I left the office yesterday around 5:15.  My soon-to-be ex-office looked chaotic, what with all of the books and files in boxes, the pictures removed from the walls and stacked for transfer to my as-yet-unidentified next office, and furniture marked for relocation or staying where it is.  I put a sign on the door that says “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.  Really!”

It was a quiet ending to a tumultuous, productive, illuminating 12 years of chairing the Dance Department that Does.  We had 80 students when I arrived, now we have over 260, an over 300% growth rate…and we are now very much a 21st century dance project in more ways than one.  The ultimate dream of my tenure as chair came true just last week, when our long-proposed and longsuffering proposal for an MFA in Dance as Civic Discourse received final approval.  It will be a couple of years before our first cohort arrives, but I had hoped on taking the job that we’d have an MFA by the time I stepped down.  I toss shining pearls in the path of those who never gave up the effort to see it through. Especially our Provost.

There are insofar as I know only two things I will miss in leaving administration:  the stipend and my fellow chairs, who are some of the most hard-working and undersung and (at least in some quarters) micromanaged people in our institution.  All the rest I leave to my successor with relief.  It’s time for me to put my energies elsewhere. It’s someone else’s turn.

Last night my friend Sarah (who is also in a huge life transit of a different sort) and I went to Erwin’s on N. Halstead (one of my favorite Chicago hangouts, do try the specials…last night the pre-fixe included an amazing blood orange float) for champagne and some supper…we toasted “Endings and Beginnings.”  You can’t really have one without the other, though new beginnings are somewhat harder to come by as we get older.  I’ve always liked change and am rather gleeful about the fact that this one doesn’t require moving from one city to another.  Though I’ll be on the go a lot in the months ahead, I’ll always be looping back to the South Loop….and in a little over a year, I return to teaching in the subjects I love and absent the perpetual responsibility of all the operations being on my watch.

I leave the job with — most of all — a sense of gratitude to my marvelous colleagues on the faculty and staff, each of whom contributed to the transformation we all witnessed in that dozen years.  Now my liberation from the Mountain of Administrative Hellacity is upon me and I plunge off its high ledge with glee.  And gratitude.  And a really good parachute.  Wheee!



11. A Saturday.


In the sweep to purge my household of unnecessary, unwanted, unknown or forgotten items and store That Which Must Be Kept For Now efficiently and accessibly, I plunged through a box of letters and a bag of notebooks this afternoon.  I may save the letters for another time (they included my mournful letters to my high school boyfriend during the summer between our junior and senior years when he was working at a camp in the Adirondacks while I stayed home in Virginia).  The notebooks were mostly dismiss-able, excepting the one I kept in graduate school while studying and writing poetry with the still-marvelous poet, Peter Klappert.  (He’s still teaching at George Mason University and his collections of poetry are on Amazon.)  I began flipping through it with curiosity and eventually had to sit down and really read.

My own poems in this notebook interested me considerably less than re-examining the exercises and assignments he gave us (along with examples).  As I sorted through the villanelles, list and catalogue poems, epigrams, and adaptations among others, and reviewed his instructions, I realized anew what a fine teacher I had in him and what a trove of instructions I have stumbled back upon lo these many years later.  It occurred to me that it might be an interesting new exercise to give myself the course all over again — well, to follow Peter’s decades-old instructions — and see what comes of it NOW.  In his final feedback of my work (I got an A- in the course, it says so on his note), a long and insightful (and not entirely complimentary, he didn’t like the “naivete and sprightliness” of most of my poems) paragraph, he noted at one point, “Conscientious & successful revisions of almost everything…a fine ability to look at what she is doing in an almost abstract, theoretical way – to see the aesthetic problems inherent in something, as a chess player might view a game.”  He encouraged  trusting my craziness more, to take wilder risks and experiment on my own.

It’s not bad advice for any artist.