Yesterday was my first day at my new job (hence the radio-silence over here in blog-land), where I am working for the university that I just graduated from, in the department where I worked for three years as a student. With this good fortune comes a great sense of familiarity in the environment and the general objectives, values, and standards…and in spite of that familiary I was overwhelmed – as is the case with the first day at any job – with new information, new software, new procedures, new schedules, and all other kinds of new things that will become second nature over the next few months.
But even more overwhelming than all the unknown was the welcoming.
It all felt oddly reminiscent of my first day on campus more than four years ago. I can remember pulling up in my parents’ minivan (a “uterus on wheels,” as I call it) and seeing hordes of student leaders in matching tee-shirts swarm the vehicle and start opening doors and pulling boxes out, hollering hellos and shouting my room number and dormitory name to each other as they started walking away with the sum of my earthly possessions. I believe I reacted a bit like Dustin Hoffman as Rain Man, rocking back and forth and mumbling nonsensical things. After a quick shot of tranquilizer, though, I was ready to go meet my roommate, unpack my things, and embark on that strange and wonderful adventure called “college.” And sure enough, over the next few days of New Student Orientation, I fell in love with the school and the people and started to forget about all the student-loan debt I would inevitably incur.
When I drove onto campus yesterday, I didn’t have a mattress pad, boxes full of school supplies, and every pair of underwear I own packed in my trunk. No one ran up to my car smiling like they were experiencing a manic episode, no one gave me a special new-student tee-shirt, and my head wasn’t spinning at the sight of so many college-aged boys in one place. But when I walked into the office, I was welcomed as warmly and genuinely as I was on my first day of college. I was greeted with hugs and smiles by everyone in the office, and every single person I ran into told me how excited they were that I would be working at the university. I’ve worked a lot of different jobs , and I cannot remember the last time I went in to work at any prior job, whether for a first day or last day or any day in between, and experienced such a welcoming and hospitable atmosphere. There is a lot of potential for cheesiness in the Christian college atmosphere, but after four years as a student, I can pretty much detect BS as well as any bomb-sniffing K9…and I’m telling you, these folks were genuine. They really were happy to find out that they’ll be seeing me three days a week from now on. And given that I was known on campus for telling inappropriate jokes, defying social norms, and hip thrusting on stage at graduation (which may or may not have made it onto the jumbo-tron screens), it was a pleasant surprise to be welcomed back with open arms rather than a muzzle and a chastity belt. To be flooded with that kind of grace on your first day of work is a blessing that I’m not sure many people ever get to experience.
It’s funny because in so many ways, I’m back where I started when I was a 19 year-old freshman. I am literally back on the same campus, and I’m dealing with the same newness and confusion of adjusting to a new lifestyle – this time, the 8-to-5 working world. But I’m not the girl I was four years ago, and that’s all the more clear from where I’m standing now…on the other side of the receptionist’s desk.
So I guess the moral of the story is that I am so grateful to work where I do, and God seems to like bringing us full circle…I can only imagine the adventures I’m going to see this time around.