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Sunday, April 27, 2008

You Never Know What You Will End Up Doing In Life...

If you would have asked me when I was 20 what I would be doing when I was 40, I would have told you I would have been dead. I am not being sarcastic or looking for sympathy when I say that...I am really just telling the truth. As many of you know, I never really thought I was going to make it past 21 or 22 and lived my life like a rock star so to speak...until I hit the bottom and I managed to get cleaned up. Even after cleaning up, I have continued to do stuff like smoke cigarettes even thought I knew the consequences and continue to eat badly. In the last year, I decided to work on some of that stuff and have seen great results just by being willing or at least a little bit willing to do some things differently and not think that I know it all. Does this mean I totally have it together? Not even close! I am more willing to change than I ever have been who knows what the future holds for me.

Anyway, as I was told every week by this one professor that I took classes from last year was "You never really know what you will end up doing in life so live it like there is some sort of purpose and try to learn as much as you can." This guy Dr. Foster used to tell us that he never in the world thought he would be teaching people about art (or how to get some common sense but that is a whole other blog!) He used to tell us that he was just was willing to take advantage of whatever opportunities that arose when he was offered an opportunity to grow and he learned stuff he needed to retire early and create his own business and help people at the same time. He basically told us that most people never go for what they want and sit around thinking that opportunities are going to come to them, not the other way around! He bluntly told us a few times to get off our asses and make something happen if that was what we wanted and quit putting everything in life before ourselves. He was like, "How can you be a good teacher if you are so stressed out you can't function?" or "How are you supposed to be able to give anything to kids if you treat yourself like you should be last?" I had to really think about that. Many people in caretaker positions, like teachers and moms are usually so busy doing stuff for others that they do not really take care of themselves and a lot of times they they can't figure out why they are so tired or burned out. I spent a year out of my life drawing pictures because Dr. F said it would bring down the stress levels and would be like meditation. I never could draw and had no real desire to learn and at first I really thought he was completely insane! He is one of those types of individuals that you either love him or ya hate him, there is no in between! I wasn't really sure what to think I just figured that drawing would be better than writing YET another paper which is why I didn't want to go back to school and take classes or get another degree. Besides, I realized that it didn't matter what I wanted at that point I really needed the salary points to move up on the pay scale. I had been teaching for a lot of years and was still at one of the lowest places you could be on the salary scale! In that year, I really heard a lot of truths sitting there drawing pictures...stuff like why it was important to invest in 403B's, have an emergency fund and how to write off all these expenses on my tax return! I also learned how much money I had lost by not going back to school sooner and just by avoiding taking classes I was making a lot of people happy because I was going to do the same job whether I took classes or not. He used to tell us that if I didn't care how much money I made, why should the school? (When you are a teacher your salary is directly linked to how much education you have and how many years you have worked) Anyway, this guy made us think about the reality of the situation and it was one one the best things that happened to me. It made me get off my ass so to speak and think about the future and be willing to go for what I wanted in life. I mean, truthfully the only person who cared if I got a raise was me....so it was up to me to go back and take the classes I needed to take...tired or not.

Speaking about going for things, I recently applied for a couple of summer fellowships and was accepted for one through a historical institute and will be studying at Harvard University in Boston this summer. I am actually still amazed about the whole thing. I applied never thinking I would be going but figured what the hell, the most that can happen is I am denied. I filled out the on-line application and sent it off. I never really thought that I would be accepted because anything that has to do with studying at an Ivy League school with their professors is super competitive! I just went online, applied and figured nothing would really come of it. Amazingly enough, I was accepted and I am going to study with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. who has done all of this amazing research about genetic lineage and "has been the host and co-producer of
African American Lives and African American Lives 2 in which the lineage of notable African Americans is traced using genealogical resources and DNA testing." (Wikipedia oneline) I saw the series on PBS and was simply blown away! I am really interested in the new technology used in genealogical research so it really is a great opportunity. If anyone out there knows anything about what to do in Boston, let me know.



maggie said...

Wow, many, many congrats! What an excellent opportunity! Sounds like your professor was so right in so many ways. That's part of why Tom and I are doing what we are - we couldn't keep sitting and waiting for things to change and had to choose to create our own destiny a bit, even if it turns out different from what we envisioned. Participation in life and not being afraid to experience it opens doors. I'm thrilled for you!

Brandie said...

What an AWESOME opportunity! I'm so happy for you! Congratulations!!!

Excelent post, I am a firm believer that if you want something done, you have to do it yourself. Sure, it won't be easy. Of course they'll be obstacles. But if you want to do it, you have to make the sacrifices and go get it.

Wow! Harvard!

Stan said...

Great post! Really enjoyed reading it!

I lived in Boston for a while, and worked in Cambridge, pretty much at Harvard. You will love not only the fellowship, but the place itself. Now that you have an advantage of being a nonsmoker, please take some time to walk around, explore the city - it has a LOT of coolest things to offer (and history, ironically out of classroom). Public transit is superb, which makes it even easier!

Good luck!!