All those years

I’ve been meaning to post on how much I am enjoying my job these days. “Director of the Governor’s Honors Program”–I never get tired of saying it, and those of you who have had to endure my saying it know that I can’t manage it without grinning.

I’m still petrified that I’m going to screw up in a major way, but so far my blunders have been minor and the kind that only someone a lot more anal than I would have caught. Nothing irremediable yet, so I think we’re OK.

One of the projects I’ve been working on is adding all the GHP participants ever to a master database. For the past 15 years or so, it’s easy: you just import the students from that summer’s database into the master database. (Remind me to tell you how Galen Honea and John Tibbetts II saved western civilization.  It’s true!)  But there are 35 years of students who don’t fall into that category.

My predecessors, who started the project, got a lot done, but this week I discovered I was missing about 20 years. Not a problem. Earlier, I had organized all the archival files, so it’s a piece of cake to go pull a folder and start typing in the list. It’s not that big a deal, since all we’re including is the year, the campus, the major, first name, last name, and school. The database looks up the system, and I can make it auto-enter the year, campus, and major. I also have devised it so that it will auto-fill the name and school based on what’s already in there, so I can rip through an entire year (about 600 students) in an afternoon.

From the very first year I worked on, 1976, names started jumping out at me: kids who grew up to teach at GHP (and are still teaching); kids from Newnan, etc. I’ve started seeing kids I taught. It’s neat in a maudlin, nostalgic kind of way.

Today, the full impact of my project hit me: I’m typing in 1976 through 1995. That is, essentially, from the year I started teaching to the year before I returned to GHP full time in 1996. I’m going to be seeing a lot of names in the next couple of weeks, a lot of people who have come and gone, a lot of memories of relationships that of course no longer exist for the most part.

This is a major part of growing old, of course, the bittersweet reflections on les neiges d’antan and all those beautiful times and faces that fade. Part of wisdom, I think, is the ability to look back with nostalgia but not regret. It would be very foolish to be bitter about losing the past, would it not? There are those who do, I know, but madness that way lies. You can’t reclaim it—although of course there’s always Facebook for reconnecting, which I have certainly availed myself of—so I’m thinking that kind of reaction must be pathological fear of having nothing left in you. Am I making sense?

To be sure, I had better have plenty left in me if I’m going to play at being the Director of the Governor’s Honors Program. Every day and every way taxes my ability to learn new procedures, especially the arcana of state finances. But—it’s fun. Pure, exhilarating fun. Along with the bittersweet carpal tunnel syndrome that comes from typing in 1800 kids whose lives were changed one summer.

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