Where are we gonna go now that our twenties are over?

I had the pleasure of enjoying three life events yesterday:

  1. I witnessed a (partial) solar eclipse that was (for the contingent US) 38 years in the making .
  2. The first day of classes and thus my first official day as an Assistant Professor for the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication.
  3. I turned 30.

I’ve started a “new”ish role where I now have a split appointment: Director of the Office of Digital Learning and the aforementioned faculty appointment. I still am kind of in shock when I look at my now double-sided business card.

I’ve written before about how I somewhat stumbled into academia. While this wasn’t exactly my long term goal, it could have been had I had the appropriate level of confidence. Anybody who knew me as a student or knows me now knows how deeply passionate I am for higher learning. As a native Oklahoman, I know how few routes there are for socioeconomic mobility there are few Oklahomans, and I still firmly believe that’s institutions like mine exist to fulfill that opportunity for our students. It certainly has for me and it’s what drives me every day. Education has a big role to play in fixing what I often see is wrong and unjust in my state.

I’ve said multiple times that my three years of teaching in Gaylord College has been the single best professional experience. It makes me better in all areas as they relate to understand the roles and needs of faculty, what good face-to-face and online teaching looks like, and empathy towards students. My classroom has played the paradoxical role of both my routine escape and laboratory. I’ve always encouraged my team to teach if given the opportunity because there is simply no better way to understand teaching than to teach. That opportunity has allowed me to grow and shape this one-man show into a small-but-mighty department of incredibly intelligent and hard-working designers, technologists, and creatives who have to deal with me. One agenda item I have is continuing to see both the faculty and staff roles as not conflicting but symbiotic and to see where that relationship leads.

I’m not one to focus too much on personal accomplishments, but I’ll be honest and say that I’m soaking it up for all it’s worth. I attended OU’s New Faculty Orientation, despite the fact that CTE runs the event itself and I’m fully aware of the resources that exist for faculty. But why not?

I’m also enjoying faculty meetings at Gaylord College and getting the opportunity to think about the future of our programs and how they can be improved. I’m quickly learning how teaching is only a small fraction of the ways faculty can positively impact an institution.

Beyond my professional life, I’m also shutting the books on a decade, which gives me an opportunity to reflect on life in general. Eight years ago, I spent my birthday in the absolute beautiful city Missoula, Montana, as I was touring in a band and partially living out of a van (my wife and I bought a minivan last week and I joked that I feel like this decade started and ended in a van). I always think back fondly of that specific show and how welcoming it was. We had just finished a run of dates on the west coast making our way from SoCal up to Seattle. Big market shows are so different because you are competing with so many different entertainment opportunities. And then you play shows like Missoula or Carney, Nebraska, where kids just show up because that’s just what they do on the weekends. They are true scenes and you get the opportunity to be a part of that. Some strange force has kept me planted in middle America and I’m thankful for that.

I’ve also became a husband and a father–the two most important roles I have in life. Nothing has made me understand both selfishness and sacrifice quite like these two changes. I grew up in house full of boys and baseball teams. If there has been one big personality difference over the last ten years, it’s that I’m a much softer person. I think about all the big and small special moments I’ve been able to enjoy spending time with them. Sharing parenting moments with my wife is like sharing a million new life experiences you could have never imagined.

Last, I’ve also lost. I’ve lost best friends and grandparents and I’ve seen families torn apart and relationships end. I’ve witnessed tragedy and darkness and inequality and suffering. I’ve came to know the hard truths of our world. So it must also be said that this decade has shown me the fragility of life.

Still, I’m one to not meander in one spot too long. I’ve already walked my fair share of roads and believe the best is still ahead. My favorite album of the year so far happens to be from The Menzingers and the opening track really resonated with me. The song is about the struggle to let go of your youthful ways and repeats the line, “Where are we gonna go now that our twenties are over?” It’s a fantastic song. Really, check it out.

I don’t know my answer to The Menzingers just yet, but I’ve never exactly lived my life by plotting too far in advance. For now, I’m just going to be thankful that I’ve been privileged enough to live a lot of life.

I was listening to a recent On Being episode recently with danah boyd, who tells a really great story about her brother who was into computers and introduced her to the web:

He showed me different online bulletin boards, and all of a sudden I realized that this computer was made out of people. And the computer became much more interesting to me, once it was made out of people.

I, too, feel made out of people. I’ve had a real stroke of luck of a sequence of mentors who put faith in me even when I wouldn’t have. Similarly, I’ve been able to observe so countless number of incredible people in both my life and my field who have help shape my perspective. So thank you for being a part of it and thank you for allowing me to indulge myself for just a bit.