FIVE LIFE LESSONS I LEARNED FROM COLLEGE
By Cliff Pearson
Maybe it’s the beginning of the new year, or maybe it’s just that I’m starting to get advertisements for the AARP in the mail (very prematurely, I feel the need to point out), but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my college days and how much I miss living on campus, going to class, and hanging out with friends.
I went to school four different times, at two different schools. In the late 80s I went to Tyler Junior College and studied theater as a recipient of the Brady P. Gentry Performance Scholarship in Acting. Then I went to the University of Texas at Tyler in the early 90s to study sociology. I went back in 2007 and graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Speech Communications degree, and then attended graduate school in 2010, earning 9 hours in Mass Communication.
So a big part of my life was spent in college, and one can therefore understand why I feel so nostalgic about those days. Besides the joys of campus life and learning, I’ve also lately been looking back on the life lessons I gleaned from school, which were not officially part of the curriculum.
As the Communications Coordinator for Dallas Reading and Language Services, I feel the need to pass on these life lessons I’ve learned because I think they could be useful to the families and friends of our clinic:
1. It’s important to advocate for yourself.
Life is filled with bureaucracies and it’s incredibly easy to get bogged down in a paper mountain, just trying to get things together that you need to get things done for yourself or your children. While you will always have friends and allies – like the staff at our clinic – no one will ever be as motivated as you are to help yourself and your children, so it’s very important to stand up for yourself and advocate for your own needs.
2. Manage your time or it will manage you.
Procrastination is the easiest habit to make but can be one of the worst to have. Small delays by you can become huge delays by bureaucracies, agencies, and institutions you need to work with to get something important done for you or your child. Missing important deadlines can ruin a treatment program, or snowball into bigger problems in your life.
3. Never give up.
All people hear the word “no” a lot in life. The smart people don’t take “no” for an answer. Keep going. Keep trying. If you are really advocating for yourself or your child, it’s not over until you give up, so persevere and succeed.
4. It’s OK to change your mind and try something new.
Many college students go to school thinking they want to major in one thing, but discover to their surprise that they don’t like it, and then change majors. And that’s OK. There is more than one path to the Promised Land. Don’t feel bad that something you tried wasn’t fun or didn’t work out. Pick something else and try again.
5. Anything worth having is worth working for.
College isn’t easy, and neither is life. Nothing quite beats the satisfaction of knowing you’ve earned something by working hard for it. Whether it be a college degree, a promotion, success in a treatment program or anything else, it’s infinitely rewarding to complete it and to know that you earned the success that comes with doing so.
College provided me with the most fulfilling and best years of my life. I underwent more social, academic, mental, and emotional stimulation than I had ever experienced before in my life. I faced novel situations, amazing opportunities and all different kinds of people. College opened up the world for me and showed me a new way to look at it.
Now that I have graduated, I’m ready to continue living my life in the full, rich way that I did in college. So, thanks, college, for teaching me more than I than what I learned in class.