What a difference a year makes

As the end of 2017 approaches, and I have time to reflect on the events of the past year, there are many memories running through my mind. As is usually the case, some things were good, and some were bad. For example:

  • A year ago there was great uncertainty about my career and my role at my current place of employment. I had applied and interviewed for a new, higher level role at my library, but had no idea if I’d get it or hope of actually getting it. If I didn’t get it, I wasn’t sure what I’d do next. As of today, I’ve been in that new role for almost a year and I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s been an experience that I hoped for and I am thankful for the great group of people I get to work with. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so blessed in this regard. Things aren’t perfect but I feel pretty good about the future.
  • As I took on a new, expanded role, the search began to fill the role I previously held. A few weeks ago, after a long search and a lot of prayer, the right person finally stepped into that job and I began her training. There is still a lot of transition time ahead but it’s an enormous relief to me to have the position filled, and it allows me to now think ahead to other aspects of my new job that I haven’t had the time or energy to tackle since I have been doing my old job plus my new one for almost a year.
  • Even after four years at my college, by the end of 2016, I largely still felt disconnected from the community, particularly the faculty community. At the end of 2017, I can look back on several breakthroughs where I’ve been fortunate enough to make a lot of new friends and develop relationships with many colleagues, which makes me feel more a part of things than ever before.
  • I was supposed to deliver two books in 2016; instead, midway through 2017, I basically told one publisher I needed out of the contract, and I still haven’t written the other one (which didn’t involve a contract, but still). The publisher was very patient and gracious. I felt then — and still feel — a great sense of personal disappointment and failure about this, particularly since a book project has been a lifelong career goal of mine. Several other writing projects also did not come to fruition, but I did manage to complete a few. This is an area of my life that I really need to work on and not give up on — not because I have to but because I want to. I need to focus next on a major paper that’s required for promotion. (Actually, I should have devoted a lot of time to it already and I should have had a rough draft completed by now but…). Anyway, this has been one of the lowest lows of the past year and I’m still pretty bummed about it, to be honest.
  • In June I took over leadership of an international professional organization in my field and I am now halfway through my presidential year. Even though this is the second time I’ve been elected to the role, the last time was more than seventeen years ago and a great deal has changed in the intervening years. I feel very privileged to have this role. It takes  an enormous amount of energy and drive, however.
  • One of the very best things to happen this past year is that our family gained a daughter-in-law. Our oldest son married his longtime sweetheart in April and she is a wonderful, caring person, who is the best partner for our son. They are very happy. There is so much to be thankful for in this.
  • I continued teaching Master’s level courses at Illinois, which I’ve done since 2003, but what made 2017 special is that I finally made it onto the list of teachers ranked as excellent by their students at that institution — not once, but twice. That was a big surprise.
  • I turned 50. I’m not sure much else needs to be said about that.
  • I was elected to a short stint as Faculty Secretary, filling in for a colleague on sabbatical. That was quite an interesting and worthwhile experience.
  • I was re-elected to another term as chair of the governance group for an international library open source software project. I’m pretty passionate about open source software and libraries, and was really pleased when we released a big new version of this software early in 2017. Volunteer work can be disheartening and challenging at times, and this project is no different, but at the end of 2017, I feel like the whole project has been reinvigorated with new ideas, approaches, and people.
  • We’ve had some real struggles as a family, and I continue to not do so well at work/life balance. I hope to do better in 2018. There have been many areas of struggle but one I’ll mention here is with church. We’ve been pretty unhappy with our church home of the past several years even though our two younger children continue to be heavily involved in it. (And they are very opposed to any hint of change.) My wife and I would really like to find a new place to worship in the new year.

Now I need to get off the computer and go play a game or two with my kids. The number of times when they still want to do things with their dad is dwindling rapidly so I need to take advantage while I still can.
Dear reader, may you have a blessed year ahead.

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