Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Come Back to Texas - A Return to Oz

This week, I'm headed to Texas for ten days. While I've been back for flight layovers and a short conference, this is the first time I've have extended time since I moved away. This is also the first time I'll be in Bryan/College Station since my final day as a resident in June 2011.

In honor of that, I was going to write a post reflecting on why Texas, specifically Aggieland means so much to me. Looking for inspiration, I decided to revisit a facebook note I'd written to share my feelings about leaving six years ago. 

Y'all, after all the ugly cries subsided, I realized I didn't need to write a new post. The sentiments still perfectly encapsulate my feelings.

As I'm now far on the other side of life as a temporary Texan, I've realized how an experience can grow sweeter with time. I used to spend my time in Texas counting down until the next time I'd be "home" in Kansas. What I failed to see then was that I was already home, that Texas will always also be home.

Much of who I am now was influenced by my time as an Aggie. The spirit of the campus, the love of the people, and the time I was figuring life out on my own were critical elements in making the current version of me. 

As you read, I suggest you put the following song on repeat. My friend Amber used to send me the lyrics when I was back home in Kansas. Until I left Texas, I didn't really understand how wonderful it was to come back.

Farewell to Oz 
(First Published 5/26/2011)

So, today begins a week of goodbyes. 

As this begins , I'd like to take the time to share a story about a girl from Kansas . . . 

Four years ago, a 24 year old girl packed up her bags and drove on down to Texas. She didn't really know what awaited her on this adventure. In fact, all she had ever really known was Kansas. She knew the people, the places, the seasons, and it was safe. This girl wasn't one to take risks, but there was something inside her that told her she should take a chance on Texas. So, she did. 

The feeling she felt when she got to Texas (and for much of the first year) was a little like that moment where Dorothy first steps out of her house and into the land of Oz. She's overwhelmed. Everything is so different. Kansas was predictable, and Oz is just crazy. I (so, in case you haven't already figured this out, the girl in the story is me, and writing in third person is wearing me out, so I'm switching over) didn't know what to think about Texas. I'd be lying if I said that much of my first year wasn't full of tears and longing for home. There were many nights where I wished I had my own ruby red slippers to take me back, but something kept me in Texas.

And you know what it was? It was the people. When you look at Dorothy's story, she had so many great friends and family in Kansas. But what she didn't realize was that she had lessons she was destined to learn through the people she met in Oz. As she goes along the Yellow Brick Road, she meets people who truly change her life. And when I think of the last four years, I think of all the lessons I've learned along my own yellow brick road. Some have been easy, and some have been hard, but each of these lessons have shaped me. As I prepare to click my heels together and go back home (or drive in my car, I wish it was as easy as heel clicking), I go back a better and stronger person because I've been here.

In this last week of Texas, I'd like to take the time to thank some of those people I've met along the way.

There are people here who have been my scarecrows. They have the brains. They've challenged me. They've pushed me to think about solutions to problems differently. They've encouraged me to keep the wheels turning and to keep making progress. They have allowed me to be creative. They've never told me an idea I've had was too crazy (and believe me, there are times they could have), rather they've always said I have the resources and ability to make things happen. I am so appreciative of the faith those people have had in me.

There are people who have been my tin men (and women). They have heart. Their passion for their work has blown me away. Their excitement for what they do has amazed me. They bring so much joy to what they do. They make me laugh, they make me smile, and they have made me realize how lucky I am to do what I do. I feel so fortunate to have worked at a place where people love what they do and the company they keep. I wish everyone could be so lucky to work in such a place of love.

There are people who have been my lions. They have courage. They stand up for what they believe in. They make the decisions that might not be the most popular, but they are the ones that are right. These are people who I have the utmost respect for. I have learned from them that at the end of the day, it is our values that matter most. We have to listen to our own voice and determine what is right for us despite what others might say. I am thankful for those people who have shown me how to be brave.

There are people who have been my Glindas. When I've wanted to give up, they've gotten me through the tough times. When I was frustrated, they were there to lend a helping hand. When I needed to vent, they were there to listen. Some of these Glindas are here, and some of them are far away, but they all have a way of knowing when I need them, and for that, I am grateful.

And then, there are my munchkins. The munchkins are my students (and this is figuratively, not literally just to be clear). Just as the munchkins come from all different places and have all different personalities, so do my students. Some of them are shy, and some of them are loud, some of them are sweet, and some of them are . . . .well, you know, but they all make up this special, one of a kind place. When people ask me what I love most about what I do, I tell them that it's my students. I can't even begin to find the words to tell you how crazy I am about them. As I prepare to go back to Kansas, I wish I could find a way to bring them all with me, but in some regards I guess I am. Who I am as a professional and as a person is a product of who I have met along the way. From recruitment late nights to retreats to impromptu chats in my office I have loved every moment I've been able to spend with my students, and I am a better version of me because I've known them.

When I started walking down this yellow brick road four years ago, I could have never guessed that the trip would mean so much to me. For four years, I've raved on and on about the promised land (Kansas). I've prided myself on being an ambassador of sharing all that is great about Kansas with Texas. Well, here's the thing y'all, just as Dorothy fell in love with Oz, I now have a special place in my heart for Texas. Next week, I'm going back home, but here's the thing, I'm going to be leaving home, too.  Texas will always be a part of me, and I feel so blessed to have been on this adventure, but now it's time to click those heels and head back to Kansas. . .