Kansans embrace change, especially when we understand that doing so makes us stronger, more resilient, more unified. Although we know that change, generally in the form of disruption, can be daunting because it means a departure from our current certainty, the opportunity to redefine who we are and what we are becoming is even more exhilarating than the fear of letting go. And when we know that our foundations are strong enough to support this disruption to our status quo, the freedom of discovery is that much sweeter.
To be sure, the timeline of our land is characterized by change. From the settlements of First Nations people thousands of years ago through the 16th century when Coronado first arrived in the region, followed by European emigrants in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the establishment of the Santa Fe Trail through Kansas in 1821, our official joining of the Union as a free state in 1861, and even the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v Board of Education in 1954, which designated separate educational facilities as inherently unequal, Kansans are national leaders in new beginnings.
As a Kansan and an educational leader, I am an advocate for, and practitioner of, change. And while Kansas history is well-known for the dramatic events that have altered its trajectory, some of the most vital disruptions are those in our personal lives that allow us to discover our own identities. As a classroom educator for 20 years, I know that meaningful growth does not happen without this disruption. After all, without being disrupted, stagnation occurs.
Over the Independence Day holiday, my oldest son and my nephew decided to take the afternoon to go on a little adventure to locate an ideal, remote camping area somewhere on the perimeter of our lake.
Both of these boys are currently experiencing dramatic change: My son, at 16, is moving into late adolescence and has clearly identified athletic and academic goals for post-secondary school. My nephew at 18, is on the cusp of a major move to university in September and immersed in the joys of early adulthood. They are cousins, but they are also lifelong friends. There is no doubt that they are well-aware of the inevitable disruptions in their respective lives and to their friendship in the months and years ahead. So, our talk about going camping and fishing in the weeks to come turned to the idea of locating that campsite now. I suspect that they, perhaps like myself, felt the urge to solidify plans before we let too many days pass and the opportunity slip away.
Change is coming; it has to. And while the changes ahead, in our country, in our state, and in our lives are understandably uncomfortable, imagine how scary it would be without change. The status quo is not a place of discovery. Rather, to venture out into the world is to really learn about ourselves. Take the time to connect with those most meaningful to you, perhaps those who helped inspire you forward in order to ensure your foundation is strong. A camping trip, a trail hike, or even a rock skipping competition with family and friends can be rejuvenating. Laura Ingalls Wilder, a native Kansan, wrote that “it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” These are the “simple things of life” Wilder was talking about, and they are found everywhere in our beautiful state. It would do us well to embrace them so that our individual and collective move forward is characterized by strength and unity. Stay safe. Be well. See you in the country.