Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | February 25, 2015

Pondering the future: Will we? Won’t we?

The amazing visit to Georgia was one of many "wows" during our four years here.

The amazing visit to Georgia was one of many “wows” during our four years here.

To be able to answer the question posed in the headline, you have to understand the context. Melody and I are rolling through our eighth semester at AUBG, but we have decided to use next year to regroup. As many of our friends, families, colleagues and students know, we’re taking a leave of absence.

My locker (for sweaty bike clothes) at the Star Tribune (I didn't misspell my own name, for those who are curious. Building services!).

My locker (for sweaty bike clothes) at the Star Tribune (I didn’t misspell my own name, for those who are curious. Building services!).

This blog started with a similar leave of absence. It was 2011 and I had stepped away from my job at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. After 28 years of working in the same industry — the previous 19 in Minneapolis — it seemed like a great time to try something new, at least for a while. I never went back.

Our students, our friends and family — and I’m sure the university — all are asking, guessing, predicting what we’ll do. You’re never coming back, are you? Will you stay in Chicago? What will you do? You’re never coming back, are you? Is your family happy? I’ll bet your daughter is thrilled. You’ll get to drink those great beers! You’re never coming back, are you?

To be honest, we don’t know. We plan on coming back. We’ve communicated that to the administration. We’ve shared that with our students. We’ve tried to assure our friends. But if we’re being honest, we just don’t know.

Leaving here will be another new chapter in our little journey. Our lives have been enriched beyond our wildest expectations. We’ve made friendships that will last a lifetime, some with students who will no doubt become part of our extended “family.” One small example: We visited Georgia last fall as part of a recruiting trip for the university. While there, some of our former students introduced us to family, to the joys of their hometown, Tblisi, to rich traditions and charming foibles. What we learned from that trip — and many others throughout these years — is that the amount of time you spend with people doesn’t always indicate the depth of kinship you feel. A short, intense connection can bond people for a lifetime. That’s what these four years have done for us. It’s been short. It’s been sweet. And it’s been intense and life-altering.

But for now, we are feeling a pull to be on familiar turf — at least for a while. We’ll work on new endeavors (Melody is in the midst of multiple film projects; I’ll be looking for work that will be both interesting and fulfilling). We’ll feel less rushed, less scheduled in family visits. We’ll rekindle old friendships, and we’ll make a few new ones. And when September rolls around, we’ll get the itch to see what’s happening in the classrooms at AUBG, on the streets of Blagoevgrad, and in the lives of all the wonderful people we’ve grown so fond of these past four years.

This might sound like a farewell note more appropriate for the end of the semester. But I wanted to put it down before too much more time had passed. And as we know about this life of ours, it’s better not to hesitate. We never know what might happen. Not tomorrow. Not next week. And certainly not next year. (See! I bookended this blog post. Answered the question in the headline without answering the question in the headline, because there are no answers. At least none that we are certain of at this particular moment.)

I worked with one editor in particular who hated stories that ended like this. So to vex him, and all the others: Stay tuned.



  1. Two observations: First, I greatly admire your and Melody’s courage to ponder the next few years and say, “We don’t know.” Your willingness to take some risks, have new experiences, and leave your lives a little bit unscripted — so you *can* be open to new experiences — is a truly an inspiration.

    Second, I would normally agree with the editor who detested the closing words “stay tuned,” because normally “stay tuned” is a lame cop-out. But in your case, it’s actually an enticing invitation to follow you on another grand adventure. So yes, (yes!) I will stay tuned.

    My very best wishes to you and Melody as you follow the next bend in your path. Can’t wait to see where it takes you.

    • Heather, thank you. For the good wishes and for always being so darned nice. If you make it to Chicago with your fella — or not — do look us up. It’d be nice to catch up in person, though this virtual friendship is nice, too. 😄

  2. One thing I’v learned is that, every decision, while maybe not apparent when made, is the right decision at that time. – Chris

  3. The future is the future. First have fun in Holland!

  4. I feel like I’m about to leave MN for good! Just need to sell an albatross of a condo (that I’m living in) so I’m free of mortgage and can travel more. Left fulltime work in 2012 (that’s been a financial struggle) but never been happier away from corporate bullshit. Now need to pull up old roots. Your post was inspiring! Hope to see you both again soon. best, Mike

  5. We will welcome you back with open arms and a cold beer!

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