Just a few hours after I took this picture on April 14, 2009 events transpired that would forever change my life.Two years ago yesterday I posted my last blog post.  A week later, I found myself (to paraphrase Buddy Holly) “learning the game.” A month later, an unexpected discovery revealed I was the one who had been gamed.

Without revealing too many details, this discovery delivered an exceptionally financially and emotionally expensive education on all sorts of dichotomies:

  • conditional love vs. unconditional love
  • co-parenting vs. parental alienation
  • espoused ethics vs. ethics-in-use
  • fact vs. fiction
  • faithful friendships vs. false friendships
  • honesty vs. dishonesty
  • legal ethics vs. legal procedures
  • moral certainty vs. moral relativism

I had previously assumed the events and behaviors I witnessed only happened in Desperate Housewives, LA LawLifetime Movie Network films, soap operas and The Twilight Zone. While you’re at it throw in some Benny Hill Show and Beverly Hills, 90210.

Despite my natural inclination to find the humor in my recent adventures, there is a very serious tone to it all. Given my profession as a teacher and trainer, these past two years have revealed to me an important nugget of knowledge that I express as follows:

‎”The toughest, but truest lessons we learn don’t come from a book; they come from the people, places, and predicaments in our lives.”

Sometimes those lessons involve heartache and sleepless nights, but hopefully we emerge as more complete individuals. Trying times can reveal the worst of people, yet they can also reveal the benevolence of others. It quickly becomes clear who you can trust and who really cares about you when you are in your time of greatest need.

I am endeavoring to move forward from my experience and leave behind me the distractions and drama that filled the past two years of my life.

With storm clouds clearing, I am looking ahead to a positive new future on a wide open ride of life! While I won’t use the word grateful, I do feel that these past two years helped me to grow and mature in ways that would not have happened otherwise. My recent experience  is a tool with which I will build an exceptional new life.

I will also remain deeply involved with the two most important parts of my past life who are also the center of my present and future life: my sons Jacob and Max.

On a practical level, my “enrollment” in this endeavor has prevented me from updating this blog as frequently as I would have liked while also impacting my plans to pursue a PhD as I had originally planned.

I am reminded of the following words by Langston Hughes:

“What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up Like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore– And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over– like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?”

I refuse to let my PhD dream “dry up, fester, stink, get crusty, sag or explode.” Quite the opposite: once the dust settles I will focus forward on a doctoral program that will provide me with the skills to produce research while ensuring my success as college professor

Likewise, I will begin posting to this blog again.  It might take a few posts to get the rust out but I look forward to once again actively engaging in an educational and informational dialog.

Onward and upward!

I’ve never been much for nicknames. However, in October 2007 when I began teaching for DeVry University in Bakersfield, students in my first class affectionately (well, I think it was affectionately) bestowed the nickname “Drew” upon me.

Apparently some of my students felt I resemble comedian, actor and current host of The Price is Right, Drew Carey. I don’t know if this is really a compliment, but I am not sure it is a good thing to look like him (maybe looking like him when he was in the Marines is okay)!

Sure, I am a male Caucasian with a few extra pounds and glasses, but Drew Carey is definitely not my doppelgänger. Brad Pitt, maybe, but Drew Carey, not a chance!

Incidentally, a colleague claims I remind him of George Clooney. As much as I would like to embrace that idea, I am realistic enough to know that if I had to choose between the two options, I certainly (and sadly?) resemble Drew Carey much more than George Clooney.

In the months since my “nickname knighting” I embraced my alternate identity, feeling it was a humorous way to relate to my students and provide some comic relief. I felt as if I had been accepted by my students and the nickname, regardless of what it actually was, served as an outward indicator of their “approval” of me in their social circle.

The nickname was a way to break the ice and help them learn. I didn’t mind that the joke was on me if enabling them to call me it allowed them to overcome their fears about higher education.

With the start of each new session I would introduce myself as “Mr. Gilbert, but you can also call me Drew.” Initially, during the first few months after the school opened — when my classes consisted primarily of many of the same students (with a few new additions each session) — the nickname seemed harmless enough.

However, over the past few months the campus has grown exponentially. Impressively there are students and even new faculty members who I now barely know — it is an exciting time to be on campus. Classes have grown to healthy sizes and I no longer see that initial group of students quite as often.

With the start of the most recent session, suddenly introducing myself as “Drew” seemed awkward — as if the joke was old and no longer funny. Although a few students who were in on the initial naming were still around, I felt like most of the students to whom I told my nickname simply didn’t get it.

They seemed to wonder why, if my last name is Gilbert and my first name is Matthew, was I telling them to call me Drew? Besides, having “two first names” is confusing enough — sometimes a student is unsure if I am “Mr. Gilbert” or “Mr. Matthew.” Why make things harder than they need to be?!

Most importantly, I began to realize that there is a reason for titles and formally addressing someone. I am not big on pulling rank, but I did start to feel that having my students address me with my nickname was too casual — and doing so was starting to erode my authority in the classroom. It was not an overt feeling, just an anecdotal realization.

Sure, I enjoy creating a fun and welcoming classroom environment, but just as I know that parents can’t always be a friend to their children, teachers can’t always be friends with their students. Sometimes someone needs to be in charge — even if its just to keep things on track.

I therefore decided to kill off my “Drew” nickname as of Monday, July 28, 2008. May it rest in peace. Burial services will be private. In lieu of flowers please PayPal cash donations!

I am still fine with my “old” students still referring to me as “Drew” because they created the nickname and it still seems to work with them as a term of endearment.

Conversely I prefer that students now call me Mr. Gilbert or Mr. G — which I like because years ago my grandfather, after whom I try to model my life, was often called “Mr. G.” But really, either is fine so long as I am no longer called “Drew.”

Drew is dead. Long live Mr. Gilbert!