I came across a photo of Old North this morning, posted by my beloved alma mater, the University of Central Oklahoma. Old North is the oldest building constructed for higher education in the state of Oklahoma (Oklahoma-territory back then, if my Tour Guide roots are serving me correctly), and just so happens to be a building I walked by for four of the best years of my life.
I sat at my desk for a few minutes and just stared at my screen. In that one minute of reflection (I do this a lot, force myself to be still, quiet, and just be), many college memories flashed before my eyes. Specifically, my first day of college, ten years ago from this very day. Ten years is a long time. In ten years I have seen many friends lose parents, lose their own lives, develop new families (sometimes even for a second attempt), and change and grow multiple careers.
My first class of my freshman year (ten years ago from today) was a class titled, “Lessons in Leadership.” On a leadership scholarship (yes, those exist), I, along with 25 of my freshman-peers, was required to take a leadership class with the President of the University. I walked in, in what I am pretty sure was khakis and a sweater vest, books in hand, and headed for the front row. I remember an upper-classman in the same scholarship program joke with me, “Looks like you’re ready to teach this class.” I always did dress beyond my years, which is quite comical because now it’s like a winning lottery ticket to see me in a tie, let alone a suit. But, in that moment, I started college. It began. And, as many seniors are reflecting today, I would probably, if offered, go back to that very moment if presented the chance.
In lieu of rewinding time, I have summed up my thoughts in this note to those starting college today, or soon for others:
To those starting college today (or insert whichever day makes for, “the big day”),
To those privileged individuals who have the opportunity to attend college, I challenge you this: acknowledge your privilege. You are entering the world of scholars, leaders, world-changers, almost-professional athletes, researchers, and other folk who generally just want to learn, know, acquire, and be more. You are one of these folk. You are more.
As you select and attend classes, navigate your social balance, and re/consider new and old friendships, I challenge you to take care of your college. Show up for class. Invest in class. Show up for non-class. Get involved, be active, and leave a print – a positive impact. Look around and listen. Challenge yourself to stop making assumptions and give others a chance – give yourself a chance. Free yourself, and free your mind. Do something unconventional.
As you learn more about yourself and your newly established freedoms, be mindful of the world outside of your intercollegiate-bubble. Be curious. Be adventurous. Take care of yourself, and take care of others. Take care of your campus. Show up. Pick up. Fail. Know that “high school you” won’t cut it in higher education. You have to be better, do better, and aim better. But, fail. And learn. Grow, always.
When you look ahead, remember that, at some point, you will soon be looking back. Be proud of what you see in that rear-view mirror. Create the outcome you hope most to achieve. Believe in yourself, your surroundings, and “your people.” Invest in your people. Invest in yourself. Education is a powerful thing, and our privilege allows this huge opportunity of knowledge and future-success. Do not take this for granted. Now, go. Do. Be.
Good vibes and good love to all those starting a new journey today, and/or soon. Take a mental picture, frame it, love it.
In bronze and blue,