Everything Is Finished. Everything Is Beginning.

I don't own any Louis L'Amour books. Westerns just aren't my thing. But I do have a greeting card with a L'Amour quotation on the front. Amy, my former assistant, gave it to me when I ended my college presidency in January 2015, and it's been propped up on my desk ever since.

"There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning."

Holy freaking wow.

Everything finished--and began anew--for me on January 2, 2015. Over the past year, I've vacillated between grieving for what I lost and embracing what I gained. My wife, Laurel, asked me this morning, as she has occasionally over the past year, whether I have any regrets about walking away from higher education administration. The truth is that I don't regret the decision itself. It was the right thing--the only thing--to do. But yes, I regret some of the results of that decision. I never expected that I would need to reinvent myself on the cusp of turning sixty years old, for starters. I regret losing the security and stability--salary, insurance, technology, campus life, professional relationships, and so on--of working in higher education. I regret that I wasn't able to finish everything that I started, although I realize that walking away and leaving things undone is just part of life.

The thing is . . . I'm not quite sure who I am now. For ten years, I was a college president. That isn't a job that you do--it's what you are. When I worked at a conference center in North Carolina many years ago, I was Cindy and I cleaned hotel rooms. When I worked at a medical supply company in South Carolina one summer, I was Cindy and I sold elevated toilet seats. In graduate school, I was Cindy and I tutored freshman comp students in the Writing Center. But from 2005 to 2015, I stopped being Cindy and became the president of a college. Being me was not as important as being the president. In fact, there was little discernible difference between the job and the person. Other people saw me--first and foremost--as President Huggins, and I gradually came to see myself that same way.

Cindy slipped away into the shadows. Yes, it was a tremendous honor to serve as a college president for a decade, and I will never regret that. However, it came at a pretty hefty price.

During my stint as president, I had to give up some things that had always been important to me. The job itself--being the president--consumed all of my time, seven days a week, and I rarely took vacations or even weekends off. Instead of reading novels and poetry, I read enrollment reports and trustee board books. Instead of writing essays and book reviews, I wrote employee evaluations and strategic plans. And instead of making music, I listened to keynote speakers and reports.

Now that I'm no longer a college president, I'm trying to remember how to be Cindy. I'm doing a lot of reading and writing. I'm starting to work with other writers again, as I did for years as a writing coach and English teacher. I'm finding that I love professional editing, helping folks best express what they have to say. And last week, I actually opened my guitar case and brought the darn thing out into the light, for the first time in several years. It sounded awful, but it felt good.

Who am I now? That's still an open question for me, and I'm not someone who's especially comfortable with ambiguity. If this is a beginning, rather than an end, what is it that's beginning? And if other people no longer look at me and see the president, who do they see?

Questions with no answers. Faith with no proof. Everything is finished. Everything is beginning.