Facing Formidable Transitions
While every June brings with it a significant period of transition, this year is even more bittersweet, with Barbara Riley handing the reins over to Kai Bynum. Faculty members depart. Seniors prepare to leave their homes to start new lives. Returning students relinquish their control over their current, comfortable patterns and are forced to assume new roles in the coming year. While dealing with change does not come easily to many, it is surprising how often and unthinkingly we deal with and adapt to transitions in life.
Transitions do not always have to be formidable - at one level, they occur continuously on a small scale. Road construction blocks one’s usual route to school, causing one to choose another without a moment’s delay. A chilly day in June calls for an extra layer of warmth that warrants only a minor comment on the idiosyncrasies of the weather. A last minute substitution to the Hopkins lunch menu is viewed as a catastrophe until the first sighting of the alternative. Adapting to small changes in life is part of a human’s inner structure. So why is it that, when they grow bigger, it becomes difficult to simply adapt and change?
Bigger transitions are scary at first, yet soon become the norm. For example, over the past ten years, the current generation has observed monumental transitions in technology. While today’s seventh graders don’t know life without tablets and smartphones, juniors and seniors at Hopkins grew up with desktop computers and flip phones. With the transition in technology, the older generations of students have adapted to the obvious and significant benefits afforded to them by technology. Though the skeptical may argue that this has more to do with social voyeurism in the form of Snapchat and Instagram, the overarching point here is that even significant transition is often painless and nearly always advantageous.
Then there are the events that affect The Hill more directly in time frames of a year or less. At first, we approach them with trepidation, but soon learn to embrace transition with eagerness and anticipation. This year marks what may seem to be a seismic change at Hopkins with Riley retiring and Bynum assuming the position of Head. Riley has been at Hopkins for 20 years, her tenure strong and impressive, so it is understandable to be reminiscent and sad. However, on the other hand, the Hopkins community looks forward with a sense of anticipation to the Kai Bynum era. Clearly, while the void left by Riley’s departure will not be replicated, the Hopkins community fully expects Bynum to create his own place in the hearts and minds of the Hopkins community.
At an individual level, without realizing it, students experience and adapt to their own changes throughout the academic year. As incoming freshmen, students are apprehensive and wary of the shift to high school. However, they soon grow accustomed to their daily schedules, make new friends, fall in love with their classes (mostly), and grow to love the new year. New sophomores become accustomed to more free periods and more authority, while rising juniors face up to the challenges of the college process and standardized tests. Then the approaching horizon of graduation closes in and students become seniors. For them, June represents the loss of two homes: Hopkins and their own, physical houses. Without realizing it, each and every member of the student body does what the dinosaurs didn’t: evolve with the transitioning environment.
Yet, with the bittersweet farewells and the seemingly unwelcome transitions, fresh opportunities arrive. A new year brings a chance to start over and to wipe the slate clean. While it is true that only the seniors are officially graduating from high school, each student and faculty member will be graduating in his or her own way. But as Mufasa said in The Lion King, “We are all connected in the circle of life.” So let the circle of life come to a close. The hour hand of the clock has arrived at midnight and a new day transitions.
Farewell, Barbara Riley, and welcome, Kai Bynum; Hopkins is in transition.