One of the hardest things in Magic is leaving Magic players behind. There is a bond which unifies our community beyond the game itself. There is a unique character to our hobby which fortifies ties that link us together. I don't see people who meet over golfing or at the racetrack or playing chess with the same connection that we have with each other. Every single Magic player is a friend you simply have yet to meet.
This game is special in a way that outshines the cardboard borders of a land or spell. It is not Magic which brings us all together irrespective of our age background national character race or any other identifying characteristics. Instead is it magic itself without a capital letter. It's an old sort of magic deep in the veins of our collective body. There is a hidden link that this game taps into which few other hobbies see.
In May I was let go from a job and career that I truly love. Part of my responsibility as a building manager is to ensure that we have student staff on duty at all times after 5 PM and one night for six hours I forgot to get someone to cover duty when we still had about 25 residents in the building. It was completely my fault and I certainly cannot blame anyone else for it. It was the first time I'd ever made a mistake like that and I hope it will never happen again.
As some of you might know I worked at Eastern Michigan University for six years running residence halls and then left for a year to go to London to study. I came back very early due to unforeseen circumstances in late 2007 and then was out of work for a year while I tried to get a job in the field. Eventually in November 2008 I was picked up by Wayne State University as a building director for their housing department. I always wanted to live in a big city growing up. I never thought it would be Detroit but I loved living and working in the arts section of the city near all of the great shopping eating and activities of that place.
I have built a career out of working with students in various ways from judicial hearings to roommate mediations to academic advising and more. It's my passion to help college students. Any chance at continuing my career took a serious dovetail. I realized in 2007 and 2008 that this is a very hard field in which to find a job. There are tons of applicants for every position. A simple assistant director position could have hundreds of qualified applicants to sift through. A building director job could have a similar number at some schools.
I kept trying to find a new career but it was hard. There is a severe bias in this field against:
- People who are getting older (I'm in my mid 30s).
- People who are straight white males (diversity is rightly emphasized but unfortunately only visible diversity is considered while things such as geographic diversity educational diversity or religious diversity don't really matter).
- People who do not have one of two specific degrees to work with students. (The job requires training in student development theory. It also requires tasks such as budgeting and management which are not taught in student development degrees but which I was trained on with my Masters in Public Administration).
With three strikes against me finding a new job was already tough. I'd been applying for jobs for a while. Now add to that the fact that I just got fired from my previous one and I found myself in a crisis.
This is my passion in life. This is my calling—to work with college students. I don't have to necessarily work in residence life but to not work with college students at all? To not have any student affairs job (or anything similar) just seemed impossible. What do I do now?
College student have changed significantly since I started working with them. This new generation has very different needs than the old one did. For those not in the know there are experts who look at the similar experiences of a generation and show how that plays out in defining similar characteristic that the generation in question has in common. For example Americans roughly my age recall being lied to by every single adult in our lives: teachers parents preachers politicians newscasters and more. We were lied to about the world around us during the end of the Cold War. Communists were evil the Soviet Union was the evil empire and they were all so powerful that they were our equals and would last for decades.
Then 1989 happened we saw the Soviet Union for the weakling it had truly been and the Iron Curtain countries for what they had been and scales fell off our eyes. We remembered the vast lies we had been told by adults during the 1980s "Satan Scare" (where everything was Satanic including taking an album and running it backwards). We remembered the vast propaganda about Cold War history. (For example the massive one-sided retelling of the Bay of Pigs Invasion or the Cuban Missile Crisis. I still remember my teacher literally saying "Thank God that Khrushchev in a glaring moment of sanity backed off" and that "We only pulled our missiles out of Turkey because we wanted to give him something to save face because they weren't important" forgetting the fact that we declared an act of war first with the blockade.) These similar experiences gave my generation a severe distrust of authority at work school and in politics.
Similar experiences unite this generation at college as well. People who are eighteen right now have spent a majority of their life after 9/11 happened. They have a different set of experiences. They are a generation of wanted children whose parents are always around them. When I started this job a parent would never call me about their child unless something very serious was happening. If my father had called my college on my behalf we would have had the argument of the century and I would have won. But now parents call about everything. A parent will call about the noise two doors down on their student's floor. The student won't have told the RA on the floor nor will they have walked to the door and politely asked the person to turn it down. Instead the parent calls me to take care of it.
Like every generation there are some great things. Parents are more involved in evaluating grades and punishing children who need it. This generation really respects authority a lot and my conduct hearings show it. College students volunteer a lot more for things. There was a time when you couldn't get a full executive board of seven students for your Hall Council no matter what you tried but now you get thirty students interested without having to do anything. And some previous judicial hazards are much reduced. I had about five underage alcohol cases in the last year with my freshmen. It's a different culture.
