It’s just after 2 am and, while I’ve started my day the way I usually do these days, drinking my requisite starter fluid, stationing myself on the living room couch, opening my laptop, and clicking on Blogger, then “New Post”, the backlit blank page seems to be more obstinate than usual, and I realize my eyes are tired.
Well, of course they are, many of you are probably thinking. 2 am is no time to be awake, unless it’s the end of your day previous and, say, a paper’s due in the morning. Or your senior thesis show’s not quite hung.
But as you know full well, though I’m not a undergrad in college, I will often go through creative cycles that majorly screw up my sleep cycle.
When in an in-between period, I need my eight hours of sleep, minimum. If roused at any point short of that, the idea of slipping out of bed seems so alien to me it’s as if the other periods – like the one I’m physiologically noting is rapidly winding down – are another person altogether. Like the oft repeated, “Who are those guys??” line in one of my son Drew’s and my favorite movies, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, during in-between periods I have no earthly recollection how it is I can arise from bed night after night, often on only a couple hours’ of sleep, and begin another 20, 21, or 22 hour day.
But as I’ve now mentioned a couple of times, things are shifting within me. Rather, they’ve shifted. While it’s still easy to awaken, sans alarm as per usual, I note a drowsiness that just hasn’t been there since this period began in early November of last year. Little weights have attached themselves to my eyelids, the past few mornings. The blank page remains blank a bit longer. The screen’s backlighting needs to be lowered somewhat. Much too early for all that brightness.
The “shift”? Well, as with all such periods, the internal twirling and swirling has given way to a relative calm. Something’s been “birthed”. “Normal life” can resume. Quote unquote.
And as some of you know, since I’ve announced it last week first to my supervisor, then to the chair of the Art Department, and next via an impersonal email to the rest of the department’s faculty and staff, as well as some other key people at the Colorado College, where I have worked now for ten years, four months, and five days: I’m leaving. Literally on a jet plane. March 9 will be the last day I don my apron as 3D Arts Supervisor and the first where I’ll be winging away more frequently, it is hoped. First stop: Roma.
Truth be told, the designation “3D Arts Supervisor” is totally made up. You won’t find it in my file in HR. There, what you’ll read is, “Art Shop Supervisor”. But despite its accuracy and relevance, I didn’t particularly enjoy the resulting acronym, and wondered if it was something now Professor Emeritus Carl Reed cooked up one day before my time, prophetically. So I changed it.
If you read further into my job description, you might also come across the name of the building I supervise through the end of this, my final “block”, which starts later this morning: “Art and Drama”. After a protracted battle in which that old designation stubbornly hung on, current undergrads have finally begun calling the building on the edge of campus in which I’ve been installed by the name Professor Scott Johnson and I renamed it perhaps seven years ago after the Drama Department’s Scene Shop relocated to another building on campus.
In relation to adopting the new name, many long time staff have adhered to the adage about old dogs, although at least some in Facilities have begun calling 3D Arts “3 Darts”. And there’s still a fair bit of drama that swirls about the place from time to time…
I expect that’ll be the case for the next few days or so as word of my imminent departure, my slipping beyond the invisible membrane of the “CC bubble”, floats around. The village of the Colorado College, like all small towns, is nothing if not garrulous.
So, in an attempt to set the record straight, to get ahead of the curve and dispel any potentially nasty rumors – “Did you hear Andy was let go??” “Did you hear Andy’s gone crazy??” – well, the jury will be out on that last one for a while – let me now, for the record, set the record straight:
I’ve gone crazy.
Just kidding. I think.
(Boy, you’re thinking, that Andy can sure draw something out a long time. Get to the point!)
Maybe I will and maybe I won’t. No, no maybes about it. If I’m going to continue sitting here at (checks Fitbit) 2:58 am on (checks Fitbit app) 3:33 of sleep, eyes still somewhat heavy and brain still somewhat foggy, I want to get some perverse enjoyment out of it. Why, I’ve never had such rapt attention from my audience! Makes me want to leave you all dangling out there in the ether for another post or two, now that I’ve finally got you where I want you.
But I won’t.
Ok, so here goes. Phew.
For the past couple of years I’ve noticed an increasing dissatisfaction within. Isn’t that how many wholesale life changes first announce themselves?
The feeling was accompanied by the troubling thoughts, on a more and more frequent basis, that I’ve been there and done that. That I’ve assisted, at last count, a gazillion students in their quest to make a canvas stretcher (take note, all, the improper nomenclature: they’re really strainers) or panel. I’ve done the same for two or three gazillion more who darken the door to learn how to use the shop’s machines and/or tools and/or space for their class projects.
But I love my job, I’d counter. Not just the perks of the position, of which there are legion. Some students mistakenly call me Professor, for instance, an error I somehow fail to correct. But the students – my throat is literally tightening up as I write this: they’re a part of me now. Hopefully, I pray, always.
Wow. I just had to take a break and had to use Kleenex paper to brush away the tears. But we’re back now, and, settling back and down, I can go on.
