Friday, June 21, 2013

Learning from Life and Books

I’m having lots of flashbacks to my college days.  I’ve been having dreams about test taking and all the anxiety I experienced as a college student.  There are two reasons for this, I believe: I am teaching a new college course on biological & physical anthropology and I haven’t been immersed in the subject since my undergraduate days.  Second, my daughter is a full-time college student and shares with me her class experiences.  Yesterday she sent a desperate text message, followed up with a phone call, about how she completely bombed in her speech class. 
Her recounts bring to my mind my own experiences: the love of school, the fear of failing, and the times I, too, bombed on a speech, a test, or a project.  Now that I’m a college professor and used to student panics, I have a great deal of empathy for the college student, especially those who really care about their grades and have a real desire to learn.  And the truth is, that is the majority of students; at least in my experience.

Sure, there are those that sign up for a class then never show up.  They end up with a fail grade and to their dismay they discover that down the road, when they finally grow up enough to apply themselves that the grade point average suffers forever due to that “F.”   I’ve long since given up in trying to convince students to drop the course if they discover they can’t cut it; after two warnings I say no more about it.  It’s the students that see college for what it really is – that of a learning experience, that I put my efforts into.   Both my daughters fall into that category; when they are in school they love to talk about what they are learning, and the best part of all (aside from my pride in their accomplishments) is that I learn something new from them, too.  There’s lots of new stuff for me to learn; after all, it’s been a while since I was in school.  Life truly is a life-long learning experience, from real-life experience and from books, not just a stepping stone to a high income paycheck.

I have to say, I just don’t understand anyone who is not a reader.  So much knowledge can be gained from the written word and I can’t grasp the notion that reading for pleasure and for learning is avoided by some.  But, I realized long ago that what I think is best for me is not necessarily the case for someone else.  I recall a woman I worked with during my waitressing days who was single, no children, and hated her job.  I pushed and pushed her to either travel or take college classes for a degree and better job opportunities.  I envied her the freedom she had to do what she wanted; I was raising my girls, married, and waitressing didn’t bring in much money.  One day she shot back at me, “Not everyone wants to do what you want!”  or something to that effect.  I never forgot how strongly she said those words. 

Although it’s hard for me to this day not to try and tell someone how they can have a better life, improve their situation, etc., I know after several incidents such as the one I just described, people do what is best for them, and my idea of what that is may not necessarily work for them.  That’s what life experience has taught me. 

So, for me, I’ll continue to read and learn for my own benefit, knowing that my kids picked up the same initiative and hopefully, they in turn will pass the love of reading and learning on to their own children. 
I can hardly wait for the next dream – probably it will be the one where I have to give a presentation and I’ve forgotten both my notes and my clothes!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Write Right Now

My daughter, Adrian, was indignant the other day saying, "Why haven't you updated your blog?  You have readers and fans and you are disappointing them!" 

While I think that's an exaggeration, I know I have been remiss in writing new posts.  I've been lazy in that department but not in life in general.  My writing is more inspirational anyway; not in a religious sense but more when something inspires me I tend to feel a strong desire to write about it.  I have had many moments over the last several months that I probably should have written about but I held back; moments when I felt a strong need to get what was on my inside out and writing has always been that outlet for me.  But some of the emotions I was experiencing I felt I needed to keep to myself or to share only with a few people.

For example, when the Newtown, Connecticut shootings took place I experienced profound grief.  I could not, would not read or watch any programs about it.  Yet, I was forced to contemplate the debate surrounding guns in America, but I participated little in the discussion.  Ban guns or keep them for safety?  I can't decide.  On one hand it was a gun that was fired and changed the entire course of my life and that of my family; it brought devastation, heartache and profound grief.  So you would think I would be anti-gun.  On the other hand, if I was confronted with a bad guy or a member of my family was in danger from one, a big, man that could overpower, I would want a gun in hand for protection, to stop the evil.  In fact, I own a gun but I am petrified to use it.  As an educator I believe in knowledge and I know that I need to learn every aspect of safe gun use and not be afraid of this little powerhouse, yet I still know deep in my heart how dangerous a gun is. 

During my EATM training (that's the Exotic Animal Training and Management Program at Moorpark College), I learned how to protect myself from dangerous animals.  I have been in situations where my life was at risk and my training kicked into place and I was able to protect myself or others from harm, so I am pretty confident that if I were confronted with a  person who meant to do me harm, I could shoot them. 

This is one of those posts I wanted to write but had difficulty bringing myself to share. 

Another is the Cleveland kidnapping story.  That is one media blitz I became engrossed in and watched and read all I could.  Yet, when I found myself in a deep depression, one that had me on the couch during the day and crying at all hours, I attributed my condition to over work; that is until I stopped watching the news about the crime and began to have the black cloud lift.  Why was I so affected?  Because I felt so sad for those women and what they endured; I felt a sort-of human obligation to reach out to them, to help them; I felt an immense weight of guilt that I should have somehow been able to prevent the pain and suffering they had endured. 

What was it about this case?  I can pinpoint it to how frightened I have always been about my own children and the possibility when they were young that they could be kidnapped.  I was raising my kids during the Adam Walsh era and all the stories of lost children that made the headlines thereafter.  My greatest fear is the loss and never knowing, so in a sense I felt the pain the mothers of those girls felt. 

This was another post I wanted to write but was too vulnerable to do so. 

Lastly, I wanted to write about the journey I am on in looking for a job again.  I've been employed for several years now as an adjunct professor, teaching both anthropology and history.  I LOVE doing it.  I teach both in the classroom and online; there are pros and cons to doing both. 

My students seem to enjoy me as their professor.  Win Win, right?  Not if the pay is barely enough for anyone to live on.  Which is what I have been experiencing these past few years.  Yes, working as a college professor has given me a great deal, most of which is freedom to pursue my writing (my first book published last February and lots of local history projects), but I can no longer live on what I make as a lowly college adjunct. 

So, I set out to get a "real" job once again.

A few weeks ago I flew to Florida for an interview for an amazing DREAM job, one that anyone would be privileged to get.  I haven't been given the Yea or Nay as of yet; I'll hear in a week whether or not I'm being offered the job.  The thing is, I experienced so many emotions and thoughts about it all.  You know what was holding me back?  The idea I would be so far away from my daughters and grandchildren (John, the husband, would of course be joining me - he's THRILLED with the idea).  Never before have I held myself back from opportunity or adventure; this was a completely new experience for me - fear of going.  But, trust me when I say this job would (and still might if I'm hired) make me the luckiest oral historian on the planet. 

So, this was another post that could have been written but I didn't write because I was either not ready to share or have reached a point where my writing is done on the inside rather than on paper. 

But, as you can see if you made to the very end of this long post - I needed to write and once I got started I blurted out a ton of information. 

Now, if my daughter, who has to be my fan because, well - I'm her mom, is right, my readers will be almost all caught up on my doings and happenings.  And, to tell the truth, I missed this outlet.  So, I will commit once again to my weekly (more or less) postings. 

Thanks for checking in!  I'll be sure to let you know the outcome of the job search.