During this countdown to whatever it is we’re going to call our status after we depart for Europe in May (retirement, no longer working full time, in-between jobs?) I’m encountering a phenomenon I knew would occur, but really only surfaces from time to time. This is the “That’s the last time I’ll do that” syndrome. As I say, it’s not a daily occurrence and I find I don’t think of it often, mainly because many days stretch before us until they close the doors on the plane and we lift off from Charlotte Douglas International.
But it does come up and did so this weekend as I attend what will be, for now, my last ACUI Regional Conference. I’ll write later about what this organization has meant to me, how it has shaped my professional life, brought me a host of friends, and nurtured and sustained me. For anyone who has attended a conference it’s a time to learn new things, catch up with comrades in arms, and more importantly, stay up way past your normal bedtime and drink far more than you’d want your doctor to know about (but he knows, boy does he know).
And so I found myself in a familiar setting a couple of nights ago, a little past midnight, drink in hand, talking and playing pool with my colleagues from UNC Charlotte. A band was paying up front and the place was crowded with swaying bodies, loud conversation and the general swirl of energy that engulfs that type of environment. While waiting my turn at the table, and then in between shots during a game, there was ample opportunity to engage in a favorite pastime of people watching.
It was a young crowd, mostly college students from Appalachian State and twenty-something professionals. I recalled when I was that age, when you had this charge of energy coursing through your body that required activity and interaction to drain it. I see it in the students around me at school, when they gather together in a parking lot to run through a dance routine. The emails I get from student leaders in the wee hours of the morning, they’re winding down while I’m sleeping deeply; constant activity, constant engagement.
Where did that energy go? Is it an exhaustible store that must be hoarded unless it runs out prematurely? Have I used most of mine up? I get the same feeling when I see young children running just for the joy of it. Where did that young boy go that could run and jump for pleasure?
This getting old stuff, while tempered by the wisdom you gain and the experiences you share has its drawbacks. I don’t mind so much the wearing down of the body, the small and large pains here and there that become a regular companion. They are just the price of aging and a real reminder that we are still here on this mortal coil, living, breathing, and still making a difference. What I miss is that energy that kept me up late seeking answers, looking for a connection that would make feel relevant, or a love I could call my own.
Maybe I just need to stay up late more and the answers will come to me. Will that be a fringe benefit of no longer having to get up early each morning to go to work? When I can follow my own energy path each day, using it when I need to, not when work requires it. Or will I just keep going to bed and getting up at the same time each day? We shall see. We shall see.