The last 2-3 weeks have presented a peek at what the future will bring for us in the next couple of years, as we separate from the security of our day-to-day work lives and adopt a lifestyle not necessarily dependent upon a fixed schedule. The first glimpse was during the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend, when for the first time in a while we didn’t travel, instead staying home. The days stretched in front of us, with no real obligations except for the holiday itself. I found myself thinking a couple of times that this is what the future will bring, this range of open days that then get filled with random encounters one hadn’t anticipated earlier. Nothing tangible this thought, as I say just a glimpse of our life ahead.
Less than a week later I then spent a couple of nights in Raleigh at a Holiday Inn, enjoying the company of my fellow NC Union Directors at our annual meeting hosted by NC State. I will miss many things when I stop working and this gathering, and its ilk, will be one of them. My history with this concept stretches back to my first days as the Director at UCLA, when I inherited the mantle of involvement fostered by Margaret Snow and Jason Reed and became involved with the PAC-10 and UC Auxiliary Directors. The very first meeting would have been with the UC folks, hosted that year by UC San Francisco. A couple of legends in our business, Alan Kirby and Jim Caruthers greeted me as a welcome addition and I recall with pride their complimenting me on an article I’d written for the ACUI Bulletin. After the first of many nice meals to follow, I recall retiring to my room at a upscale hotel in Japan Town and writing an alcohol fueled (are there any other better ones?) tome to my good friend Tom Carlisle in Oregon, one in a long stream of many such ruminations I’ve sent him over the years.
Later I would attend my first PAC-10 Directors meeting, hosted by Dan Adams and Floyd Land at Arizona and Arizona State, respectively. I came in a day late due to a class conflict (I was in my MBA program at the time) and remember slipping into the meeting session wondering where this new adventure would take me. It’s all a bit hazy now, so many years removed, but I recall a memorable dinner in the Union, prepared by the chefs in Dan’s unit. The hallmark of our annual gatherings was this sense of one-upmanship, each year’s event trying to outdo the prior year. Floyd would do the same the next night, his staff turning out an amazing meal experience.
What sealed it for me though was leaving Tucson later the second day (we would commonly meet for three nights) for the drive up to Tempe. I landed in a car with Dan and Bill Shiba, Dan’s finance guy and second in command and felt at home from the moment we put it in drive, the trip filled with a friendly repartee that bespoke of the welcome I would find wherever I went in Student Union land. When I got out of the car a couple of hours later I knew without a doubt that I had found a home in our business, and that individuals like this would become good friends, allies, and a support net for me later in my career when the skies turned dark. Nearly twenty years later, it is as true today as it was then.
And so I left the NC group on Friday for a drive down to Charlotte and a flight to my sister’s in Kansas. Bittersweet the leaving, knowing that it is the last in a long line of such gatherings that have sustained me, brought great professional friendships, provided room for growth outside of the day-to-day of my job and produced a kaleidoscope of memories that will not soon desert me. As I’ve mentioned to a number of folks lately, I’m not sure what I will do to replace this element of my life; when all is said and done it is our relationships that define us, that speak of who we are. Hopefully, something equally fulfilling will take its place. Only time will tell.