One for the books

Fall 2016 has come and gone, and I have to call it a success.

It was successful in that A) I wrote many stories for my job, which were all well-received and resulted in good publicity for the University, and B) I passed my online MPA course (Public Policy Analysis), a class I found not only boring but painfully so. If one were to use professional and academic success as the standard for a good semester, then this was it.

Leaves clutter steps on the mall of Southern Arkansas University, now de-student-ized for the winter.

Leaves clutter steps on the mall of Southern Arkansas University, now de-student-ized for the winter.

Finals were last week, and today the campus is largely deserted, as one would expect it to be. The Mulerider Cafe, where I often go for coffee and oatmeal raisin cookies; the dining hall; the Student Center (locus of Chick-fil-A, Subway, etc.), and, of course, most classroom areas are closed, dark, forgotten.

The streets are filled mostly with dead leaves. There are plenty of parking places. The mall is void of students. The hallways echo with my footsteps. Virtually any bathroom on campus has become private. I’m not sure about the library, but soon it will close for the year.

Can't buy coffee here until January. Fortunately, I have a punch card.

Can’t buy coffee here until January. Fortunately, I have a punch card.

It was a busy semester. I remember Move In Day as if it were yesterday. Then Homecoming, Halloween and Thanksgiving break. Midterms were in there, too. A couple of weeks ago, we had the Celebration of Lights. Now the students have all gone home. Another year in the books.

I’ll work this week and most of next, then I’m off for about 12 days. Coming from the newspaper industry, where even five days off for me constituted a workforce crisis, this is unheard of. I will enjoy my vacation to the max (I hope). Then it’s back to work again – a good three weeks before the parking lots and residence halls refill in January.

I’ve always thought of the year in terms of school semesters. I can’t help it. Now that I work at a university, the perception of individual blocks of Spring, Summer and Fall has been permanently etched in my mind. I like it that way. You have to have signposts, mile markers, or events will blend into each other, as will the seasons, as will days, months and years. These signifiers, small in and of themselves but part of the greater picture, give my life shape and meaning.

Staff members walk on the mall at SAU. This statue is located in front of Magale Library.

Staff members walk on the mall at SAU. This statue is located in front of Magale Library.

So I’m waiting out 2016. There won’t be much for me to do between now and the start of Spring 2017. Most everyone is gone, and hardly anyone will return a phone call or email. I am superfluous, and that is the way I want it. I am glad I no longer bear the weight of The Newspaper on my head. I want time to do things right. Most of all, I want time, and at Southern Arkansas University, at the tail end of the semester, I have it.

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