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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sometimes Leaving is the Hardest Thing to Do

Just when you think you're prepared for your departure - you're really not. I say this because I thought I was ready to leave my position without a tear and I was wrong and I have the tears to prove it.

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.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

It's Time to Ante Up!

How fitting is it that I can use the phrase "Ante UP"?

Tomorrow is my last day at UNLV and I've sat at the table and made my wager before I can see what cards I'm going to be dealt at my new institution. I surely hope I win big because I'm wagering a good bit - decrease in income and higher cost of living to name a couple. Sure, it sounds silly that I would leave a position where I make great money for a position where I'm not only going to make less but I will also be living in a more expensive area. Nevermind the fact that I'm going to have to make new friends, find new people to trust, figure out how to do this new job, find an apartment with a reasonable rent, etc.

I've also thought about how I chose to spend my hard earned dollars each month. I eat out for dinner a good bit. I will spend $20 on random stuff. I'll go to Target and buy a bunch of things I don't need. Capitalism can ruin us Americans! I have credit card debt that I can't even begin to tell you why the amount owed is so high. Just plain foolishness and nonsense!

So what's the payoff? Well, I've come to realize what's important to me. A little self-actualization if you will. The goal is to live a simpler life.

In the five years I've worked and lived in Las Vegas I've nurtured things I love - my art, being creative, imaginative, and being myself. While I need money to do many of these things, I don't necessary have to have a lot of things in my life to make me feel good.

Living a simpler life has never felt so good. This past weekend, in preparation of leaving for Washington, D.C. I sold what seemed to most, everything at my apartment sale. So much "stuff" that in fact, I made well over $400 on Saturday alone. What makes it so bad is that everything I sold, I never really looked at for a year or more, had it travel with me each time I moved, and sometimes even forgot I had it. That's a shame. NO ONE should ever have so much stuff that you can't even account for what you own. I was just acquiring things without thought to, "Is it necessary?" I am leaving Las Vegas with my essentials; clothes, music, movies, my art and a better sense of self.

With this new found understanding I am wagering that I made the right choice. That the cards on the table will show me some love and have a nice pay-off career-wise and socially. Wiser wagers and better bluffing.

Here's to simple living, taking risks, and makin' it work!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Wow.. My words actually helped!

Yesterday I received a message from one of my blog readers. It's crazy how you never know how people will take what you write and what they'll do with the words if they choose to do anything at all. This particular reader had emailed me a month or two ago saying their job search wasn't going so well and that he had forgotten how to use his light saber. Here's his email from yesterday.

Hey Dennis,

How's the new job going? Did you start already?

I got a new job too. I'll be moving to Seattle in a few weeks!

Your blog about keeping your light saber at full force really inspired me during my job search. Ironically, just when I had about given up on ever finding something, I thought back to your blog, built up a rejuvinated sense of confidence in myself, and had a job offer two days later. Of course, that's just a coincidence, but it inspired me none the less. Keep writing!

Have a great night!

How about that? biggrin

I just learned today that we have the exact same start date.

To the rest of you still searching. Use "The Force" - your confidence. Everything you need is within you. Your light saber is your ability to wield the power of all you know. Be nimble!