What is Your Sophomore Year?
Over the rest of 2016, my top writing project will be the completion of a book covering a year of significant change. In my art and my writing, I often choose places of significant conflict. This is not always negative but it does capture the struggle between competing ideas or paths. For example, when I was laid off from my super cool full time college professor job, I faced a choice: Double down on the life changes so far and modify them to work in the new schedule. Or, jump off this teacher track, chalk up this as an interesting life experience and hustle my butt back into an administrative role at another college. The choice my wife and I settled upon resembles option one. Which aligned with my writing goal to complete a book on the second year of a new experience.
Why the second year? And why call it the Sophomore Year?
The Sophomore Year appears following a year of significant change in life circumstances or approach. Adding a member to the family can count, as could losing a family member. Marriage could hearken a sophomore year. After a year of excitement and announcement and pomp and ritual, that second year can feel flat. For that wedding year, prior to that you have the engagement. And before that you have plenty of talk about the engagement. There is so much to look forward to. We create milestones and products to wear/buy and things to do and say to one another – “I take thee” “I do”. More people than ever take part in that ritual and enjoy that initial feeling of goodness. That feeling generates internally and externally. Internally, we feel validated and part of the community because we can take part in a common shared ritual that we all accept and understand. The external motivation comes from the universal positive reinforcement of our choice. Note that even the government will confer benefits for choosing marriage, perhaps they even provide some sophomore solutions themselves, such as long term investment in shared property and child raising.
Emily Post even gives you up to a year to get out those thank you letters after the wedding. They know just how fun filled and activity ridden that first year can be. But after a year, usually a routine has set in. In 2015, I left a decade of college administration leadership to blaze a new trail down the academic side of the hill. A perfect new baby came into my life at the end of 2014. By the Summer of 2016, I was laid off from my job, moving me back into an Associate Professor role. By mid-summer, I was one of 33 artists in a 2 month long installation of new artists at Riverside Art Museum. At the end of 2016, I will celebrate five years of marriage to my second (or last, or current as I sometimes say) wife. Needless to say, my second year has been full of peaks and valleys. The paths leading to and from these milestones can be good or bad for my growth.
What is the second year routine? That is a question worthy of exploration. The topics under this large umbrella are many – work, philosophy, friendship, love, parenting, teaching, volunteering – so the trick is to find ways these weave together in a way that provides greater understanding of what some of us are trying to do, or become, or merely learn, as we toddle our way towards new milestones.