Dear Old State, Dear Old State

And just like that it was over.

A few weeks ago I did what I’ve come to always do on the final day of my classes. I lead another group of students through some more reflective improv to end yet another semester. I think this was my 19th year being a teacher. Yikes. It might be twenty. I’m not much with math. And people who teach for nearly twenty years start to lose their minds a little bit. And their hair.

Thank God I’ve still got my good looks. And my health. Sort of. Hashtag Covid.


My latest group of students shared their final projects. I said some closing words. Finished another literacy education block. And then my time at Theeeee Pennsylvania State University (ALTOOOOONA!) campus was over.

I left students’ projects in my office. Took a look around. Empty bookshelves. Nothing on the walls. It was as though I were never there.

Walked out the doors of Hawthorn Building. Took a long look at the duck pond. That’s my favorite part of Penn State Altoona. The duck pond. It used to be a swimming pool in the 20’s. Now it’s a duck pond. Go figure.

Got in my car and drove back to State College. Through the green rolling hills that have been my commute for seven years.


Seven years!

That’s a long time. That’s how long I’ve been in Pennsylvania. Been at Penn State. Been learning how to be a professor. How to be a scholar. How to be a parent. How to be a better husband. How to be an adult. All of this is a work in progress, but I think I’m further along than I was in 2015, when we first moved out here. So that’s good.

Further along how? I think I’m kinder. Gentler. Wiser. I think I’m better at loving other people, and it seems to me that’s an important thing to learn to do.

I’ve certainly got all sorts of flaws. Faults and cracks. Filling in the blanks and gaps.

Oops. Now I’m quoting lyrics from Frightened Rabbit. I must really miss my CD’s. The ones I gave away to my colleagues. I blogged about that a few weeks ago.

I gave away my CD’s. I gave away my ownership of Happy Valley Improv. Seems to me it is loving to give to others. To give away from myself.

Giving things away from myself feels important as I give away this life we’ve built in Pennsylvania, safe in the improvisational knowledge that once something is conjured it doesn’t go away. It simply adds energy to whatever comes next.

And I don’t know what comes next.


I do know that Penn State has been good to me. Happy Valley has been good to me. Good to my family. I’ll miss it. We’ll miss it.

Of course there have been challenges here. And disappointments. But there’s also been joy. Friendships. Discovery. Realization. All that sort of stuff that happens to people as they move through this world.

And, importantly, I’ve built things here. A great author wrote at length about the importance of building things. Especially with others. An even greater author, my hero Kurt Vonnegut, wrote that when you build something your soul grows. No matter how small that something is. Write a poem. Sing in the shower. Kurt thought all of that grows the soul. I’ve been about soul growing work out here. In my teaching. In my improv. In my writing. I just keep building. I don’t have much in the way of money to show for this stuff. But I’ve got plenty in the way of soul. So I’ll keep chasing that as we move to Iowa.

I’ll just keep building, I guess. Because that’s what I do. And that’s what seems right to do. And I’ll give the things I’ve built here away now as I move onto whatever is next. Goodbye, dear old state, goodbye.

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