I start college again two weeks from tomorrow. I took the ultimate risk in hopes that it will lead to even better possibilities for me. I rented out my house, I quit my job, I moved back in with my parents, and I enrolled in college fulltime. I’ve got goals, dreams, hopes and the belief that achieving my potential will be the ultimate reward.
And I’m sad. As I got inspired to make these choices, I knew I couldn’t leap without talking to someone who knows the possible outcomes on the other side. I knew that I needed someone experienced to give me a steady hand and help guide me along the way. I wasn’t looking for someone to tell me what to do or how to do it but I looked for someone to help me navigate on this very unfamiliar path.
That someone was Lee Dirks, my colleague, my friend, my mentor. When I sat down in his office months ago to tell him of my frustrations, of my goals, of my confusion on how to get there, he listened. When I told him of my shaky ideas, he smiled. When I asked him for his thoughts, he spoke. When he spoke, I listened. I always listened. This man knew libraries. This man knew a love of information. This man knew what the road in front of me looked like and he’d traveled down it long enough to be the perfect hand to hold when I needed to. I lean on Oz references too much, perhaps. (It is my favorite movie.) But maybe he was my scarecrow - the first person I encountered in a strange new land who knew enough about that strange new land to make me feel safe and secure about being there.
When I finally made the decision to take this tremendous leap, Lee grinned at me and told me he was proud of me. He told me to come take that seat in his office any time that I needed help. He made sure I knew that his door was always open whether I needed to vent, needed advice, or just needed to talk. When I told him that I plan to pursue my BA in anthropology, he said that he thought I’d be awesome at it. When I told him that I then plan to get my masters in library and information sciences from the iSchool at the UW, I could see how happy he was. This was his domain. This is the world he knows. He’d already written a letter of recommendation to the iSchool about a job I was once interested in but he was thrilled at the idea of writing me a letter of recommendation to actually GO there. We talked about it multiple times and every single time I got more excited just from listening to the sheer enthusiasm Lee had around this particular area of academia. It was impossible not to catch that from him (on pretty much any topic he loved).
I feel a little lost now. I feel more than a little sad. I’ve cried a lot. I’ve gotten teary at random intervals. I can’t stop thinking about what the world has lost. I can’t stop thinking about what Microsoft has lost. I can’t stop thinking about what his family has lost. And, yes, selfishly, I can’t stop thinking about what I have lost. I feel a little alone as I approach the beginning of this new journey. How do I navigate without my scarecrow?
“Follow the yellow brick road.”
Rest In Peace, Lee and Judy Dirks. We miss you.