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