I've been staring at the numbers for days. They're low, just slightly over half the size of last year's spring class. No amount of staring makes them look better. In one moment I'm embarrassed, in the next defensive. Balance seems along way away.
An e-mail was sent to all new students with some instructions for a task they need to complete before orientation on Monday. The communication prompted quick replies from two. One e-mailed back to say she will be sitting out a semester. Her father is terminally ill. She wants to spend as much time with him as she can. The other has decided to defer for at least a semester. She's applied for a volunteer program that will require a two-year commitment if she's accepted. She doesn't want to start seminary and then drop out right away. Now we're under half the size of last spring's incoming class.
The phone rang all day. People who had put off completing their applications wanted to know if there's still time to get in. They're too late, but I was tempted to fudge, to let them in to save face. I resisted. It's not worth it just to boost the numbers.
The president came in to my office. He wanted to know what the numbers for spring are so he could report on them at the banquet tonight. I looked down, and refused to make eye contact with him. It's embarrassing to recite them for him. The first number I gave prompted him to put away his pen. He moved on to plan B. He would have to report something else instead. I gave him some good news on the new retention strategy we're using. He seemed satisfied, but my ego was bruised. It's not the outcome I want. It won't be the celebration I wished for at the end of my first semester on the job.
At the banquet, the person I replaced when I came on board sat at the table with me. All night I watched as student after student, alum after alum, came by to tell her how much she's missed. It was not personal, but it felt that way. Former director has been present at half of the meetings where I've recruited. She's everywhere, a constant reminder of the legacy she left behind.
I live with demons. They are not voices I actually hear. They do not possess my body and contort my face or change my voice. No medication will control them. Instead, they taunt me. They tell me that I've failed. They convince me I'm lazy, that I'll never be any good at anything I do. They won't let go.
I look deep inside. I want to see their faces, to hear their voices clearly to know who they are. I look deep. And I see my self. The same familiar face, the old voice.
So much has changed, yet nothing has changed.