Last year, right around now, I wrote this post: Annual April Angst. Ditto that. That’s just about exactly what’s happening right here right now.
I live at work and work where I live, and there is no separation (let alone balance!) between work and home. This is my life, and it is a chosen one. But right around now — April — I’m just about going crazy. All five of us are. But me the most. Because I hardly ever get off campus (at least Braydon goes off to work, and the kids go off to school); and I (more than any of us) have been living in a fishbowl for the past 8 months; and because April is just hellish for academics even when they have a healthy balanced separation between work and home (although, I’ll admit: I don’t actually know any academics who have a healthy balanced work-home life). Anyhoo– you get the point– It is that time of the year. I’m just about as done as done can be.
Which is why I sometimes have to pinch myself to snap out of the haze and craze and daze and remember that this living-on-campus-gig is a deliberate and voluntary choice on my part, and the good of it very much outweighs the bad of it. There are lots of “good’s” to living on campus — not the least of which is that we get to enjoy the beautiful grounds (it is like living in a gorgeous park), without having to plant, maintain, mow, or prune them (the daffodils are in full bloom right now and I savor the sight of them, knowing that someone else is taking care of all those bulbs and garden beds). But today I’m thinking about one of the other major “good’s” of our scenario as a Faculty Family in Residence: the awesome experiential opportunities we have as the result of living at Lehigh.
When we made the decision to move onto campus, one of the biggest reasons we did it was to give ourselves the opportunity to access the many diverse experiences offered on campus. Like many universities, at Lehigh there are literally hundreds and hundreds of events, lectures, performances, symposiums, and experiences-of-all-varieties offered on the campus each year. As a professor, B.L.C. (Before Living On Campus), I often felt frustrated with myself for not taking better advantage of all these things. I felt especially annoyed with myself for not taking better advantage of it all for my kids. B.L.C., I’d see posters for events and think, “Oh my gosh! The bambinos would love that!” or “Ugh, I should really take the kids to that!” or “Geez, we’re missing out by not going to that.” I always felt that one day I’d regret it if I didn’t pick up the pace and figure out how to get my kids more exposure to all these things that were right there at our fingertips. But dragging them to campus, and taking the chance that it might be a total flop, and having to coordinate how to make it all happen for a family of five seemed — more often than not — just not worth the hassle. So, 9 times out of 10, we just didn’t go. Living on campus, I theorized, would remove some barriers and make it so much easier to just go for it and take advantage of all the on-campus perks my job provides. My hope was that we’d flip-flop so that 9 times out of 10 we’d go instead of not go.
This is one of the things we’ve really done as we’ve been living here on campus: we’ve been going to lots and lots of stuff. We can’t possibly go to everything we’d like to (there’s just way too much offered), but we go to a lot. And this time of year, while I’m in the darkest hours of my Annual April Angst, and I have zero white space on my calendar, and I am questioning my sanity daily (and often thinking, “OH MY GOD! WHY THE HECK ARE WE DOING THIS?! WHY AM I 42 YEARS OLD AND LIVING IN A DORM?!?!”), it is good to remember the awesome opportunities that we have as the result of living here. Here is just a little snippet of a slice of just some of the things we’ve done on campus in the past 2 weeks alone.
The monks of the Drepung Gomang Monastery spent three days on campus creating a sand mandala. What an incredible thing. It would be cool enough to just see this once, but because we live right here, I brought the kids to see it each day. This allowed us to see the progress in the mandala day-by-day, which was pretty incredible to witness. And each day we visited we learned more and more about the monks, their art, and their beliefs and philosophies. The three photos below were taken on each of the three days. You can see the progress in the mandala on each day as it becomes more and more intricate and detailed.
The organizer of the event took this picture (below) and posted it to their Facebook page. You can see the bambinos and me in the photo.
Another very cool experience was that the bambinos were asked to participate in a special event on campus that commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It was an exhibition basketball game between the Lehigh Valley Freewheelers (a basketball team whose players are all athletes who play in their wheelchairs) and members of the Lehigh men’s and women’s basketball teams. Kyle and Owen were the water-boys, and Meera was the court sweat-sweeper! The bambinos took their roles very seriously, did a great job, and had a TON of fun hanging out and interacting with the LU basketball players (many of whom are idolized by K & O), and the Freewheeler players (who, it turned out, were super friendly and engaged in many-a-conversation with the bambinos). Braydon and I just watched and enjoyed the event from the audience. It was a favorite night for the bambinos for sure!
One of our favorite events of the year — Lehigh’s International Bazaar — was this past weekend. We love that event! And it was a gorgeous day! (And I got to eat some of the best dolmas I’ve had in a long, long time!)
I hosted a luncheon on campus for the Honors Program that I direct. One of Lehigh’s awesome a Capella groups, the Melismatics, gave us a special private performance. I had brought Meera with me to the lunch, and she got such a thrill from seeing the Melismatics perform so up close and personal!
I got to attend a great sociology talk on one of my favorite subjects: foodie culture! This was a talk sponsored by my department, and I probably would have gone even if we weren’t living on campus, but because we are living on campus, it was so relatively easy for me to attend it (in between picking up the kids from school, and making dinner, and getting K & O to/from basketball practice). The talk was by Shyon Baumann, from the University of Toronto, co-author of the book Foodies: Democracy and Distinction in the Gourmet Foodscape. His talk was so fascinating to me — it is fun, and rare, when the personal (hobby-type-subject) and the professional (academia as occupation) collide for a moment, and I really enjoyed that talk. …and I especially enjoyed that I could go without it wreaking total havoc on my family life for the night.
As part of living on campus, I teach as many of my undergraduate classes as possible in “Sayre Lodge” — a building that is part of the residential community in which we live (this building is sort of like a community center/lounge building, and it includes a classroom). My classroom is literally just steps away from our apartment. This semester I am teaching my Race & Ethnicity class there. Yesterday, when I walked up the path to go to class, this is what I found on the lawn between the classroom building and my apartment building:
Before my arrival the students took it into their own hands to determine that we were having class outside. They pulled adirondack chairs from all over the lawn to create a circle, and they were all there, ready for class to begin, as I walked up. It was so cute I could have cried. I almost did cry. Look at these sweet, strong, smart, amazing faces. I love each and every single one of the beautiful them. And now I only have four more classes left with this awesome group of students — only two more weeks of classes. It is bitter sweet to have another academic year winding down.
In the midst of my crazy spring swirl, when it often seems like my life is spiraling out of control, and the April Angst has me down (way, way down), it is good to stop and remember why we’re doing what we’re doing. And, even more than all the great stuff we get to go to and attend, and way, way more than the fact that we don’t need to worry about the groundskeeping, the first and foremost reason we’re living on campus is for the people.
The students are our people. And whether we are watching them perform, or living and learning with them, or hanging out together snuggling puppies on sunny spring days, it is our people who make life on campus more good than it is bad.
Two weeks ’till classes end. Three weeks ’till final exams are done. The countdown is on. I could cry from ‘done-ness’ right now. But just watch — in three weeks I’ll be crying tears of sadness that it’s over. The students will move out, summer will hit, and I’ll be counting down the days for the students to return again. (And Dash will be bored out of his mind, not knowing what to do with himself when he’s not fulfilling his very important job as Resident Pet Therapist!)