Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to take some of my students to visit my college alma mater on a field trip. It wasn't the first time I've done this, and I always look forward to the trip. Funny enough, this "Music Day" event that the college hosts each year is always very near to my birthday - so my reflections on my student past always coincide with my annual musings on aging. For some reason, they seemed a bit more profound in their collision course this year - I'm not sure why. I can only surmise that as I'm growing older, I'm also growing up.
I'm sure I'm not the first student who dreamed of returning to the hallowed halls of ye old alma mater to teach. As I grew older, I would addend that desire - at least publicly - to say "or some place like it." Privately, I continued to hold to the original plan. At my core, I think I believed that my "journey" would not be complete until I found my way back "home" to teach. I even told myself over the past couple of years that it is no longer the same place - still a very good place - and, yet, not the place I dreamed of returning.
This last visit, though, served as a catalyst of sorts to shake up my thinking. And in a good and resolutely satisfying way, I might add. I followed my students around to various classrooms where I had spent countless hours as a student. They were seeing what the future might hold for them as a music major or minor. I was getting lost in echoes of memories in each room - a Saturday morning practice session with my chamber trio, the excitement of introduction to music literature as a freshman (yes! it was exciting!), Beethoven's Ninth and performances by Marilyn Horne and Janos Starker and countless others in the "chapel." I would wander in and out of these memories, as the current staff was telling prospective students about all that the college had to offer them. And that's when it clicked.
For years, as I tried to create my own little master plan, I was wallowing in those memories and making plans to go BACK - back to the past. There was nothing forward thinking about it. This particular day, I found myself getting caught up in the present and FUTURE of the school. It was a place that I would be excited to attend TODAY as a student. But not because it was the same - but because it had continued to GROW and look ahead. The college is still rooted in a strong heritage - some of which includes my very fond memories - but it hasn't gotten stuck there. It has continued to be a dynamic, growing entity.
The college has grown up, and I think maybe, so have I. Turning 47 (which in my mind is "almost 50") seems a good age to start feeling more like an adult. I'd be lying if I said I had no desire to teach there anymore. I don't think it will ever happen, and I'm really quite comfortable in that knowledge, and I'd certainly explore the opportunity if it should present itself. What I know, though, is that now I would want to teach there because of who the school has and will continue to become, not merely because of who it used to be. That bit of clarity leaves me content to be a proud alumnus of the school, a better potential teacher, and an adult who has found contentment in the life she has been given as opposed to the life she planned.
"Cardinal is her color . . . "