Do you remember your first day of school? I do.I was six years old, a kid from the hills of West Virginia. I stood at the edge of the playground holding my mother’s hand. I still can feel the joy, the anticipation of the fun to be had and the promise of new experiences awaiting me.

Come to think of it, there have been several memorable “first days” in my life. In each one, I felt the same excitement and optimism I did as a child as I let go of my mother’s hand and stepped onto the playground.

There was my first day with a driver’s license, when I saw all roads (both literally and figuratively) open up in front of me. There was my first day of college, with my dad lugging my suitcases and boxes full of “essential” things up the stairs to my dorm room.

There was the first day of my first real job. I remember walking into a classroom with my new title of Assistant Professor of Music Theory. I was still full of wonder and excitement, but now I was hoping to pass this enthusiasm on to 50 complete strangers.

There was my first day as a clinical psychologist at the Los Angeles County Jail, where I realized I had found my calling in working with underserved populations.

There was my first day as a warden at the Federal Correctional Institution in Beckley, West Virginia, where I was responsible for 2,200 offenders and 400 staff.

And there was my first day as Assistant Director of the Correctional Programs Division for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, where I had responsibilities ranging from overseeing re-entry initiatives to housing terrorist offenders.

I have ventured down many paths in my life. And yet, each path and each “first day” of a new opportunity has felt distinctly similar to the others. There has always been a sense of possibility and the passion to make a difference in the world.

Underneath it all, I’m still just a kid from the hills of West Virginia heading to her first day of school, ready to learn. I’m honored to join The Change Companies’ family, and excited to once again step out on the playground.

I look forward to meeting all of you and hearing about your own “first day” experiences. I also know that many of you work with populations who are beginning a “first day” of one kind or another. Thank you for helping make these transitions into opportunities for positive change.

And thank you for letting me participate in today’s Mindful Midweek. Don will return next Wednesday with another great message for us and another sesquipedalian word.

Joyce Conley