. Putting my Diet Coke on the same side table and using the same brown afghan to cover my legs (yes, even in the dead of summer).

I guess that’s why I’m okay with some amount of stuff accumulation.

When you pack up the whole family and move six hours away from what you’ve known as home for 30+ years (yes, I’ve lived in the same 60 mile radius for my entire life until now), it helps to throw your dirty clothes into a familiar hamper. It’s nice to sit at the same dining room table even if you did have to take it down a leaf to fit in the narrower kitchen. It helps to sleep under the same covers at night.

The stuff helps, but so do the other things that stay the same.

Football for Jesse. We found a team right away. It’s in a much bigger system than we’re used to, but the coach and the boys seem like every coach and 11 year-old boy I’ve ever met. Play dates for the girls. Barbies know no strangers and serve as perfect connecting points for little girls anxious to get to know one another.

The new things help, too.

Molly pulled together all our friends and had them sign the mat around a print of my home state. It says, “Missouri: Part of My Heart is Here.” It was the first framed piece I hung here at the new house. I even had to scrounge up the nail from another wall, but I made it happen. Remember those windows? My friend Shelby took care of all that after-move cleaning for me. Mom arranged for it. The staff from the Bible College where I worked went together and got us a zoo pass for our new city. It makes us feel like we belong here with the rest of the zoo members. We’ve been so well taken care of even in our sending.

Since Dan and I haven’t started our new work schedules yet and the kids are out of school, we’ve been able to stay up way too late every night watching the Olympics. It’s like they came around this fourth year just for us. Our routine is to pick up some fast-food and head to a family member’s house who has TV (our oldie but goodie wouldn’t pick up the fancy new digital local channels) and settle in for a long evening of ohh’s and ahh’s and, “Go Our Guys!”

One night after catching the end of a race she barely watched, Macy shouted, “We have da best team eva!”

I absolutely agree.