Ten years ago-ish, I graduated from the University of Nevada with a degree in Information Systems. That sounds like an awful long time, and yet I’m sitting here tapping away on a keyboard, and it almost feels like yesterday. Perhaps a very long ago yesterday….fortunately, I have eight years worth of blogs to help refresh me on some of that :D
I haven’t been around for that many decades, so it’s kind of a big deal that a fairly fundamental milestone, such as escaping college alive, debt free, and with a job (mid-2008 economic meltdown), has come and gone with such haste.
Do I find myself talking about the ‘good old days’? Not really. They were good, but these days are great (with their ups and downs, of course).
Do I feel 10 years older? Nah. I really don’t … but then I see kids on campus who look like they should be in middle school, and realize that yes, I do in fact feel old. I feel very blessed to have had a constant stream of work since I began my first day of college, (gotta pay that tuition!), to have avoided any serious medical issues so far, and mostly, to have had an absolutely wonderful time at the university as I began the process of shaping my future. Life changing is putting it so incredibly mildly. I wish the same upon any student entering college – that they would enter with an open yet cautious mind, and be ready to learn, fail, stand back up, and eventually, succeed.
I went to college in an era where WiFi was barely in its infancy, smartphones hadn’t been swept up by early adopters yet, and we actually gathered in the same room for a TV show every week to watch its release together. We even had to pay for each text message we sent. I know – madness!! Netflix? No, we definitely did NOT have Netflix. We had things called DVDs which we would exchange with one another for an enjoyable weekend :D Most tragically, memes had not broken onto the scene yet…
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the simpler times of “just school” – half day Friday’s, worrying more about homework and term papers than who was running the country, what bills were due, or why I am being placed on hold for yet another terrible customer experience. Life revolved around learning and exploration, applying myself in the best way possible, experiences with friends, travel, and plenty of sunshine soaking on the quad, not to mention football and basketball games as often as possible. It was a great time, but a different time.
In the years since 2009, I’ve been to seven countries, married my favorite person, got a dog (tied for favorite person), zipped through grad school, bought a house, worked in various industries ranging from healthcare, higher education, insurance, and real estate, and have invested time, blood, sweat, and tears in an incredibly fulfilling and challenging triathlon pilgrimage, completing five races at the longest of distances (140.6 miles), and probably a combined 70ish races altogether. On top of all that, I’m on a tough endeavor as a stepfather, struggling through most of the steps along the way, but finding solace and assurance from other parents who tell me it’s all normal.
I have attended too many “too soon” funerals, watched as my little sister grew up and got married, maintained friendships from high school (and even a few from middle and elementary), dealt with some heartache and humbling experiences, read a ton of books, established my personal brand (and this blog), learned to use my ears more than my mouth, and have found the value of those rare friends who stick by you through it all – even despite yourself and bouts of a bad attitude. Most of all, I continue to find my perspective on the world is ever increasing, with the realization of how large and complicated this place is, and yet at the same time, how incredibly small. My fascination only continues to grow.
Seeds that were planted in college have continued to bloom over the years. It’s hard not to look back on it all and wonder where it went. The tedious, painful days just go so slow, but the joyous, adventure-packed days are gone in the blink of an eye. Poof. I find the greatest stress relief in my routines: hanging out with my dog, heading to the pool early mornings, date night, BBQing with the family, worship and fellowshipping at church, and the regular gathering of movie fanatics for the latest round of whatever strikes our fancy.
Do I miss being 22? Absolutely not. Not even a little. Do I miss the amount of sleep I used to get? Definitely :P My future self may laugh, but my 22 year old would stand in awe, because, shockingly, I actually picked up some things along the way, and I have found ways to keep things fresh as I’ve struggled through the first few chapters of adulthood:
You don’t have to settle – For whatever reason, our society tends to think that they are stuck in the circumstances in which they are currently placed and are otherwise powerless to do anything about it. I feel like this is quite far from the truth. New hobbies, career changes, making some new friends, and branching out are all excellent, if somewhat scary, activities. For me, there is often a feeling of unease of unsettled, nervous energy that springs up anytime a new change is needed. Yea, it’s kind of terrifying, but at this point in my life, I just know that it’s time. Yes, there are people who have a leg up in terms of “advantages,” but between libraries, YouTube, and other free or affordable classes for the arts, science, trades, etc., there are zero excuses.
