One of the great things about College life is the constantly evolving dialogue that develops between students and faculty/staff/administration. Everywhere you look on campus, you can see new scholars and experienced professors/professionals learning from one another - It’s very exciting!
And it got me wondering – of all the lessons we learn as we move through our college experience and beyond, what are the most important? What are some of the big lessons we don’t even realize we’re learning? If we could go back and talk to our younger selves, what advice would we give?
So a few weeks ago I issued a challenge to the Faculty and Staff at NAU-Yavapai: I asked them to write a letter to their Undergraduate Self. What I received from them as a result was a touching, funny, and heartfelt collection of advice, tender admonishment, and incredible support that I think everyone can relate to and enjoy.
Our first letter is from Professor Kristen Taubman, Applied Human Behavior.
Dear Undergraduate Self,
I am excited to say, that for the most part life has turned out alright. Despite all of the bad choices and desperate fears about ending up being the weird cat lady, it hasn’t gotten to that point. You are not out of the woods, and so I provide this advice to you now. You should take more risks. As you get older it gets harder to take risks. Now is your time to learn how to skydive and travel to distant lands. Obsess less on what you don’t have and focus on what you do have. What are your strengths, talents and gifts? You will become a stronger person through growing your talents. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You have plenty of time in your life to put yourself down. The more you put yourself down the more likely it is that you will accept friends and partners that will put you down as well. You deserve better. Acknowledge what you are afraid of, and then do it anyhow. It is better to try something and fail than to have regrets about the life you didn’t live.
Love people with your whole heart. Love your friends and family honestly and without fear. While we are talking about being honest, be as honest as you can be. No matter how hard it might be to be truthful, you will regret your lies and they will eat away at you a little at a time. There are great teachers all around you that have wisdom to share. For this reason it is important to pay attention and ask a lot of questions. In the end, the people that don’t ask questions are those who sound stupid because they aren’t prepared in the first place.
Find balance in your life. I want to say that again because I think it is that important. Find balance in your life. Playing hard is very important, but so is working hard. You may want to avoid that statistics homework but it is important to consider how it will impact your goals. Slogging through the hard times will make you a better person, and you will be very proud of yourself. The funny thing about doing something is that if you do it long enough, before you know it you are done. While you are doing that homework notice what you are doing because being in school is about learning, not about getting a “piece of paper”. The degree you earn will mean very little if you cannot show others how you earned it.
All of this advice can sound very serious. In that regard, my last piece of advice to you is to seek joy and laughter. Research shows that you will live longer, be more satisfied with your life and be happier with who you are as a person when you laugh frequently. Do your very best to smile in the worst circumstances, recognize opportunities when they are presented to you, and laugh every chance you get.