And every generation also has some challenges. A large number of people in this culture have not learned to handle interpersonal conflicts. Their tools for taking care of conflict are severely lacking. Consider roommate conflicts and room changes as a result. When I first started my job I had a few roommate changes but by 2011-2012 in a building of 430 people I had more than 150 room changes. It's not just roommates either.
An example of how they lack these skills is how they handle a conflict. In every relationship there is a time when one person needs to just vent about another. So that person used to call up a friend or family member and vent. "My roommate ate my cookies without asking! She interrupted me three times while I was talking! She turns on the light when she comes home late and wakes me up!" This stuff is normal for most relationships but what this generation is doing is venting about their feelings online instead of offline in a secret phone call. They are posting their feelings on Twitter or Facebook when they are angry and upset. Then a friend of their roommate sees it and lets the roommate know. Now everyone sees it and it blows up. Massive drama ensues. And this is not just roommates of course but all friends. Now a simple venting comment that would have been said and gone is online for all to see and people take sides and it grows.
In an era in America where almost every child in college has never had a roommate they haven't learned many skills such as compromise negotiation and sacrifice. These are important life skills for later but with parents doing much of it with teachers and other adults and them not living in a room with a sibling to teach it to them they come to college ill-equipped to handle living in close proximity to each other (of course this doesn't apply to everyone just a significant majority).
As I worked with students I became increasingly frustrated. I felt that my hands were tied behind my back. During an era when interpersonal conflicts and verbal abuse is at a fever high a new set of skills is needed on the part of professional staff. In addition I also felt hamstrung in my ability to help mentor these students spiritually. As a Christian I believe that prayer and understanding lead to helping these situations. While not all of my students were Christian and thus would not have benefited from me turning a meeting into a session on examples from faith about dealing with these issues a good chunk of my students were. I had students that would have really benefitted from that and would have loved it. But I worked for a public institution and of course that would not have been acceptable.
Therefore I came to a decision about my future. I have decided to go back to school and procure a second master's degree. This time I will be getting a Master's in Theological Studies from a seminary. This will hopefully do a few things for me. First it will open doors again in student affairs at faith-based institutions. It removes me by two years from when I was let go and gives me a degree in the meantime. Finally my hope is that this degree will equip me properly to work with students not only as I have been but spiritually as well.
I'm not normally nervous about the future but I'm very apprehensive about going back to school. I won't be working; I'll be taking a massive amount of loans and so forth. I will be living just a mile-ish away from a store that has Magic events (I made sure). I will be attending Palmer Theological Seminary in the fall and that's in King of Prussia PA. For those unaware that's a suburb north of Philadelphia and an expensive region of the country in which to live. My new intended Magic store will be Comics & More in King of Prussia (so if you are there get ready for the arrival of your Abe [This is a joke.]).
Now I am about to leave the place I've lived and played in for eleven years. I've never thought of Michigan as my home but rather as a temporary place to reside. My home is West Virginia. But now as my final goodbyes become permanent I grow wistful.
Already so many have left or moved on. Friends have gone away after graduating joining the military or having children and the new priorities that come with that. So many friends have long since gone. The Magic group died years ago and its lingering shadow is no more than a faint wisp of memory. Life continues and new friends were made but they too will no longer be.
I've had one last flurry of Magic (and HeroClix) these last few months. Living in a spare room of a friend while I applied for various schools and worked on finances I had an opportunity to participate in both Friday Night Magic and lots of multiplayer gaming. As I write this article I have just four Fridays left before I leave and fewer still when this is published. That's all I have left in the tank. Just four Fridays; it's not enough.
I'm often asked how I'm doing. The truth is that I'm overwhelmed. People think I'm talking about all of the things that go into applying for an apartment and last minute scholarships and loans. But that's not it. I'm not overwhelmed with minutiae and sundries. Instead I am overwhelmed by one simple thing: memories. Recollections of things past hit me like a furious fist of yore. I am staggered by every single memory I have of every single Magic game played in Michigan. The combination of all of them at once forces me to stop and regather myself. Tears stain my eyes as I recall all of the friends I've met while flipping cards.
Despite the massive apprehensions I have finding a good group of people to play Magic with is not one of them. There will always be new Magic games and new Magic friends for you. That's a sure bet. Remember all Magic players are already your friends because this tether binds all of us in unity and strength. The one thing I can rely on is that new friendships will come. New Magic will be played.
So farewell Michigan and to all of the fun times that we had. So long to all of the friendships carved by decks dice and counters. It was a fun eleven years. You ended up being a nice temporary place of residence and I'll miss you. Goodbye Michigan!