The second in a series of "professor's pearls" for college students
“Fun I love, but too much fun is of all things
the most loathsome.”
- William Blake
You are at such a fabulous time in your life. You are young, energized, creative and freespirited. I’m a big believer in enjoying life to the fullest. But, too much “fun” can mean trouble. It can lead to poor choices and unfortunate situations. If you think it might be bad idea, it probably is. Is it really worth the risk? Remember the “10 Factor”…how will this choice possibly affect you 10 minutes from now, 10 hours from now, 10 days from now and 10 years from now? You have a moral compass…don’t ignore it or your intuition.
How well I can remember the countless hours I spent with friends having ridiculous amounts of fun. Just to be clear, "fun" for me equated to talking for hours on end over coffee, seeing a show at Fitzgerald's, taking a road trip with the appropriate home made mixed tape, being completely crazy spontaneous and hysterical laughing until I cried. Good times... (insert nostalgic sigh here).
Aside from the fact that you should be having it, there is one very important characteristic about fun that you must realize. Very simply, having fun is a choice. In the same way that boredom is a choice, you ultimately decide if something will be fun or not. Regardless of the situation, location or circumstance, if you want to have fun, you can make it fun. It's totally up to you.
Back in my college days, I went on a field biology trip to Big Thicket National Preserve to study the surrounding biotic province (if that's not fun, I don't know what is!). Although it was a field trip, it was also a 1-hour credit course in biology which meant busy work! Dr. Larry Meissner, professor and field guide extraordinaire meant business. I am not kidding...this man could see a pile of dirt on a log and know exactly what is was, how it got there and precisely how it tied into the circle of life...seriously, he's a walking encyclopedia. Each of us had to keep a detailed scientific field journal that included a comprehensive species list complete with genus-species names, daily journaling about various biological observations, hypotheses, sketches, etc... It was an incredible amount of work and certainly a bit stressful since our course grade was riding on the final product of our field journals.
To add insult to injury, Big Thicket National Preserve was in the midst of an epic mosquito outbreak that year. Literally, the air was thick with blood-thirsty mosquitoes that made outdoor camping a most unbearable experience. It was miserable...we were miserable as our bodies became riddled with swollen red welts. There was simply no escaping the misery. And, misery loves company.
As we sat on the shore of the beach that night, we whined and complained incessantly. There was no field journaling happening and sleep was certainly not in the near future. From out of nowhere, fellow field biologist Aaron Goeke started rattling off crazy talk about his life dream of becoming a renowned "marine proctologist". No doubt this was crazy talk... ridiculous hilarious crazy talk!! We went on to discuss the field of "marine proctology" at great length and in great detail. By dawn we had created several sub-disciplines and a comprehensive academic association complete with delineated acronym for the field of "marine proctology". I must say, it was quite a contribution to the discipline.
Ridiculous and absurd? Yes. Immature & inappropriate? Most likely. Hands down one of the most memorable of all college experiences? Absolutely! As I cried with laughter that night, I somehow forgot about the miserable circumstances that were in our midst. For the next several days I suffered severe abdominal pains from the repeated motion of doubling-over with laughter throughout the night. The pain was well worth it in the end & poor Dr. Meissner had to put up with me for several more field experiences.
My point is this...you can make any situation and/or circumstance fun if you simply make the decision to do so. "Fun" is intrinsically generated. Take ownership of your fun by deciding to have plenty of it in a thoughtful and responsible manner. Although it was tempting to "talk proctology" for the duration of the 6 hour drive back to campus, moderation was exercised given we were terribly behind in our field journaling responsibilities. Balance paid off...I made a "B" in the class (which is awesome since I'm no field biologist!). - PCD
The first in a series of "professor's pearls" for college students
“We’ll leave the light on”
- Motel 6
Life is a lot like Motel 6 in that there will likely be a proverbial “light” on for you somewhere in the event that you need it. And, you probably will. Although, I wouldn't make a habit of spending too much time at the Motel 6, we have a lot to learn from this mid-90’s advertising slogan. It’s a reminder that you are not alone and that you really are going to figure out this thing called “life”. Your realizations may not be exactly as you had envisioned or even be remotely on your time line. But, you will find your way. You will!
Take it from me and my own life journey. I was absolutely aimless as I graduated from high school. I was fickle and I floundered at the thought of post-graduation plans. I didn't want to go to college, but I did. I wanted to move out, but I didn't. Regardless, I did not have the test scores to get into college and my high school rank dropped dramatically when I decided that it was a good idea to drop all my honors and AP courses my junior year.
