Back to school: A tribute to the familiar

Today was the first day of the Fall semester at UCF…which meant ridiculous traffic and crowds everywhere. I hear they are estimating the enrollment at 56,000 for this year! I hope we can hit 100K soon…that would be sweet! And if they would just replace football with a whole university tug of war competition…we’d dominate everyone!

I always forget how nice and peaceful the summers are here until the first day of full term smacks me in the face. My only saving grace is that I get to campus fairly early (so parking is no problem) and I don’t venture away from my desk except for lunch at the Q. Unfortunately, my lunch routine is pretty much wrecked. Not only did I have to wait in line forever, but there were no seats. I walked around for a bit trying to find somewhere (kind of reminded me of the high school cafeteria…except I no longer cared about sitting by myself), before giving up and retreating back to the lab conference room. Luckily it was empty…so things could have been worse.

Anyway, knowing what lies ahead for me this year has put me in a reflective mood on this particular first day. 11 years ago I first set foot on campus at UCF as a freshman. In one way or another, this place has been a focal point of my life ever since. I was in school for 4 years and I’ve worked here for almost 4 more. And in the intervening years, there were the return trips for basketball games and such. It’s kind of strange to think that this could be…depending on what happens this year and beyond…the last “first day” I experience at UCF.

No matter what happens, UCF will be the place I most associate with my early adult life. It’s seen me through some of my very worst and very best periods. I have a lot of personal history here and I will miss the comfort of familiarity that it has provided through the years. However, I often find staying connected to one place for a long time presents its own problems. For example, I basically lived in the same place (2 different houses…but side by side) from the age of 11 to 26. Obviously, I changed and my life changed a lot during that time. But with no spatial boundaries to demarcate the different life phases…I often find that memories start to fade and blur together. I find the same has happened for me at UCF. My work years far outweigh my student years in my memory. That being said…I wouldn’t change a thing about the path I’ve taken to this point. That comfort of things familiar is what I needed to get me through and is what allowed me to forge such unbreakable bonds with the people that mean the most to me. I will always be grateful for that opportunity. And, it ultimately gave me strength to find the person that has so clearly changed my life for the better. The person that has, in large part, allowed me to push my boundaries and re-discover my potential.

So it is that I pay homage to UCF and my very comfortable life on this first day of school. Thank you for allowing me to blur out the background and thus maintain my sanity in the face of my mundane and unfulfilling professional existence. But, thank you most of all for giving me the belief in myself to try something new. However it turns out…you will always be a part of who I am and who I become. And I’m sure I’ll be back soon…maybe for good if I can’t break your spell (by the way…what’s the current betting line on my ultimate return to UCF? I need to check Vegas.)