My son is almost a week old, and there are now 7 items in our house that have baby spit-up dried into it. We drove by the hospital today on our way to run an errand (with a baby in a car seat–still getting used to that kind of driving mentality), and we both were weirded out by how foreign the hospital already seemed. It’s as if we weren’t there less than 4 days ago, one of us in the weirdest and worst pain of her life. I guess this is about the time I invoke a cliche about time and it speeding by. But, the time has also seemed to slither by. If I was to wager a guess at this point, I’d say time was neither one speed or the other, but a ridiculous accordion that squeezes out discordant notes even when we register the chaos as a perfect harmony.
My newest column for my alma mater’s flagship publication, STILLPOINT: The Magazine of Gordon College, is available online. This time around, they asked me to weigh in on the issue’s theme: a tribute to our retiring president. While I was a student at Gordon for 4 years, and a staff member for 3, I realized I had little personal experience with our prez on which to draw. In the end it turned into a simple meditation on leadership. So, it’s light, and it’s certainly not the next piece of genre-bending creative nonfiction, but perhaps it’ll inspire you to go, I don’t know, coach a pee-wee baseball team, manage a Dairy Queen, or shepherd some ducks across the road. Or something.
Maybe I should stop trying to reflect so much.
OK! Here you go! Installation 12: A President Precedent:
When I graduated from Gordon in 2004, it was one of the hottest May days on record, turning our black robes into space heaters, and leaving my wife and me gingerly applying aloe vera to our necks for a solid week afterward. Despite the physical discomfort, I felt great pride for each decorated figure behind the podium, President Carlberg included. There was something powerful for me there, sitting in that skillet of a folding chair out on the quad. In that moment I may have been in pain, but beyond the temporal I sensed a far more eternal achievement circulating amongst the crowd.
And by “achievement” I don’t mean grades, internships or a corner apartment in Tavilla. Instead I speak of a subtext of success, of a transformation of the mind that moves a life into its process of passion—something for which there is no syllabus. It is why, seven years out, there are still things steeping and deepening long after my last trip to Gillie’s veggie wrap buffet.
That is the struggle of leadership: to retain a hold on the momentary while always looking and working towards the eternal; to not just pen the words but intuit the subtext. President Carlberg models this dual role, and it is that ability that will leave a mark not just on campus but also on the students whose minds are just beginning to percolate with vocation. Read More