Here's a dialogue I've been hearing - and participating in - a lot recently. (Well... the ideal version of it. It doesn't always quite go this well.)
Enthused newbie: I'm coming to care a lot about $foo.
Old-timer: I've cared deeply about $foo for many years.
Enthused newbie: I've been noticing... $foo is... broken. I mean, look at $bar and $baz happening.
Enthused newbie: And I was thinking, maybe we could... fix it, if we did $frobznit.
Old-timer: Ayup. You know, when I was younger, we tried something similar you might be interested in - look through these archives at $frozbnit, it might help you think about $frobznit.
Enthused newbie: Wheeeeeeeeeeee!
Old-timer: I'm deeply grateful $foo is in good hands.
The funny thing is - I see this most clearly two conversations, but from different sides on each. In Fedora and CommArch and Red Hat and that part of my world, I'm very clearly the enthused newbie. At Olin, when the current students talk about reshaping the school, I'm the low-pass filter, the old-timer, the "who the hell are you?" passerby.
The flipping back and forth is odd, but valuable in making me see things from more perspectives - I can actually feel myself gaining the ability to be a low-pass filter, and choosing to do once in a while. Here's an email I sent out today; it's the best expression of something that's been weighing on my mind for quite some time. (In response to an email thread to the effect of "the curriculum revision of '06-'07 took a lot of work and fizzled out without results, since we can't name a single thing that changed; time for a reboot!")
I feel like such an old fogey saying this, but I think it's important, so I'm going to do it anyway.
The process was a ton of work, generated a lot of talk, and left results behind. It's our ability to use those results today that's fizzled out. Subtle distinction. We aren't broken; the past's results aren't broken; the two are just no longer compatible. That's all.
The past has worth. Even if it leaves no physical trace behind, things that happen with a spirit of thoughtfulness and openmindedness and bravery have results. Not being able to capture that value now doesn't mean it wasn't valuable then - just that the ability to actively use that value is now past. Not being able to wear your winter jacket from 4th grade today doesn't mean it didn't keep you warm when you were younger. Honor the fact that the jacket did keep you warm, and acknowledge that it's time to go get a new one.
I feel like sometimes we don't do the first enough. The thing we're trying to change now was once a new, exciting change itself. 2007 wasn't all that long ago; 2 years from now, the next couple rounds of Olin students will be running full tilt at the changes they care about. And this is awesome. This kind of perpetual dialogue is part of what it means to be continuously reborn. The the continuation of this discussion "after so many years" is not a failure; the ceasing of this conversation would be. This constant trying-stuff and figuring-out is how we renew our practice; this is how we continuously make this making-of-a-school thing mean something real to us as individuals, make it something we care about. Love is a verb in the present tense, not a static noun.
I can point to something I recall changing because of the curriculum review; myself. My way of thinking, my relationship with Olin, the way I do things now - without the curriculum review, they wouldn't be the same. And yes, I've graduated, but not everyone from that time has - and alumni are still part of the extended Olin family, as we go out and change the world and all that good stuff. And yes, the changes in my brain are not that useful to the current frosh - that's what I mean by results being existent but non-harvestable, and that's why I'm heartened whenever discussions like this come by on [this mailing list].
Is this wisdom? It doesn't feel like it; in saying this, I'm also exploring new territory, struggling to express the things I'm thinking and feeling; this isn't something that I know. But if I flip back to my younger self and read this, I think whoa, I learned stuff in the past two years. And maybe that's what wisdom is; that increased accumulation of experience and the ability to step back from it to get a better look. Right now, it just feels like... life. Don't get mired in the past; look at it when it helps you figure out what to do in the present to make the future that you'd like to see. (I do hope that they reboot! It's out of my hands, as it should be, but I do hope it happens, for what it's worth.)
I wonder what I look like to them. And I wonder what it looks like for people looking at me from the Fedora side.
Right now, I need to sleep so I can wake up for a 5am meeting. I got about an hour and 15 minutes of sleep today because of travelage (sleep 1:15am, wake up 2:30am for a 2:50 shuttle to a 5:25am flight that... got delayed over an hour, dammit) so my brain is getting fuzzy around the edges. Bedtime now.