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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

End of My Holdout

I have posted rarely recently. The major international action is over for the year, but also I've been very busy. I'm coaching the boys' cross country team at the school where I teach, and I've also been trying to sell my house (a six-pack says I get an offer before the week is out).

My home for almost the entirety of the last eighteen years has been the college town of Bowling Green, Ohio. My wife defends her doctoral dissertation next Monday, and five weeks ago she got a good job in Ann Arbor, a good 90 minute drive from here. Originally the plan called for moving to Ann Arbor, because why wouldn't you live in the greatest city in the Midwest if you had the chance?

For someone with a mathematics degree, it's odd how many of my life's important decisions have been made irrationally, and that I'm OK with it. My wife and I are both from Toledo (where I've been employed for the last 13 years) and a few weeks back we started talking about how Toledoans rarely move away because we're all so family-oriented. Within fifteen minutes we'd reversed ourselves, quit looking for housing in Ann Arbor, started looking in the Toledo area, and had our heart set on a specific house. We'll be closing on it in three weeks, with possession due 15 days later. My wife will be stuck with a 40-minute commute, while mine will go from its current 35 minutes down to a measly ten.

Track & field actually had a hand in this. I picked up coaching a year ago when I was asked but didn't take the long view, figuring I'd be gone in another year. When this season rolled around I thought I'd be gone by January. My team is mostly freshmen with only one senior and to say they're not very good is being charitable. But a funny thing happened; I didn't want to leave these kids behind.

The athletes on my team were slow starters--summer workouts were spotty and they were clueless about what it was going to take to race even decently. Still, their improvement has been huge, and now they're really charged up, asking me about what to do over the winter and thinking big about next year. They're your basic goofy 14- and 15-year-olds and all get along very well, some of them the best of friends.

After teaching for all these years, I thought I was an expert on high schoolers and what being a teenager is all about, and where I missed something I got reminded by shows like Freaks and Geeks or movies like The Breakfast Club. But I forgot a big thing, maybe the biggest. While driving home the other day I heard an old song on the radio that sang about "walking and talking and laughing about, dreaming the things that you want will work out". And I realized that's exactly what these boys are doing. The best possible thing adolescents can have is an idea of the future as wide open and the belief that whatever they want to happen can happen. When they share it with their friends it's even better. Not every teenager gets to feel this way, and those who do are still so mired in all the other crap they have to go through that we adults forget all about it. But we shouldn't. It's the magic of youth.

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