Perspectives on Beginning a New Year

August 29, 2018

We are all here to continue to learn, to continue to grow, to continue to stretch ourselves beyond our long-nurtured perspectives. 

Students, for some of you, today is about reconnecting with friends and teammates. Make sure you slow down and enjoy the feeling—lean into it.

There is not a much better feeling than coming home again.

For some of you, today marks the first of many firsts as a new student in a new school. Your first opening chapel, your first Arch ceremony, perhaps even your first evening in your new dormitory. Lean into that feeling of newness, with all the energy and anxiety that it brings.

Parents, for some of you, tonight is an evening for which you have had mixed feelings—excitement at your child’s opportunity, and sadness at the prospect of prolonged separation. And, as the parent of rising second graders, I know that for some of you, tonight has been circled on your calendar as the day you finally send your daughter or son back to school after a long, demanding summer. I encourage you, no matter the feeling, to lean into your feelings as well.

We all come to this evening—to this moment in time—with different feelings, different perspectives. Sometimes these feelings and perspectives are not singular; sometimes we may vacillate between two that are diametrically opposed. The best—and perhaps the most common—example of this opposition is, “Wow this is exciting and everything here is going to be great!” followed by, “What have I done? How did I get myself into this? Why am I here?”

The first perspective feels great. In fact, it feels so good that sometimes we overlook it, we take it for granted. We assume that everything is always going to feel this good. And that is an awesome, powerful, and ultimately dangerous feeling. It is dangerous because it makes the lows seem that much lower—and, as a species, we are much better at naming the lows, at pointing out what isn’t going our way.

The second perspective—the “what have I done” perspective—is scary. It is uncomfortable. I would argue that most of that discomfort has to do with the fact that this perspective demands self-reflection. And that’s not easy. I would also argue that we need to lean in to that discomfort.

And that’s not easy either, but it is powerful. And ultimately it leads us to a better understanding of who we are, what we value, and why we are here.

We are all here to continue to learn, to continue to grow, to continue to stretch ourselves beyond our long-nurtured perspectives. This is how we build a strong and just community, and this is how we prepare our students for their lives beyond the Arch as ambassadors for good.

Thank you, all—students, staff and faculty, parents and guardians, extended relatives, family pets (I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a few)—for joining us on this journey. Along this journey you will have many, many moments of excitement; and yes, there will be many moments of anxiety. I look forward to walking through—and leaning into—all of these moments with you.

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