Jan 212011

“Are we there yet?”

“Yes. It’s just a 500 mile driveway.”

Things to say to the kids on a cross country trip…that and, “Stop touching your brother.” and “Really? Again?”

But we slog through. It’s so much easier when there are landmarks along the way. Otherwise, it’s just undifferentiated mileposts. So we stop at the ice cream place they like, and if it’s open and I have enough money and I am not cranky (it’s like the travel equivalent of a syzygy – look it up, it’s just a great word) we stop at Reptileland. There’s Country Cupboard. There’s the appearance of Sheetzes, and Waffle Houses – then I know we’ve gone South enough.

Life is like that. It is an undifferentiated repetition of things to do to get through the day. It is a repetition of normal. Most times we like that. Normal is not surprising, it’s a groove – sometimes a rut.

But like the fox said to the prince, an hour can be an hour like no other because it is made special.

Andy said he thought that our students’ time here in school is like the hero’s journey. It is. It’s not on the scale of saving the world. This is good because I prefer that we lowly professor/mentors don’t have to die is some spectacular way so they can go on to prove themselves without us. Graduation is sufficient for that. But like the endless road trip, what differentiates one moment from another?

Achievements. There, I said it. The word. That thing we are creating. It’s a game; it’s pedagogical; it’s bird, it’s a plane, it can jump over tall buildings in a single bound…

In some contexts this gamification can seem a silly thing. I do not think it is silly at all. What we choose to celebrate can potentially be downright stupid, but there is a purpose in making note of moments: specific incidents, the passing of a point, that we did one thing over and over again in such a large number that it must be amazing,…that my socks match. (You do no realize how infrequent this is).

We do this thing in the car. Each time we come up to that border, “Welcome to <Insert State Name Here>” somebody counts down – pick a random lucid son. The sign approaches…”Three…two…one…” We all give a loud “WHOOO!” and we’ve made it to Pennsylvania! (or Maryland, or Virginia, or…)

And we know we’ve progressed. We’re that much closer, and we accomplished something.

 Posted by at 9:25 am

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