Part of me – a large part – doesn’t want to go on. To leave the college and set out into the relative unknown.
It’s not a fear of the unknown, though. I’m super excited about the future, chomping at the bit, etc. It feels like I’m about to start a super fun climb in the mountains. (Or, if you’re like my wife, waving your mountain climbing husband goodbye and settling into the couch for a nice, long nap…)
Again, benefits and perks aside, the college has, as I mentioned in my letter to my supervisor and my department, vicariously taught me, developed in me, brought me to a place – a platform – a launching pad – that has allowed me to grab hold of a life beyond its formative borders, just as it was designed to do for undergraduates.
Only, even after ten years, I won’t be handed a degree at the end of my stint there, like some of you readers will in just a few months’ time.
Be that as it shall be, yesterday morning as I walked around the CC track at 4 am in an attempt to best my son Will and his typical daily high water mark of 20,000 + steps, again as recorded on our Fitbits, I looked at the over-large words “Colorado College” emblazoned on the concrete wall below the stands – the same stands I jogged up and down eleven years ago, wondering how I might more fully enter into the lives of students at the school we had lived right next door to for fifteen years – and had the thought:
Despite the fact that there’s no way Admissions would have ever let someone of my limited brain power in as a student, even back in the era when perhaps one out of two applicants would be admitted, this place has been my college. The place of my schooling. It’s where I’ve learned so much about myself – my faults, failures, and deficits. My strengths. My desires and yearnings.
Just an example or two:
Current students may find this hard to believe, but ten years ago, I was even more unbearingly goofy than I am these days. Now, I employ humor pretty much at will, but then, it was my constant companion. Later, I’d look back and wonder why. Well, a key to the answer came when I recalled how my wife and I began to go on regular date nights (which we began the moment our eldest daughter, Sophie – herself a recent CC grad – turned 12, the Colorado sanctioned age for one’s children to babysit their siblings). On occasion Nan and I would spring for a more upscale restaurant, and at first, I’d act the clown from the moment we arrived until we left. Over time, even I grew tired of the act, and, looking back, I realized that my silliness was due to feeling totally out of my element. Over my head. Out of my league. Out of place. Outclassed.
Same goes for my CC experience, especially in the early years. I think Professor Kate Leonard made note of it in my first performance review, saying something about how said humor in me wasn’t unduly overbearing, or words to that effect – which even I realized was a not so subtle attempt to get it through to me that, in fact, Andy, it is. It’s on the edge.
In time, however, as with settling more comfortably into a nice chair at some fancy eating establishment, I similarly ratcheted back the humor in the shop, at Rastall’s, etc. These days, while hopefully still being a glass half full person, I don’t think students would say I’m a total goofball. Not even Abby, for whom, if she were to, in reply, I’d counter it takes such a one to know one.
Another lesson hopefully learned, despite all online evidence to the contrary: when to speak and when not to. Again, using poor Abby as an example, unlike the me of old, now when a student posits a question, I don’t automatically respond. Some students, I now know, don’t automatically, and silently, look within when presented with questions or options. They vocalize it. If the question is pointed and direct – Andy, what’s the best way for me to put out this fire, for example – I’ll answer. Stop, drop, and roll, I thankfully have never had to say.
But if I know the student can figure it out on their own, I feign deafness. The Colorado College has taught me it can be appropriate, as a student, to pretend I didn’t hear my teacher.
That’s what you’ve been to me, all of you who I know at CC as well as those of you who’ve come and gone, faculty, staff, and, chiefly, students. You’ve been my teachers, when I have allowed you to be. I know I’ve taught you plenty, but you’ve reciprocated in spades.
Yet I know that most lessons are learned beyond the classroom, in so-called “real life”, and so I feel it’s time to transfer back to that school from whence I came, despite the knowledge that I’ll never finish my degree there, either. To metaphorically get off my duff and rock climb again. To take more risks – calculated risks, despite how it surely looks to you – than I’ve taken in a good long while.
Because I’m not getting any younger. Nor any wiser, many of you would add. But you’d be wrong. I never was that good at math, but even I know that starting from zero (I’ve) got nothing to lose.
Accordingly, I thought I’d inform you all, at last, of my relative lack of plans:
I want to be a full-time artist.
I’ll close with this. I’ve only just begun to unpack these, my chief reasons for moving on. As with what you’d find if you had the time to go back and read all my blog posts from November 8, 2015 until today, many looking longingly back at the years just prior to working at CC – years more attuned to risk and reward – and some of the posts quite forward-thinking and seemingly clairvoyant, to say nothing of all of the words it’s taken me to write this morning’s fare, or of this sentence in particular, I’ve much more to say about the things I’ve learned as a ninja-student/Art Shop Supervisor at the Colorado College.
Thanks, CC – Go Tigers!
P.S. – I’ll still live in close proximity to the school and hope to darken the doors regularly. At last, I feel I will understand that penchant some students have to bum swipes outside of Rastall’s, the college’s cafeteria. Brother, would you spare a tater? Anyone??