Skip to main content

"Time of Your Life": In an Old Familiar Place



For the twentieth time in my career the residence halls closed here at WIU this morning.  The weeks mass exodus ending with an empty parking lot and overflowing dumpsters.  As I have done on many occasions over those twenty years I drove around campus with the windows down and wound up at an old and familiar place to me, the stoop of Henninger Hall outside my very first Hall Director apartment.  I have spent many opening eve nights and closing afternoons in this same spot.  It never really gets old looking out over the empty Q-lot to the west sky line.


The routine is almost always the same. I bring a hand rolled cigar, turn the key back on my jeep with the radio playing, and kill an hour in quiet contemplation.  It actually dawned on me this afternoon that I have spent an entire generation of my life working on this campus in some way or another for the Division of Student Services, mostly in housing.  


As a closet sentimentalist it is virtually impossible for memories not to come flooding back about various students and staff that have passed through and continue to be part of my life.  I have been able to meet some absolutely incredible people in my time here.  I have stood in weddings with them and gone to funerals.  I have become friends with successful alumni and ordinary everyday hero’s whose work too often goes unnoticed. I have been given opportunities beyond my wildest imagination.  Hell, I even got to work at two Super Bowls. Pretty good gig for a kid that graduated with thirty three in high school.  


The best part has really been the opportunity to get to know and become friends with people that shared the common theme of loving the university they attended or worked and served. The students and halls staffs I worked with in the mid/late nineties in particular have left an indelible footprint on my professional DNA. They worked hard, played harder and made a difference to enumerable individuals that passed through WIU and Macomb. They regularly make the pilgrimage back to this paradise on the prairie to reconnect, go to their favorite watering holes and tell a few lies.  The stories improve with each passing year and they never get old (except to spouses who have grown to understand they will have to live with them).


As I sat on that bench today and thought about what has been accomplished due to the efforts of these died in the wool, “bleed purple”, life-long Leathernecks there is no way to hold back the emotion. This is a special place that has been made that way by special people.  I have always hated closings. Our profession is a transient one where people come and go because that is truly the nature of it if we are doing our jobs right. Closings have always been sad and depressing for me.  As one that stays while watching the tail lights pull out of town they are truly an ending.  The educated part of me knows that my ending is someone else's beginning—and I know that is a good thing.  So today, I am trying to remember the good things like the friendships, families, marriages, and mentors.  I will remember the late nights, laughter, tears, stupid mistakes, and great accomplishments.

The unofficial 1994-1999 staff song for Bayliss/Henninger was Green Day’s “Good Riddance” (Time of Your Life).  I was quite surprised today as that song unexpectedly came on the radio just as I was finishing my cigar.  Sometime life has a funny way of telling you that everything is right in the world. To those graduating or moving on this year, I say "congratulations" and I hope you had the “Time of Your Life” because you will never forget it.  As for me, I will be back here in an old familiar place with a cold drink and some “tall tales” about the old days anxiously awaiting your arrival. 



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

JB's Third Annual "Airing of the Grievances"

It’s that time of year again. Welcome back for the Third Annual “Airing of the Grievances” blog. I am thankful to celebrate a holiday (Festivus) that allows for this tradition. Clearly one of the best things to come out of the Seinfeld television series. As always I will trying to stray away from the low hanging fruit of politics (as best I can). Additionally, to my colleagues in Higher Education---I hate to disappoint you this year because there is so much material, and our profession is very broken, but that blog will have to wait until retirement for my self-preservation. Time to get this party started.
Anyone that has not already blocked me or hid me as a friend on Facebook knows that I have slivered around the edges of my low patience when it comes to the Emotional Support Animal (ESA) phenomenon taking our nation by storm. Today I will make my loathe and disdain for the abuse of the current system (or lack thereof) "social media official" with this year’s first grieva…

Uncle JB’s Alternative School for Shelter in Place

Recently, like many Americans, the great people of the State of Illinois were put under a “Shelter in Place” order. It has been quite a transition for almost everyone (well not everyone—there are some introverts that are praising Jesus for this, as they have trained their whole life for this point in time). It has been my observation that there are two categories of Shelter in Place. House’s with no kids (like mine) and house’s full of kids. It has been quite the treat for me to scroll social media and watch how many of my friends, as well as complete strangers, have overnight gone from their day job to doing double and triple duty as “Teacher” and sometimes “Ringmaster” of their own domestic Three Ring Circus (while I am taking my dog to day care each week). I can’t seem to turn my head away from the “train wreck” of the crazy stories pouring out from disheveled parents all over the country, as households scramble to adjust (and who now have religion about how good our public-school…

Reflections @50: A Truly Wonderful LIfe

I turn fifty today. Not sure I thought I would ever see this day. I am also pretty sure there are plenty of people that “took the under” and are now out of the betting pool on whether I would ever hit that number as well. As I look back over the last half century I can truly say that I am blessed. I have great family and more loyal friends than a person should be allowed to have. If there is anyone luckier than me, I don’t know who they are.
I was able to grow up in a place where everyone knew each other and the world didn’t move so damn fast, which has undoubtedly help me navigate life. I had the luxury of summer nights on the porch swing listening to cassettes on a boom box. I traded baseball with friends while playing whiffle ball and riding bikes all day until the street lights came on at night. I remember thinking we were rich when we got an Atari 2600 for Christmas. I had great teachers in school (I won’t name all of them here but they know who they are) and had the greatest gr…