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Jun 12, 2010

Saying goodbyes

Well, it’s down to less than two weeks. My last day at UNC will be June 24 and I have been saying many goodbyes, to many people. My thinking is about what I have learned from all of them. It is not that people gave me some explicit lessons. But everyone taught me something. Just to learn how someone may think and feel; how one prefers to work and interact, what people value and dislikes – those are all great bits of knowledge, collectively called “experience.”
For example, I learned how to be careful. Once you get in a position that exposes you to many people, with their various interests, quirks, and histories, controlling your impulses, and your ego becomes a critical skill. Don’t send that furious e-mail, keep that comment to yourself, and pick your fights sparingly. Those skills are largely invisible to most people, but the lack thereof becomes quickly apparent. Thanks, Eugene, for teaching me that. I don’t think most of the College appreciates how much you keep them all out of trouble.
Here is a much abbreviated list of thanks. If you’re not on the list - it is not because I am ungrateful. I am just trying to be brief, which is a trick I learned from one of you. Or else, you taught me something we should keep just between us J.
  • Carolyn, for teaching me how to love reports
  • Karon, for always telling the truth
  • Vicky, for always doing the right thing
  • Marita, for embracing change
  • Lynette, for pushing her own limits
  • Jon, for his practical jokes
  • Susan, for teaching me how to be interested in other people
  • Rick, for showing the power of joy in everyday life
  • Gary, for his quiet wisdom
  • Fred, for constantly reinventing himself
  • Mike, for his incredible work ethic
  • Jim, for his weirdness and normality
  • Madeline, for always speaking up her mind
  • Val, for just doing what needs to be done
  • Marsha, for having a real smile
  • Irv, for doing good without asking permissions
  • All the rest of you, for four best years of my life  

I am going to take a break with this blog until early July, but then restart it. My intent is to keep the same name, at least for a while. The Rhode Island College’s mascot is the Anchor Man. I am certain it is a great team, but The Russian Anchor’s Diaries just does not have the same ring. Once a bear…

Jun 3, 2010

Winding down

Winding things down is a whole new experience; it definitely puts things into a different perspective.
For example, I have abandoned pursuing any new major projects – on improving operations, or creating new programs, etc. It is somewhat liberating and only now I realize how much time change takes, as opposed to playing defense and just maintaining things. And of course, this is Summer, so the defense play is reduced, too. My time goes into writing down policies, proposals, memos, etc.  Those are meant to document what we have been doing. As always, I can see what we can improve, but then I realize someone else has to do it now. Or, it is more likely, the next person may have a different set of priorities. As one of my colleagues commented, “The new person will change everything again.” I thought there was a hint of irony in his voice, and started to worry – are the changes I proposed and made were all for the good, or some were just for the sake of change? One hopes it is the former, but hmm, maybe other people think differently? I could not find any single change I thought was unnecessary (although there is definitely a short but painful list of failed projects). But how can I be certain?  
I also discarded a lot of paper documents and books. The documents are destroyed because we either have electronic copies, or they are very unlikely to be used by anyone. With books, it is a different story. Somehow, at this point of my life, I lost the reverential attitude towards books. I used to treasure them all, just because they were books. But now, I look at a book, and ask myself – am I going to ever re-read it? And if the answer is no, it goes to the recycling bin. It is amazing how many bad, uninteresting books one can accumulate. I am irritated by ugly, uninspiring, or just outdated books. Not sure why, perhaps it is because in the middle age, one can see the end of one’s life, and is more realistic about what one can and cannot do. The illusions about finding a bunch of time and re-reading some dusty books are all gone. Vicky found my trips to the recycling bin depressing, and asked me to do it after hours or on weekends. But I must say, throwing things away does feel liberating. Here is where Svetlana and I are different. For an artist, an object may have a lot of potential – as a material for a future project, or just an object with a great shape or color or texture – it can inspire and be drawn. So, I don’t get to throw a lot of stuff at home. But it is my belief that purging one’s possessions is a good thing; it clears our minds, drawers, and hard drives.