Off Ramp

7 12 2011

There are few things more exciting than a road trip. Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel took a season-long road trip from New York to Los Angeles in I Love Lucy. Ted and Marshall recounted a crazy trip to Chicago in “Duel Citizenship” on How I Met Your Mother. Chevy Chase took us on four Vacation installments, the first of which was an amazing journey to Wally World (“Sorry folks! We’re closed!”).And Steve Martin and John Candy wound up being reluctant road trippers on Planes, Trains & Automobiles.

While we Americans love to lay claim to the road trip as our distinct cultural experience, I think more importantly it speaks to our inner nomad. Adventure. Wanderlust. Saying the hell with it all and just getting away.

And while most of us wish these road trips would never end (possible exceptions being Martin and Candy), the sad reality is that they must come to a close.

Like this one.

We started this great learning adventure on the 29th of August. Ninety-seven blogs later (no kidding), we have come to the end of our tour of duty together. But while the journey may be over as far as you and I are concerned, it does not mean that the wheels have fallen off our vehicles. We’ll just be traveling separately. Learning goes on.

And so does change. It is a reality that anything not changing is in fact dying. People. Businesses. Ideologies. Governments. Even (perish the thought) religions. (I’ll let you battle that one on your own.)

Which is why I wrap this course under the cloak of Change. Yes, I know I am anthropomorphizing something that for many is a hard pill to swallow. But Change is a friend who transcends time and space; she is a stumbling block to the stubborn, but a warm welcome to those of open mind and resilience. Deny her, and she will beat you with a vengeance. Embrace her, and she will love you for eternity.

Even in our short 14 weeks together, much has changed. Facebook is in the process of unleashing its new Timeline feature. A flock of new products have been introduced (something on the order of 4000). Republican presidential candidates have come and gone, smoking or not. It’s just not the same place we inhabited at the end of summer’s intense heat.

I am not sure my students realize this, but I am the lucky one in all of this. It is neither burden nor chore for me to write daily for you. Why? Because I get to read your replies. I am not looking for affirmation or agreement. No, many of you have boldly stood up to me and disagreed. For those who seized the moment and fearlessly challenged me, I am grateful. For those who restrained themselves, I can only say I wish you had cut loose. It’s OK.

And for all of the comments you posted this semester, I have but two words: Thank you. You made my semester.

OK, six words.

One of the things I like doing with my kids is something that most 52-year-old men would never be caught dead trying: jumping on the trampoline. I am sure I am quite the sight. I know I am, because the kids are laughing hysterically. As much as I try to stay in good shape, I am just not as limber as a 10-year-old. Or coordinated.

Rob Bell wrote of his own father-sons jumping experiences in Velvet Elvis, “It is on this trampoline that God has started to make more sense to me.” I’d like to extend the analogy by saying that it is on our trampoline that life makes more sense to me.

It is a concert of ups. Downs. You. Me. Together. Apart. Reaching. Falling. But all the time fluid.

Sometimes we land perfectly. Sometimes we hit with a thud. And sometimes, when everything goes just right, one of us winds up launching about 15 feet in the air.

Change is a lot like the trampoline. It’s about being willing to cut loose. Have fun. Take chances. Embrace the moment. The alternative is to sit on the deck and just watch.

And now as we bring this road trip to a close, may you see the world through a different lens than when we started. May you fill your tank often, focus on the road ahead, and keep your safety belts fastened, for the future is a crazy uncharted place to navigate. And may you be willing to hop on the trampoline and laugh, scream and holler like a kid. Cut loose. Everybody. Because life is pretty boring sitting on the deck.

Dr “Go Ahead And Jump” Gerlich


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