Read more and read often – I’m always intrigued by people who say they don’t read. Like, have they just given up on being curious about life? Do they honestly not care? HOW CAN YOU NOT BE INTERESTED IN READING SOMETHING!? I honestly just don’t understand. Yes, it’s easy to sit on your couch mindlessly perusing Netflix (which I also do from time to time), but there are so many different ways you could be sharpening your saw. Books on the global economy, histories of great architects, fictional adventures of long-lost swashbucklers, cook books on the 412 uses you never thought of for your grill (answer: pizza), and a literal slew of never ending topics. A good book can propel your imagination off and away through unchartered worlds, or just help you develop a new perspective on things. You may even learn a new skill. Shoot, if we spent exponentially more time actually thinking, instead of constantly checking our phone for notifications, we might be able to be aware of our world-view and continue to adjust it as we go based on conversations with those around us.
Figure out what actually matters – There’s a lot of noise in the world that we live in. Phone notifications rock our devices off the wardrobe in the middle of the night, social media is all abuzz about meaningless crap that Hollywood wannabes are engaged in, and many are too busy keeping up with the Jones’ to notice the world zooming by. Parent involvement feels like it’s very low (at least compared to how I was raised), I’m not entirely sure how many people actually sit down together for dinner and conversations anymore, and there is a level of “I’m so busy” that just seems to detract so much from this great life we’ve been given. Family, strong relationships with quality friends, self-care (physical and emotional), being good stewards of our planet, and having a healthy balance among work and play should be at the top of the list. The rest, well, who cares about the rest?
The friend-ship sails off and away more often than you expect – I’ve learned the hard way that not every friend is meant for every chapter in your life. Sad, but true. Some may get married and move, they may switch jobs, or even just develop interests that are no longer in line with yours. They may change, and you may not, or the relationship may just shift to be something that it didn’t used to be. Fret not, because there are also new friends and still times of tacos and movie nights, and that doesn’t take away from the value of the old friends and experiences! Fond memories are some of the greatest reward from a friendship, and in the words of a famous song that we all know so well – our friends are silver and gold, and need to be treasured.
Delayed gratification over instant gratification – I remember November of 2001 like it was yesterday. Not because it was recent, but because it was the culmination of my largest (to date) savings project. $300 (plus applicable NV taxes) to purchase the original Xbox and Halo: Combat Evolved, arguably the greatest game of my generation. There was, however, nothing instant about that purchase. Nine months prior, I had gone to a tech convention with my dad, when I saw the first reveal for Halo (remember, this is pre-YouTube days so I couldn’t watch the trailer 1000 times), and instantly knew I had to play that game. Tons of random yard and tech consulting jobs later, I finally had the cash. It was a process that required self-discipline – there was no begging, borrowing, or stealing, just hard work and commitment to a goal. These days, I still have a similar mindset, kind of, although our cultural and technological enablements don’t encourage good behaviors like that anymore. Streaming services offer a slew of media choices at your fingertips (except the ones you actually want to see), Amazon now offers near instant order delivery, society wants you spending more and saving less, and there is a very present and degrading mindset of laziness, desire for entertainment, and straight up entitlement than there is satisfaction with hard work, perseverance, and grinding it out through the tough times.
Common sense is a freaking treasure – Ah, common sense… my most favorite topic in the entire world xD I’m really not sure where the dilemma/issue lies, but let’s clear up a few myths. A) it is NOT common. In fact, just the opposite. It is one of the most rare traits. And B) it is often overlooked as a priceless talent that someone brings to the table. And for clarity’s sake – it is a talent and it is priceless. I would summarize common sense as the ability to use your ears more than your mouth, possessing the ability to relate to any kind of topic of conversation by asking questions and actually listening, knowing a little about a lot, treating everyone with a humane level of dignity and respect (doesn’t mean you don’t tell someone when they’re incorrect or that you disagree with them), admitting when you’re wrong, being comfortable asking questions, and possessing enough self-awareness to realize that the world is so much bigger than your experiences in it. Finally, you absolutely must be able to think through the consequences of your actions and accept responsibility for those actions. And you should learn to take the high road, especially when it hurts. Realizing that your personal lenses frame your own perspective will get you far when you understand that you’ve only have experienced the smallest of micro-slivers of what there is out there, and that, without a doubt, you don’t have nearly as good a grasp on things as you think you do. Have some humility and consideration for those around you, and you will be head and shoulders above the crowd.
I’ve got a long ways to go, and so much to learn, but if I could summarize the past 10 years in just a few short thoughts – this would be it. What have you learned since college?