Because I’ve been asked, because my life is an open book, because I want to document this for myself and my kids for the future, because I wear my heart on my sleeve, because I can’t help myself…
Here is the full length version of our explanation for moving to campus. This is what we’ve told our closest friends and family, and in an effort to be clear about why we’re doing what we’re doing (for whoever might care or be interested, now or in the future), here it is– the full scoop:
Moving to Lehigh’s campus, as a “Family in Residence,” is the culmination of a bunch of things all coming together for us:
* We have been feeling very strongly, for a few years now, that we want to downsize in terms of our home/property. For the past 2 years or so we’ve been talking about doing something radical in terms of this– i.e., not only downsizing, but REALLY downsizing in a huge way. We feel like our current situation is too “big” for us; too “much” for us; we have too much “stuff.” We have really struggled with managing the house we have and do not feel committed to doing what needs to be done to maintain and keep up with a house like the one we have. We will be moving into a TINY, 800 square foot, 3 bedroom apartment. The only saving grace is that we are also getting a huge storage space in the basement of the building (this will be extremely helpful). Regardless, it is a massive downsize from our current living situation. It will be a true experiment for us in living much more simply, and radically downsizing our life. This is something we’ve been considering and discussing for a long, long, long time, but now it is a matter of ‘walking the walk’ and not just ‘talking the talk’… this is going to be a huge deal for us to make such a radical change in living space.
* We have also been feeling very strongly, again for at least a few years, that our current situation is not sustainable in terms of work/home balance. We are really struggling with balancing two huge and self-driven careers. I, especially, have been really suffering. It has been 3 years since Braydon went full-time with his business start-up. We have come to the conclusion that we are unable to sustain the current situation and something has to give. Neither of us are willing to give up our careers, and we are not willing to sacrifice our marriage or the tight-knit-ness of our family/parenting. So, we have been exploring lots of options for how to handle this. We’ve been wracking our brains to come up with some kind of solution. By moving to campus we’re trying to do something about this. We will have a MUCH smaller home to maintain/clean/keep up; we will be able to eat on campus a lot (we will have MUCH less cooking/food planning/food shopping/food cleaning-up to do); we will have tons of built-in-babysitters (!); and we will be massively stream-lining our life (Braydon and I will both be able to walk to work, and the kids’ school will be the same distance from us as they currently are now– they will stay at the same school). For a long, long time we’ve been complaining about our struggle with work-home balance. I’ve shed too many tears about this (constantly feeling torn in two directions, and feeling a TON of tension between work and home). We are finally going to DO SOMETHING about it. It is scary, but we’re excited to at least give it a try. Like I said, something has to give.
* Because of Braydon starting his own business, things have been very tight for us financially for the past 3 years. We have been really struggling with wanting to re-prioritize our budget (to spend much less on home stuff and much more on experiential stuff), but have felt ‘trapped’ by all of the financial commitments of our current house. By moving to campus we will have zero rent/mortgage, and all of our home utilities will be completely paid for (heat/AC; phone; cable; internet; etc.). Our only bills will be our car payments and our cell phones. This will allow us to do so much more with our kids while they are young… which is what we really want to be doing.
* While Kyle and Owen were really little our house was perfect for them. They/we used every square inch of it –inside and out. But now they are in school all day, they play sports after school, and we are often out and about on the weekends. They no longer ‘need’ the space the way they once did. We’ve been feeling like it is time to move on… and we’re interested in doing a different type of lifestyle with them and with Meera. For our area, Bethlehem (where Lehigh is) is the most ‘urban’-type of living. Although it is not a big city, it is as ‘big’ as it gets for here. It is by far the most diverse area (the area around Lehigh’s campus is extremely racially mixed, and predominantly black and Puerto Rican). We’ll be living in a MUCH more racially mixed area. We’ll be able to walk to many shops/restaurants/activities/events. And we’ll have access to a ton more stuff to do– both on campus, and around the campus. Kyle, Owen, and Meera are all extremely extroverted, and are always up for anything, so we are really excited for this change of pace for them. We plan to attend a lot more on campus (stuff we’ve been wanting to do, but have not been able to since we’ve been living 25 minutes from campus): concerts, lectures, shows, performances, sports events, etc. We also will make much more use of Lehigh (the swimming pool, the gym, the climbing wall, bike paths, etc.). And the area around Lehigh will allow for us to get take-out from ethnic restaurants, sign the kids up for dance classes or theater classes or hip hop classes or skating lessons, etc… all within walking distance. This is something we’re really looking forward to.
* I began teaching at Lehigh University in the fall of 2001. I was fresh out of a PhD program, eager to be a great young scholar, and excited to teach sociology. During my pre-tenure years I did a lot of research, teaching, and service on campus. I also did a lot of learning. Ten years later, and three years post-tenure, I am now doing a lot of reflecting. What I have been reflecting most upon is this: It has become clearer and clearer to me in the past few years just what exactly my role at Lehigh (and beyond) really is. What I thought I had been doing for the past ten years was being a sociology professor. What I have come to understand, however, is that much more powerful than any of my teaching or scholarship is simply my presence on campus; specifically, my presence as a young, female, progressive, ambitious, working-mother, concerned-citizen, modeling for young adults what it means to live a life of purpose. Perhaps what I’ve noticed most in my ten years at Lehigh is the need our students have for mentors in their lives. This makes sense, of course, given the phase of life they are in—they are in the process of forming their own social identities, and figuring themselves out. Many of them want to forge lives for themselves that don’t look like the lives of the generations before them. But they don’t know where to start. And they don’t have the self-confidence to begin, even if they did know how. What has struck me is their need for examples— real-life, living, breathing examples – of what it means to carve out a satisfying life for oneself that is committed to the common good. More than anything, as I reflect on my past ten years at Lehigh, I see this as my role: simply being a presence in the lives of young people who simply need to see someone leading a life of purpose. With the Faculty in Residence Program at Lehigh, there are no expectations for me to be a “Dorm Mother,” or for our family to take any sort of responsibility for caring for students. We are, however, expected to be a presence at Lehigh, engaged with students, and integrated into in the life of the campus (which, for us, comes easily and is almost unavoidable when we are at Lehigh).
We all (truly, all five of us) are looking forward to this new phase. And I, especially, (although Braydon, too, for sure), am feeling a strong sense of purpose to do this. We are compelled to move on this path and feel that this is what we are supposed to be doing next. And so, despite some trepidation (and a lot of people questioning this untraditional move), we step forward into this journey.