I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying.
On July 24, 2013 Cory Jackson posted a fantastic blog called Discover the People. In it he suggests that the college experience is without a doubt quantified by the people you meet. In this statement, I cannot agree with him more. In my experience, it was the people I met and the lessons I learned from them that made me the person I am today. It is the experiences outside of a classroom that has ultimately shaped my world view. That isn’t to say; however, that experiences in a classroom will not help shape a person’s world view. For me, the spark was set off in a classroom. That spark ignited a burning passion, brighter than any sun.
That said, I do not wish to speak to people you will meet or what you will learn. Cory did a wonderful job on that. Instead I want to speak to a different angle. A number of weeks ago, I was listening to Chief Justice Sonia Sotomayor. If you aren’t aware, she is one of our current chief justices. She is the first Latino and came from poverty. Her story is fascinating and such a inspiration. At any rate, she was speaking to a group of eighth, ninth, and tenth graders in Denver Colorado with a link to that forum here. She was speaking to the subjects of racial profiling, her childhood and career, and giving advice to students about life.
Now you may say, Allen how are you going to tie any of that into a blog about college? You normally write about student loans so what does a chief justice and any of those subjects have to do about student loans? The short answer is it doesn’t directly. Indirectly, it has everything to do with student loans.
Well during this time she said something I found fascinating. She said “You can't dream unless you know what the possibilities are." Dreams do not just pop up into your heads. Dreams are things you learn about that give you hope about something you can become. So how do you find those dreams? You find them by taking chances. One major event where where a chance was taken is the act of applying to college. Having the hope that you get picked as you measure yourself against hundreds of other students with the same goal. In applying to college you did something important that caused you to grow. You tried and trying is what life is about. To learn about your possibilities you have to try things that could be scary. Hence, you have to take a chance.
Dreams, possibilities, success, failure, and trying are all things you will find while you’re in college. The reason this quote is so fascinating and why I think Cory’s blog is so fantastic because it points out two things.
1. The people you meet will change your life.
2. The experiences you have as a result of the people you meet will also change your life.
College is one time where you can fail, pick yourself up, and grow as a person. It’s an environment that is conducive to learning. So don’t be afraid to fall flat on your face. Failure is always the best teacher and success will make a person complacent.
Likewise, face your fears while you are in college before getting into a world where the expectation is perhaps you shouldn’t fear what it is you fear. I personally have always had a fear of presenting in front of people. It wasn’t until college where I had to face that fear head on. I fell on my face quite a few times but in my falling I had friends and mentors who helped me get up, overcome the obstacles I was facing, and for that I am a much better person today. Though I still have some apprehension, I am able to present now and discuss my ideas.
Finally, take classes that perhaps you know you will not agree with what is being taught. Place yourself in a situation in which you aren’t comfortable with the material. This will force you to debate the material with your peers and your instructor. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to wonder if what you thought was true perhaps isn’t.
One thing I did while I was in college that completely changed my life was I put myself in a situation where I was forced to question my core beliefs and everything I was taught growing up. I was forced to take a step back and see other people for they were and not for their stereotypes. I forced myself to question, wonder, and ultimately make my own determination as to who I was, what I believed, and how I should perceive other people. It was this 'Man in the Mirror' experience that completely and totally changed my life for the better.
The purpose of college is to not only meet people who will become lifelong friends but to also grow as a person. This is the first time you will really spread your wings and be who you are. The question is, who are you and what do you dream? In order to understand what you dream, you must know the possibilities. By placing yourself in situations that will help you define yourself, you can hopefully come to a point where your dreams take shape. And standing in those shadows you will find the person you want to be.