Column by Rachel Frick Cardelle
“And suddenly you know. It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.”
Throughout our lives, we can choose or have thrust upon us new beginnings. The past several years of a global pandemic, causing the shutting down and then slow reopening of our institutions and communities, has led to many of us ‘suddenly knowing’ it was time to start something new. I have been fortunate enough to find my new beginning here in Oneonta.
In September last year, we moved to Oneonta after my husband, Alberto, became SUNY O’s president. As a goodbye gift, a coworkers gave me a magnet with Eckhart’s quote on it. Reading it I was filled with gratitude and panic.
Gratitude for the woman who had given me a way to think about this huge life change. Panic arose because I had not thought through the ’something new’ that I was beginning. I wondered about the wisdom of letting go of all that we knew. When Alberto came home from his final interview, he was excited about the university and the community in which it was situated. When he was offered the leadership opportunity, I agreed that it was the right new beginning for us based on little more than my trust in him. The quote reminded me that I had never seen Oneonta nor met a single person from there. Neither had I found “magic” a reliable planning tool.
So while I love Eckhart’s idea of trusting the “magic” of beginnings, still I could not sit still and wait for Tinkerbell to show up. Our priority as a couple was getting to know the people, rhythms, culture, and concerns of our new community.
Getting to know people proved challenging at first. I felt like a contestant on a game show in which I had to remember names with my 50+ year old brain AND only half a masked face to go by. (For the record, were I such a contestant I would have been the first to be booted off the show.) What did come across from the beginning — whether at the university where people knew me or when I was exploring in town where no one knew me — was a very relaxed friendliness that I experienced everywhere I went. That’s where the magic of this new beginning began.
In learning the rhythms and culture of the college and community, we decided to attend as many ‘events’ as possible. What started as a task, has quickly become an enjoyable way of life. While Oneonta is a small town, the energy and number of events has proven to be far larger than its size would suggest. Sporting events at the college have always been high energy entertainment, and regardless of whether it is soccer or cross country, whether it is big crowds or small, I’ve enjoyed watching and interacting with the others in attendance. The same has been true when I’ve gone to community events, like the Pitt Run or St. Oney’s. Then there has been the discovery of the depth and breadth of performing arts available. I never anticipated getting to attend top tier professional musical performances like the Catskills Symphony Orchestra. On campus I have loved going to plays. One play, the student-written, and -directed Melanol not only expanded my thinking on race but made me question what the heck I’ve been doing with my time when a young woman less than half my age has had the time to do so much!
There has been so much…gorgeous trails, fascinating public lectures, thought-provoking art shows, delicious restaurants, all of these have added to the magic of this beginning. As we wind up our first year here, I look forward to the now more familiar rhythms of next year. My panic has vanished and I am grateful to be part of the Oneonta community.