Things I’ve Picked Up from Hanging Out with / Being Facebook Friends with College Professors

I have a lot of teacher friends.  Not colleagues or coworkers – friends.  I hang out with them on weekends and watch Packers games with them.  Some are related to me, some by blood and others by marriage, so we share in family gatherings.  And, yeah, we’re Facebook friends.  Like anyone, they post about the joys and frustrations of their jobs occasionally (within reason – no name dropping or boss bashing).  And some of these friends teach at the college level.

This post is directed at my younger readers – the teens who are not yet in college and the young adults making their way through higher education now.  Kids, when I say I know what you need to do to get ready for college, it’s not just because I’ve been there before.  I may also be friends with your future professors.  They tell me things – things that probably should be common sense, but apparently isn’t since they’re dealing with this stuff on a daily basis.  So consider me your inside source on college professors and take this well-meaning advice, both for your sake and theirs. Keep reading!

It’s Not Just Me

I had a chance to catch up with a high school friend yesterday. What started as a few random texts and an accidental butt-dial turned into an hour-long conversation catching up on major life events and commiserating about the challenges of adult life. At one point she commented on how nice it was that, even though we haven’t talked in years, we could still be on the same page and vent about similar topics.  The mark of a true friendship, right?

(For instance, here’s one complaint we had in common: Unless she brings up the topic first, please don’t ever ask a married-but-childless woman if/when she’s planning on having kids. While the question seems innocent enough, the answer is often far too private and intimate for casual conversation.  It opens the door to personal, financial, and medical issues – all of which are emotionally charged topics.  After fielding that question for seven years myself, I more than understand my friend’s frustrations.  Dear world, unless we broach the topic first, please stop putting us through those awkward conversations!  OK, sidebar rant complete.)

After we finished comparing stories of uncomfortable conversations about family plans, the topic shifted to the working world. Keep reading!

Building a Life

In about a week, I’ll begin building a new life for myself.

I’ve done it many times now.  Every nomadic move opened the door to a new life, a new home, a new community.  Even the temporary moves and three-month rotations brought people and experiences into my life that made those places a unique time and place.  My husband and I always made a point to throw ourselves into whatever community we were in, no matter how short our stay there.  We never let ourselves say “Why bother?  We’re moving away soon anyway.”  Instead, we made friends and found surrogate families.  We explored the sights and claimed our favorite haunts.  We built routines specific to that location and that stage of our lives.  Whether we lived in a place for over a year or just three months, we deliberately built a life for ourselves.

All the locations we've built lives in the last four years in one Google map...

All the locations we’ve called home in the last four years in one Google map…

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Rephrasing the Big Question

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I’ve decided that this is the wrong question.  It places the focus on titles, nouns, a state of being.

“A Ballerina.”  “A Fireman.”  “A Doctor.”  “A Forensic Scientist.”

When we ask our students about their futures, I don’t want to hear about passive states of being.  So here’s the question I ask:

What do you want to DO when you grow up?

See the difference?  One question focuses on the kids as a state of being, and the other focuses on the action.  One makes them a noun, and the other describes the verb.   Continue reading

How Barnes & Noble Prepared Me for Life After High School

I’ve always been an avid reader, and in 8th grade I identified myself as a lover of classic literature.  Whether or not that was a good thing may be up for discussion, but it was fact.  My junior and senior year of high school, there was a Barnes & Noble directly on my route.  I drove right past it twice a day.  When I needed a new book to read, that’s where I would go.  I usually headed right to the upstairs table filled with summer reading books assigned by area schools, because it was a collection of good literature that I hadn’t read yet.  I would also frequent the “Barnes & Noble Classics” display for the same reason.  I knew the entire floor plan of the store – the literature, the mythology section, Shakespeare, poetry, drama – I knew exactly where to find everything I wanted.  I loved it.

Bookshelves 3 stories

This is beautiful. Just sayin’. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The summer after I graduated high school I got a job as a pool operator at a hotel.  I spent 10 hours a day sitting next to an often-empty pool, and if there wasn’t anyone to guard in the pool, I read.  It rained a lot that summer, so I did a lot of reading.   That same Barnes & Noble was on my route again, so I would frequently stop in to pick up a new book.  I had a friend who worked at the attached Starbucks, and he passed me free coffee drinks whenever his manager wasn’t watching.  I was at the bookstore so often that a sales guy began to recognize me, befriended me, and was soon giving me his employee discount on my purchases.  It got to the point that on any given day, I could enjoy a fancy coffee drink and leave with my choice of book, only spending a total of a few dollars.  It was dangerously addictive.  For an English nerd like me, it was glorious.  And even though I didn’t recognize it at the time, it was my emotional salvation.   Continue reading

On Life-Changing Decisions and Such

It’s time.

It’s that time when high school seniors are seriously contemplating their futures, wondering what will happen in the months after graduation.  Now is the time when juniors are taking SATs and ACTs, trying to figure out which colleges to send their scores to and where they want to apply.  The decisions are huge.  Life-changing.  Scary.

Over the past four years I’ve heard the repeating cries and fears.  What if I don’t make the right decision?  What if I choose the wrong career, wrong major, or wrong college?  What if I miss out on what I’m supposed to be doing because I made the wrong decision?  It’s a lot of pressure!

Let’s take some time to ease some of that pressure.

Think about it.  The future isn’t a multiple choice test with only one right answer.   Continue reading

The Undeclared Major

I can’t decide how I feel about the undeclared major.  Every time a student says they’re undeclared, or a high schooler says they don’t know what to major in, some adult in the room immediately replies “Oh, that’s OK!” and proceeds to expound on all the people they know that went into college undeclared, that changed majors five times, and then went on to change their career several more times after they graduated.  And I know why these adults do this.  They want that young person to feel like they’re not weird, not failing in some way, so they immediately assuage all doubts about being undeclared.  And they are right that it is common and socially acceptable to be undeclared.  But I sometimes wonder if these adults aren’t doing more harm than good.  Because I don’t think young people want just to be told that it’s OK.  I think they want someone to help them figure it out.

I have no problem with people changing majors and careers.  As people learn more about their interests and strengths — and learn more about potential career options — they tend to shift their focus and ideas about what they want to do.  That’s fine!  I’m in the middle of doing that myself.  However, I do have a problem with adults who encourage aimless meandering through college and the early adult years.  It’s OK for students to not know yet what they want to do with their lives, but I don’t think it’s OK for them to become complacent about it. Continue reading