Tomorrow is the first day of school for my daughter after a not-long-enough summer vacation. She’s excited about starting a new year at Bryant, seeing her friends again on a daily basis and getting to know a new teacher. My wife and I will take her to the playground and say goodbye as she files into the building with her new class. There probably won’t be the same apprehension as there was when she was entering kindergarten and saying goodbye felt somehow like letting go. But even if there aren’t any tears this year, there will still be a feeling that every time we say goodbye in the morning, she gets a little farther away from us, a little more independent. Last year, she no longer wanted me to hold her hand in line. Soon, I’m afraid I’ll be relegated to saying goodbye at the Bryant bike rack.
And this year, the first day of school will be charged with extra meaning for me. For the last 11 years, I’ve looked forward to the beginning of a new academic year. As a graduate student, it meant another year of exploration and progress toward my goal of becoming a professor. Since completing my PhD, fall has always been a season of hope that this would be the year I landed a coveted tenure-track job. This year I’ll be back on UW campus when the first-year students arrive in my class, but it will be a bittersweet experience. When I made the decision to suspend my academic job search, I relinquished the hope that this season has always brought with it. Of course, I now have new goals and dreams, new hopes for my career and family, but just like I’ll miss holding my daughter’s hand in line before school every day, recognizing the passing of a moment of our lives, I’ll miss the feeling of hope on the first fall day at the university this year.