Ever since I was offered my new position I was in "la-la land" apparently. Thinking that this transition would be a piece of cake. I mean, what's 5 years at one institution? Let me tell you what it really is... an investment in myself, my students, friends and co-workers. I made these investments and I didn't realize how much my assets have matured. 5 years of growth and "mutual funding". Some people might invest more into you than you into them and vice versa, but we're all taking the gamble in our crazy, sometimes volatile student affairs market.
When I began at UNLV, I had 4 friends, Alli, Jerica, Yvette, and Mike, who all started on the same day that we all had things in common with one another - we were young, single, and party goers. We all learned from one another, looked after one another, made investments in our friendships and sometimes had to take "personal loans" out on each other to make it through our toughest of days. Ahh, the beauty of "mutual funding".
I always knew I'd miss the people I've met on this particular journey. There's a lot to be said for living a life of authenticity, audacity, and good humor. Over the course of the years, I've grown closer to people than I ever had in my life by living my life as such. However, I've never really been one to cry. I always said that I'll see you again or talk to you on the phone - so no need for tears. I put up that wall - I didn't invest my assets in others and kept them in the safe. I've moved so many times that I thought I had this process down. No need for tears because I wouldn't allow myself to shed them.
When I came to the decision to leave Las Vegas I know I didn't consider how it would be to actually leave. I thought I didn't invest into these relationships I've developed. Relationships with students, staff members, and friends (some of which are co-workers). I made a lot of investments in individuals. Investments in student leaders and helping to guide them through decisions and grow as leaders was a major part of this. This was the first of the dividends to be paid.
Dividends paid to me were amazing. Who has a surprise going away party? That's right me.. and my roommate put it all together. Thanks Sherry! The feeling of walking into a club and having a dozen or so people jumped from behind a red curtain can be ULTRA surprising. It overwhelmed me and made my eyes water. But I did well not to let one tear roll down.
When it came time for my farewell reception, I presented two plaques - one to each president of the organizations that I advised. I could hardly get through the presentation without blubbering. I was a teared up mess! After my sobbing sentiments, I had students tell me how much I influenced what they've done. How I've helped them to remain enrolled, get into programs, become RAs, members of RHA, serve as a team leader with one of my groups, etc. Of course, I teared up with these stories too. I just wish I could have bottled those up and saved them for a rainy day here in Virginia. I shared with them how they've also influenced the work that I do and how a couple of them have influenced my decision to stay for this last year that has just ended on April 18, 2008. The reception continued with extremely generous gifts from students - gift cards in dollar amounts that I couldn't believe, a new leather messenger bag, goodluck/farewell cards from people throughout the Division of Student Life and the coveted shadow box and Nevada plaque. It was emotionally overwhelming and I tried my hardest to play down every aspect but I couldn't hold back any longer.
The tears continued as I said goodbye to one of my closest friends on Sunday. I never realized how much he means to me and how powerful and meaningful his friendship is. Something as simple as a keychain stirred up the tears. The keychain has meaning and also references something I've helped him do each year for students.
The week was an emotional rollercoaster and it was only exacerbated by my sleep deprivation. It all culminated with me being taken to the airport by one of the members of the "Fab Five", Alli, who is really like a sister to me, accompanied by her mom, and her infant son. I thought it would be smooth - ya know... not wanting to make anymore deposits into these "mutual funds". She asked if I wanted them to go inside with me and I was pretending to be indifferent. You want them to, but you don't want to "got there" emotionally. Especially not going through the security checkpoint and then getting on the plane! Alli ended up making the decision for me and was asking if I had heard from another friend and I was like, "No, not a word." and she was puzzled and said she thought that was weird of her not to call or anything.
While we were in the airport waiting for Alli to come inside, her mom and I were making small talk. As we were talking I saw three people in the corner of my eye approaching, so I turned to see who it was and why they were walking up on me like that. It was Alli, Jerica and Yvette, the three remaining members of the "Original Fab Five" that all started and bonded as friends in July 2003. Tears ensued. Hugging commenced and it was a picture perfect ending to how it all began.
The impact of this experience runs deep. I've made lifelong friends, experienced personal and professional growth that surpassed my expectations and had the opportunity to do so in Las Vegas of all places!
I dedicate this blog to my friends... "Thank you for being a friend. Traveled down the road and back again - Your heart is true. You're a pal and a confidant."
The picture is of Alli, Yvette, myself and Jerica as they said goodbye to me at the airport.