Last night, instead of going home, I took a drive through the countryside and thought about the day. Allison had come in my office a few hours earlier. Just finished with her student teaching, she was going on interviews. She had one at a middle school yesterday morning, and she had not been back in the office long when the school called to offer her the job.
Now I knew this was coming. For one thing, the whole reason she moved to Nashville was to earn her teaching certificate and start her career in education. For another, she is so bright and personable that it’s hard to imagine that anyone wouldn’t snap her up in a heartbeat. So I wasn’t surprised, but I am sad that she’ll be leaving us.
Of course, leaving is the one constant in academic life. If everything goes according to plan, students move on to universities and jobs. Graduate students at other colleges work as tutors and adjuncts and then return to their home cities or start new careers.
Yes, leaving is a constant at a college, but the idea has become more bitter than sweet recently. When I first came to NSCC, I was in my 20’s. Now only a handful of people have been here longer than I. In the past year, three of my closest colleagues have retired, another is moving away, and two more have died. There is a sense of being haunted in the halls by the people I have laughed, argued, and sometimes schemed with.
And new people don’t replace the old; instead they tend to superimpose upon one another. A student will ask a question, and I’ll hear Rosetta’s wise words before I answer. Another student is yelling into his cell phone; I remember Deborah announcing over the loud-speaker, “No cell phones in the library” before going over to ask him to quiet it down a bit. And no matter how many Assistants to the President come after Eileen, it will be her pretending to talk into her wristwatch phone when mentioning Dick Tracy at the Board of Regents that I’ll see.
As a child with half my family in England, I believed it was easier to be the leaver than the left. The leaver had places to go, new tasks to tackle. The left returned to the same places, just without the leaver, and nothing to distract her from the missing. All these years later, I still think so.