here i come.

by Michael King

It’s been a little while since I last wrote. There’s plenty to blame that on, I suppose. A building full of students finding their stories. A graduate thesis to bring to life. Plenty of snowfall and polar vortices. A return to the runner lifestyle. Making the most of my final semester of graduate school. And, in the cracks of time in between, a job search.

It’s strange to think I will soon find myself embarking on a new adventure. It seems only a handful of days ago that I made my way to Charleston, Illinois, driving cautiously and curiously onto a new campus. Graduate school has been challenging, beautiful, and fast, but that’s for another blog entry. This one, I think, is focused on the next step.

I’m funny about the future. I allow myself to think about it very sparingly, maybe out of fear that I’ll somehow miss the present. There’s a story in The Alchemist about a king who knows the meaning of life. It involves a spoon of oil and some tapestries, but it essentially portrays the idea that we have to simultaneously enjoy the beauty of today and keep focus on the destination. Perhaps in deference to this notion, I have only quietly acknowledged the job search throughout my second year of graduate school.

A few days ago, however, I embarked to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for the Oshkosh Placement Exchange. The experience is a bit of a blur: enthusiastic lounge spaces, walls lined with posters, questions upon questions. There were many kind faces and energetic conversations about the work we are doing with students. Suddenly, in the middle of an interview, the proximity of a new chapter dawned on me. A major decision lies ahead: Where will I begin my professional career?

Two years ago, I faced a similar question in the graduate search. Then, however, I was embarking into the journey on my own. Today, as I type this very post, my heart is with my graduate peers and my remarkable students as they field interviews, explore campuses, and begin to chip at their question marks. Significant people in my life taking leaps in different directions.

And here I am. Twenty-four, almost twenty-five. Two years of challenge and growth and unbelievable opportunities under my belt. My very own question mark to transform into an exclamation point. A radical sense of optimism, yes, but nerves tingling beneath the surface as well. Taking the leap is almost always preceded by shaky hands, short breaths, and a head full of doubt. But here I come.

At OPE, I was asked about the greatest contribution I’ve made in my time at EIU. I’m not certain what the best kind of answer to that question would be. Maybe it would be an innovative initiative, or maybe it would be an overhaul of some departmental facet. In that moment, however, I could think only of one thing: my students. Their growth, empowerment, and transformation in the time I spent with them. As I elaborated, their faces ran across my mind, and I felt a lump in my throat. I still don’t know if that was the answer they were looking for, but I do know that it was, for me, the correct answer.

At this moment in time, the question mark remains. But the fog is soon to lift, and we will all soon know a little bit more about the next leg of our journeys. For tonight, though, in the quiet before decision time rolls around, I know the following things will continue to be true: I love people and their stories, I love the world of higher education, and I still can’t believe there’s a field that allows me to bring those two loves with me to work every day.

And so, whatever comes next, I am eager. Here I come.

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