When all of my other friends were accepted to UT Austin, I decided to join them as they moved to the hill country. Although I felt incredibly inadequate in comparison with their accomplishments, I certainly didn't want to be left behind. After all, my social circle was my life at that time.
I wasn't sure why I was moving to Austin, or what I would do when I got there. But, I felt like I should do something. Although, I would never outwardly admit that I valued the idea of attending college, I was inwardly wildly jealous of my friends who had easily been accepted to various Texas colleges. I felt regretful of many of the choices I had made in high school. I was also highly disappointed in myself for not making more of an effort as a student. Why had I been so short sighted?
Shortly after moving, I learned that I could possibly be accepted to UT as a transfer student if I could earn at least 15 credit hours with a high grade point average. It seemed like this was the answer I was looking for. I was desperately searching for something that would set my life on the “right” track.
As a means to fulfill this goal, I enrolled for a full course load at Austin Community College and I did remarkably well considering my lack of preparation. I developed a new found interest in politics that semester. On a whim, I applied for an internship at the governor’s mansion, and received it! I was giddy with hope and a true sense of accomplishment that I had not felt before.
Pay particular attention to the next part of this story. The following turn of events illustrates one of many times in my journey when life did not cooperate as I had hoped or expected that it would. And, while these moments are no short of devastating in the moment, they are almost always sure to be a blessing in disguise. As they say, hind sight is 20/20. Although, I can attest from personal experience that this proverb is much easier to espouse than it is to believe in the midst of one of these moments.
Prior to the start of the new semester, complete with internship, I diligently mailed in my tuition check since this was well before online bill pay. I assumed that my tuition was processed (this was my first mistake) and I looked forward to returning to campus as a student and intern. However, on the first day of classes, it became apparent that there was a problem when my name was absent from each of the course rosters. As I tried to remedy the situation, I realized that my tuition check had not in fact been received and I had been dropped from all of my classes. My coveted internship had been given to another applicant. And just like that my perfect plan to make something of myself had been foiled, ruined, completely destroyed. I was devastated.
As I drove eastbound on I-35 that day, I cried like my life was irrevocably over. I could barely see through the blur of tears that gushed from my eyes. But, even through that barrage of sadness, I saw something I had never noticed before as I drove down that familiar road. I had driven that stretch of highway countless times prior to that day. And, yet I had never truly taken notice of the majestic cross that adorned the front lawn of Concordia Lutheran College just to my left. It was like a scene from a movie when the clouds part to reveal a beacon on a dark night (insert dramatic movie music here). That cross in the sky turned out to be a beacon of light and hope on what was for me, a very dark day.
I desperately stumbled into the admissions office at Concordia Lutheran College looking something like what I would imagine a crazed raccoon might look like. My eyes were puffy and swollen from crying and black mascara haphazardly stained my face. In short…it wasn’t pretty. Fortunately, the admissions counselor made time to hear about my very unfortunate situation. Or, perhaps she was just too frightened at the sight of me to ask me to leave. Either way, she saved the day (and the course of my entire life) as she assisted me in registering for 6 credit hours as a non-matriculating student (Thank you, Mrs. Paige Cantrell!).
I rocked “Intro to Criminology” and “Intro to Microcomputer Applications” making “A’s” in both classes. And, contrary to what I initially believed after losing my internship, my life was not over. In fact, I was thriving in this new collegiate community. So much so that I registered as a traditional degree-seeking student the following semester and declared the field of communication as my major. I attended Concordia for the next three years. It was at Concordia Lutheran College (now known as Concordia University Texas) that I truly found my way.
I was surrounded by students who had, for the most part, a greater sense of goodness and morality than I had experienced before. I had professors who knew my name and cared for me as a whole person, many of them ordained clergy. I had incredible learning experiences including many opportunities for travel. I ran for student government association…and won! I volunteered for the Rosedale Program which served students with special needs. I gained a greater sense of self and spirituality. And, most importantly, I learned to serve a greater purpose than myself. My time spent at Concordia was a life changing experience.
In the end, that tuition check that was lost in the mail turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. It changed my course in life. Although it wasn’t the course I had mapped out for myself at the time, it turned out to be a much better one (thank you Concordia!). In the midst of what seemed like a tragedy in the moment, I found my way. When you find yourself in one of life’s most unexpected situations (and you undoubtedly will), you too, are going to find your way. You will! And, that is a “professor’s promise”. - PCD