Technically I’m on vacation through the end of the month, but for all intents and purposes, I’m retired from Miami-Dade County Public Schools as of yesterday afternoon.
It was a normal day at the office. I got in at my usual time, caught up on a few e-mails, did some budget transfers and uploads of new entries, and sat with one of my co-workers who will be picking up my programs. At noon we had a little pizza party in the conference room as one last excuse to party due to my departure.
But in a fitting bit of what goes around comes around, I spent part of yesterday afternoon searching our old FileMaker Pro database for information on a program that we had not had since 2003. As it happens, my computer was the only one in the office with the old system still installed. So I spent the last hour writing up the procedure for accessing a database system that had not been used since 2010.
I drove home — I’d driven the Pontiac because I had boxes to take away and I thought it would be a fitting closing of the circle to drive the same car I’d driven to my first day on the job — and put the boxes in my home office. Just another day. But this morning it feels a little different.
This has been a hell of a weekend in every conceivable way.
To quote Lanford Wilson, “[He] didn’t believe in death and I don’t either…. There’s no such thing. It goes on and then it stops. You can’t worry about the stopping, you have to worry about the going on.”
This is going to be one of those truncated weeks again for me as I get ready to head off to Independence, Kansas for my 26th trip to the William Inge Festival. This year I’m standing in for a friend as host of the scholars conference, so I’ll get to see most of the events, including the New Play Lab, without having to prepare much or be nervous about a production of a play of mine.
In all the years I’ve been going, I’ve always found it both calming and enlightening to go to this small town in the prairie (about ten miles north of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “little house on the prairie”). It reminds me of the place I grew up, and even if we are poles apart politically, the people are friendly and welcoming, and far more willing to welcome the eccentricities of big-city folk than if the tables were turned. They do more than tolerate the visitors; they’re actually happy to have us, at least for a little while, and even if they may feel that our values don’t match theirs, I’ve never felt as if it was a zero sum game. There is something to be said for mutual respect.
I know that it’s trendy on TV to pit one group against the other; that sells papers and boosts ratings. And I know that it’s easy to say “both sides do it” and “don’t bother to argue with them.” Rather, I’d like to think that the impression I leave on the people I meet there is that while I may be a lily-livered liberal snowflake faerie and they’re right-wing nutsery, we can still occupy the same space at the same time for four days and still come home with the feeling of having learned more than just something about theatre history.
I need to take care of some stuff that’s come up so I’m taking today off. I’ll check in later this morning.
December 22, 1988 — I graduated from the University of Colorado with my PhD. I am sure there were a lot of impressed — if not surprised — people, including my teachers in high school, including one during my tenure at St. George’s who informed me that I could only aspire to being an auto mechanic. I suppose to him that represented the dregs of society, but I know a number of them and they are some of the smartest people I know. So, thanks, Mr. Sykes (with your M.A.) wherever you are.
I initially set out to become a professor of playwriting and dramatic lit, but life has a strange way of refocusing the best intentions. While I didn’t end up as a member of a theatre department on the hunt for tenure, I did find a very good career in education administration helping a large school district get and administer grant funding. So in one way or another, my work has touched the lives and improved the education of every student in the fourth-largest school district in the country. And when I’m not doing that, I get to write and share my work on stage. So I think it’s worked out pretty well.