Column: Things are finally getting brighterOne year can make an extraordinary difference in life. During this week last year I was giving final exams for four classes I was teaching, and meeting daily with our college president about student advising. In the same week, I was struggling to finish the final projects for my two graduate classes. And a whole year stretched ahead of me until graduation, filled with the same grinding level of work and stress.
By: Mary Lebens, The Farmington Independent
One year can make an extraordinary difference in life. During this week last year I was giving final exams for four classes I was teaching, and meeting daily with our college president about student advising. In the same week, I was struggling to finish the final projects for my two graduate classes. And a whole year stretched ahead of me until graduation, filled with the same grinding level of work and stress.
Then this morning, after a long journey of reading, slaving over PowerPoint presentations and writing papers, I am finally finished. Last night I listened as my name was announced, blinking into the brilliant lights overhead, and walked across the stage to get my diploma. As I stepped into the line for the photographer, I thought, “Things are finally getting brighter.” And I wasn’t just thinking about the blinding halogen lights in the auditorium. I was thinking about the future, broadly, my future, but also that of my classmates, and everyone around us.
As the class of 2012 emerges this May and June, we will be the first class in four years to graduate in a growing job market. There is hope the recession is finally in the rear-view mirror. Perhaps this will give a little extra sparkle to graduation parties this spring, as parents can celebrate along with the graduates, their financial worries finally lightening.
In Farmington we’ve weathered a grave housing market. Each of us watched the columns of foreclosure notices grow longer every week in the local paper. We drove past homes, day after day, with battered bank notices plastered to the front door. Some of our neighbors are no longer here. For those of us lucky to remain, the ephemeral equity in our homes dwindled or even disappeared.
There is a kind of fortitude I witnessed here in Farmington over the past few years that is difficult to put into words. This fortitude is best described by actions. Amidst the downturn, people in Farmington forged ahead, contributing to their community. Generous donations helped the senior center pay off the loan for their new building two years early. Courageous entrepreneurs opened new businesses in Farmington. Now we have Shidor, Farmington’s coolest second-hand shop, and Cow Interrupted, which makes a mean grilled cheese and stacks their ice cream cones high. Through it all, residents volunteered in their children’s schools, contributed to their churches, and kept their lawns looking neat.
I started graduate school in the spring of 2007, while the economy was at its peak, and new model homes were springing up all over Farmington. My job was only 40 or 50 hours a week, so I had plenty of time for graduate classes. My house, my savings and my salary were all going up in value, so I had plenty of money for tuition as well. Yet all of those things changed. My employer assigned me extra duties as they laid off coworkers, raises disappeared and my house plummeted in value. Still, my stubbornness wouldn’t allow me to let go of graduate school. A shade of guilt colored my thoughts whenever I considered quitting. I owe it to my students to further my education and give them the best in the classroom. So I faced the final difficult year and this morning the long haul of graduate school is complete. Today I emerge into a job market where the economy is getting better.
As the fear of the recession slowly fades, the strength we’ve built up over these tough years will not. Instead that strength forms a deep well, a place where we can draw the fortitude to face future challenges. The future is bright, and we have much to celebrate. Prom, graduation parties, and Dew Days are just around the corner here in Farmington. The tough times we’ve weathered will only make these sunny celebrations sparkle a bit brighter, and leave us with memories that are all the more golden.