January 21, 2015

The Real Reason I Left Gordon College (Hint: It has to do with a bald guy named Bruce)


A few months ago, I agreed to take a position at a company called Veracross. A few people have asked me, "Why did you decide to leave Gordon?" A very fair question, and one I've thought a lot about. Before I explain why I decide to leave Gordon after about a decade (four years as a student; six as staff), I want to briefly mention a few things that had nothing to do with my decision.

Not a Reason Why I Left
As you may be aware Gordon has gotten a fair amount of press over the past few months (just Google "Gordon College Controversy" if you aren't sure what I'm talking about). The situation has been sad, hurtful, frustrating and overall exhausting. Ironically, no matter what "side" you take on the debate, I think most folks would use those same words to describe the experience.

Yet this situation had nothing to do with my decision to leave Gordon.

I believe in Gordon, and more importantly, I still trust Gordon. I trust that Gordon as an institution has the "intestinal fortitude" (a term my old basketball coach used) to get through this. I trust many of its leaders, and as long as they remain members of the community, I'm convinced they can right the ship.

I think the next few months and years will be hard. But I still have hope.

The Real Reason I Left 

The guy who repeatedly told me to "go to the mountains"
When I was a senior at Gordon I took a weight training class with a guy named Bruce. Bruce is a retired Priest, who after a series of (very) random events (including a heart attack) ended up teaching this class. I had toyed with lifting and working out somewhat seriously during my playing days, so my interest in the class did not not extend past my need to fulfill a graduation requirement. My goal (if I can call it that) for the class was to burn a handful of calories and not get hurt. Bruce had a very different agenda.

His ultimate goal was to get students to think beyond their time at Gordon. He challenged us to think about fitness over a lifetime (at the age of 60-something, I'm pretty sure Bruce can do more pullups than I can), and what type of person we wanted become after leaving Wenham, MA. On the last day of class Bruce asked me what I was hoping to do after college. I have no idea why I said what I did, but I thought for a second and told him that I hoped to go west someday and live in the mountains. I do love mountains and I think it'd be fun to live out west, but I'm not sure it had ever crossed my mind before that moment.

I finished the class, graduated and began working at Gordon, but I continued to see Bruce at the gym almost weekly. And almost weekly Bruce would ask me the same question, "When are you leaving to see those mountains." In fact, nearly every conversation went as follows:
Bruce: Hi Keith
Keith: Hi Bruce
Bruce: How's your wife?
Keith: She's great. How are you doing?
Bruce: I couldn't be better. When are you leaving to see those mountains?
After six years of this, I began to think either, 1) he wanted to get rid of me, 2) he was terrible at small talk, or 3) he knew something about these "mountains" that I didn't.  Finally it clicked, moving "west" and seeing "mountains" had nothing to geography or rock formations. Bruce understood the mountains to be something that was "other", something that was "unknown"--a new challenge. Bruce knew that I needed some additional perspective.

Gordon gave me an abundance of new perspective--perspective I'm not sure I would have gotten if I would have gone to a school in the Midwest (for example: it wasn't until I started driving to Gordon before the start of freshmen year that I discovered Massachusetts was north of New York City. Not kidding). At one time, Gordon was my mountain. Ten years later, I'm in need of a new mountain. Bruce knew this years before I did.

So I'm leaving higher education and starting a job that is drastically different than the various ones I've had a Gordon. I'm equal parts terrified and excited, and I think that is a good thing. Though I'm fairly certain there aren't any mountains in Wakefield, it is slightly west of Gordon--I'm pretty sure Bruce would say this qualifies. I'll miss the colleagues and students I've worked with over the past few years, but I'm excited to go to a company with a great reputation and one that will force me to learn new skills and meet new people.

There's a chance I'll never see Bruce again, and will never be able to say "thank you." But I think he's OK with that. In only a moderately related way, it kind of feels like that scene in Good Will Hunting. Well, minus the profanity, Boston accents and that fact that I'm about as far from a mathematical genius as possible.


 






5 comments:

  1. Perfect metaphor--love it. Can't wait to see what the new chapter holds!

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  2. I loved the post... enjoy the mountains!

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  3. Keep climbing.... onward and upward (in the words of C.S. Lewis). Thanks for the great post! I'll never look at Bruce the same when I see him in the gym...

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